The term "alternative medicine" is loosely used to include any health practitioner who is not using the conventional or orthodox approach of drug prescriptions and considers their methods to be "natural." Yet can anyone practicing alternative medicine be considered a practitioner of medicine? Without a sound knowledge of human biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, I don't believe they should be.
The Art of Medicine
What might be the ideal, the highest form of this art, no matter what terms are used to describe it, whether it be alternative medicine, complementary medicine or holistic medicine?
Ideally the practitioner is knowledgeable about diseases and their diagnoses. This means deciphering their client's symptoms in relation to lab test results.
They must understand how and why health may slowly succumb to disease. Disease may take years and even decades to develop and during this interim the practitioner must witness their client's tendencies, to know ways of halting its progression and to assist the body to return to health once again. This is preventative medicine and is a very important component of alternative medicine.
A practitioner must know the reasons why health declines. These include the following:
- Lack of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, proteins and fats, all required for health.
- Lack of sufficient exposure to sunshine leading to vitamin D deficiency which underlies osteoporosis, some multiple sclerosis patients, low thyroid hormone symptoms, and others.
- Lack of sleep and adequate rest leading to nervous exhaustion, adrenal deficiency, and a host of psychological problems.
- Unremitting stress harms the nervous system and the mind.
- Environmental chemicals and toxins are a burden to the body. They can damage RNA and DNA, and cause irritation and inflammation. One category of chemicals termed Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals interfere with normal endocrine and thyroid function.
- Under-functioning detoxification pathways of the body.
- Heavy metals leading to immunological dysfunction.
- Poor bowel ecology which interferes with digestion and absorption. Bacteria, fungus and parasites can also exist.
- Allergies, especially to foods, cause a number of chronic problems.
- Silent, chronic infections are found in the gut, teeth, tonsils and scars. An infection can exist without either the client or the physician being aware of it.
Alternative medicine is not simply controlling symptoms through whatever "natural" methods a practitioner uses.
Our bodies communicate to us through symptoms. Symptoms can result when the body isn't getting what it needs (nutrients), when there's a structural misalignment (chiropractic or osteopathic), when an emotion or experience has been suppressed and not dealt with (psychology), when there 's something in the body that needs to be removed (bacteria, fungus, etc.) or if there's a hormonal imbalance (thyroid & endocrine).
So our body may communicate in it's own language that something is wrong. "I need more rest," or, "I need more protein," or, "I need you to take life less seriously," or, "I need a break," or, "I need to do something I like to do for a change." Some symptoms are vague like fatigue and irritability while others are more specific like headaches and arthritis.
A low grade toothache is a simple example of what I am referring to. For someone with a very busy life their approach may be to take a pain killer hoping the nagging tooth ache will go away. But eventually they have to visit their dentist. The options then are to fill the tooth if the pain is due to decay, a root canal if the nerve is inflamed or the tooth is infected, or to simply pull it.
But often no one asks the question why. "What happened with my tooth? Why did this problem develop in the first place? What can I do to prevent another problem with my teeth?"
The tooth ache could be due to a lack of minerals, making the tooth susceptible to decay. Maybe a problem exists in the gut that inhibits the absorption of minerals from food. Maybe the system and the saliva are overly acidic causing some damage to the enamel of the teeth. Maybe the immune system is a little run down causing an increased susceptible to a tooth infection.
Ideally with any symptom or condition we should be asking why, and then to investigate the possibilities. Every symptom and every condition of the human body and mind have causes and a practitioner of alternative medicine must be familiar with this type of investigation.
This investigation includes the following:
- A thorough physical examination
- A review of their client's medical history and their family's medical history
- Review of their lifestyle, what contributes to their health and what wears it down
- An in-depth review of their condition, the circumstances around which the condition appeared and how it progressed
- A review of their past and present eating habits
- Their exposure to environmental chemicals and toxins
- A comprehensive lab test panel
We understand the shortcomings of pharmaceuticals in that they counteract symptoms and do not address the cause yet to take an alternative stance without the knowledge of pharmacy is a very narrow and one-sided perspective.
The practice of medicine must be for the restoration of the client's health. In order to accomplish this there must be the knowledge of why and how the client slipped from a state of health into one of illness. The underlying philosophy of medicine is that the body is able to self-correct and to return to a state of health if it is provided the means. This requires that the practitioner of the art of medicine must also understands health and what contributes to health.
Do we treat disease? Yes, but primarily through supporting health.