Many times, readers make assumptions about what I believe about health or doctors based on some of the posts on this site about alternative medicine options. A lot of them assume I must hate doctors and think they are evil money-grubbers who are out to keep my family sick. They think that I am anti-science and I’d rather go back to the “dark ages” of medicine.
None of this is true.
And since a few people have mentioned that they can’t take me/this blog seriously because they think I believe these things, I need to clear up some misconceptions today. I’ll explain what I really believe about doctors and modern medicine.
What I Believe About Doctors
Doctors (and dentists, and other medical professionals) are not evil. They are not stupid. There are bad ones out there who are both, of course, just as in any profession. But in a general sense, doctors are not evil or stupid.
I truly believe that most doctors want to help their patients, that they are passionate about what they are doing, and that they are in their profession because they want to make a difference. I believe that many are doing the best they can to keep current on medical studies and provide the best care they know how to their patients.
Doctors are not bad people. They are trying to protect their patients and help people be healthy. Some can be arrogant, because of the lengthy education and experience they’ve undergone. But as I said — there are bad ones in every profession. There are also entirely excellent doctors who are careful about every test and treatment they order and who take a cautious approach to medicine. Doctors run the gamut from excellent to terrible, because they are people too.
Remember this: I do not hate medical professionals nor look down upon them in a general sense. (I do, however, take offense to individual professionals who want to insult me and rudely tell me how stupid and uninformed and so on that I am. But that’s personal and related to their rudeness, not their profession specifically.)
What I Believe About Modern Medicine
What I believe about the “system” of modern medicine is very different than what I believe about doctors, however. While the individual doctors are doing the best they know how, they are working within a system that I feel is broken.
Please understand. This is not the fault of the doctors who are a part of this system, who dedicate their lives to medicine and helping people. Many of them fully believe in what they are doing and do not think that the system is broken at all. This does not reflect on them.
The system is broken, though.
Over the last 100 years, we’ve gotten away from a holistic view of health. We’ve begun to view the body as separate parts and have forgotten to look at how each of those parts affects the body as a whole. We have come to believe that drugs are the solution to most issues, and have forgotten what role nutrition actually plays in helping the body to achieve optimal health.
The mainstream medical view holds that nutrition is important only in a general sense. It’s important to stave off serious deficiency (which they acknowledge can cause disease), and eating less processed foods are better. They do not, however, acknowledge just how big a role that various vitamins and minerals play in the body. Many do not believe that a simple vitamin or mineral could solve a huge or ongoing problem (like chronic fatigue or migraines, or even cancer).
Because of this fragmented view, many important parts of health are missed.
Drugs, vaccines, and “tests” (blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.) are seen as markers of health. These individual tests can only reveal if some isolated measure is off — and sometimes the answer lies in the full symptom picture, the balance of different measures. This is often missed.
I do feel frustrated when some doctors tell me that I don’t get it or I’m stupid because I believe in a holistic view of the body. I’ve had too many experiences in my own life and have met too many people for whom Western medicine simply could not provide the answers, for the reasons above and more.
That’s not to say I don’t think there is ever a place for drugs. When we’re talking immediately life threatening, I’m happy to have experienced doctors, surgeons, and the options for drugs. There’s a time and a place for it. If we got in a car accident or my child broke his arm, we’d head straight to the ER and do what we needed to do. If I ever had a serious pregnancy complication, we’d go to the hospital and do what needed to be done — drugs, a c-section, etc. We are grateful in extreme circumstances to have the options that we have today.
What I don’t believe in is the way we treat medication today. Have a slight headache? Pop a pill. More testing and more intervention is better than less…just in case. (Statistics show it’s not.) Have a cold? Take some cold medicine. Friend posts about being sick on Facebook? Recommend antibiotics (even though the person making the recommendation has no idea what the symptoms or illness really are, nor are they a medical professional). We’re so cavalier about intervention and drug use!
Of course that’s a sign of the times — medicine’s big business.
History of Medicine
I’m going to try to keep this brief, but much of the true history in many subjects has been edited heavily or removed from what most of us have learned. And unfortunately those clipped parts reveal a lot more about the world than the parts that weren’t.
Modern medicine came to be largely because of John D. Rockefeller. In the early 1900s, the young AMA and its counterpart, the association of homeopathy, were of similar size and influence. Homeopathy may have even been more popular. Rockefeller himself had a personal homeopath that he used throughout his life — it was his chosen medicine. In fact, he wanted, at various points, to offer grants to homeopathy institutions. His advisers, however, told him not to.
Most new pharmaceutical products — including the so-called “wonder drugs” — were made from coal or crude oil. Before anyone really had electricity or cars, there was very little market for these products. Rockefeller owned Standard Oil. By promoting modern medicine, he created a huge new market for his oil and coal, driving his profits through the roof.
It was about business — not about health. Most researchers knew even then that these petroleum-based products were at least partially responsible for cancer and other degenerative diseases. It was especially true with the primitive drug technology available in the early 1900s. Most people consider Rockefeller nearly single-handedly responsible for the promotion of the AMA and conventional medicine, and the slow death of homeopathy.
Today most people are unaware of this history and have come to believe that homeopathy is little more than voo-doo, mere quackery and not actual “medicine” at all. The last 30 years or so have seen it, and other forms of alternative medicine, on the rise again.
It’s sad that we have wandered so far away from medicine that is affordable and helps people, especially when we’re talking about acute conditions, or non-life-threatening chronic conditions (i.e. conditions that aren’t going to kill in an hour or tomorrow). There have, as I mentioned, been excellent advances in emergency and trauma medicine. Many of the “advances” are not really advances at all, sadly.
Some might read this and think I’m anti-science. If I really believed in science or if I really “got it” I wouldn’t say things like this.
I’ve read lots of medical journal studies and other forms of research. I’m not against science. I’m for science. I’m for unbiased science. I’m for the least interventive way to help people.
When studies show that petroleum-based products cause potential harm, I expect doctors to advise against them. When studies show that BPA and similar chemicals may cause birth defects and other serious complications, I expect companies to stop using them. When studies show that the maternal death rate has doubled in the last 30 years as the c-section rates have risen, I expect them to re-assess guidelines and perform fewer c-sections.
There are science-based explanations for all of the alternative medicine that I believe in. Unfortunately some people seem to reason the way my 3-year-old does: “If I don’t look, the evidence isn’t there!” (On every controversial post I write, which always include several links back to the original sources, I’ll have someone completely fail to click on any of the links and then claim I have no sources and no evidence.) This is not helpful to promoting and improving the health of the general population, nor promoting an informed public.
The Bottom Line
I believe individual doctors and medical professionals are generally doing the best they can. But I believe they are working within a system that is corrupt in extremely complex, far-reaching ways. I certainly don’t think that doctors and modern organizations are “out to get us,” but there are just too many pieces of history and understanding missing — and it’s the patients who suffer.
Every person is responsible for their own health and the health of their families. If you don’t like the advice being given by one professional, or you find it isn’t helping you, go find another. Go ask as many as it takes until you find all the pieces of the puzzle. (And this goes for alternative as well as conventional professionals.) Health isn’t some magical, ultra-complex thing that we normal humans can’t understand. It’s not just knowledge of the elite that matters. Take your health into your own hands, and find professionals who work for you and with you. That’s the key to real health.