There is a common analogy that managing our health is like maintaining a car. Both our bodies and cars require regular maintenance. However, the similarities end there.
If a car part is broken, the mechanic fixes the part or replaces it. This works well for fixing cars, but it does not work well for the healing of human beings.
Unfortunately, our current health care model emulates the standard of care for car maintenance rather than considering that human beings are dynamic beings. For example, in our health care system, common logic is as follows:
“Is something wrong with the lungs? Treat the lungs. Is the patient experiencing stomach pain? Treat the stomach. Is something wrong with the emotions? Prescribe an antidepressant. Is the patient experiencing acid reflux? Recommend an acid blocker. Does the patient have pain? Give a painkiller. Does the patient have high cholesterol? Prescribe a statin. Is the gall bladder inflamed? Well, just take it out.”
The pharmaceutical companies prove my point by incessantly running their commercials on TV. It seems they have drugs to cure almost anything that ails you. They disclose potential side effects as mild as weight gain, diarrhea and tremors and as severe as organ failure and DEATH.
Meanwhile, they hope your emotional response to the visual cues of happy people dancing through fields of daisies overcomes the reality of side effects that will likely ensue.
Most medical doctors truly desire to help their patients feel better. But we as consumers have fallen prey to this “matchy matchy” approach to health, which is costly and ineffective.
As humans, we are in a constant state of flux from our emotions, physical health, spiritual health and environment. The deteriorating health of one organ system may require attending to a supportive organ system first. That is because our organs (and tissues) are connected in more ways than science can show. It is appropriate for the patient and doctor/healer to look deeper into the system.
Consider the example of patient Sally Sue. Her chief complaint was depression. In our current allopathic model, an antidepressant would likely be prescribed.
In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antidepressants are the most commonly prescribed drug in the U.S.
Once Sally Sue begins her antidepressant, she may or may not experience relief. Even if her depression becomes less severe, she would likely experience myriad unwanted side effects ranging from weight gain and loss of libido to nausea and constipation.
Looking through Sally Sue’s complete health history, the following information may also be true: irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux, excess gas or bloating after eating, fatigue, joint pain, aching muscles and foggy thinking.
With this cluster of symptoms, it is likely her depression is related to poor digestive health. Research demonstrates that microbial gut species are linked to emotional and mental health.
Did you know the “feel good” hormone serotonin is produced in the gut?
An effective approach to Sally Sue’s depression would be to:
■ Restore a proper balance of gut microbes.
■ Teach the patient better strategies to deal with stress rather than worrying, as worrying directly depletes digestive function.
■ Eliminate foods that the patient is reacting to negatively (while many possibilities exist that are unique to each patient, wheat, dairy, eggs, corn and soy are the top five food sensitivities that can cause symptoms not often associated with food).
■ Add foods that support the gastrointestinal tract (those are sweet-natured foods, including rice, oats, squash and sweet potato).
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), other organ systems that may be involved could be the liver, lungs, or heart. A well-trained TCM practitioner would discern other organ involvement and treat accordingly.
Supportive therapies can help the body return to a state of homeostasis by encouraging inherent self-healing mechanisms. Those include, but are not limited to, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, homeopathy and behavioral health techniques.
Wait. Weren’t we treating depression? We just did it. As Sally Sue’s body began to function more optimally, her hormones became better balanced, her energy increased, and she was able to engage in her life at a more pleasurable level. Sally Sue’s main cause of depression was her weak digestion, but someone else’s could be completely different. It is appropriate to fully consider potential root causes of any disease.
We get one body. When this one wears out, we do not get to go the body dealership and purchase a new body. I encourage us all to consider all potential contributing factors to symptoms and diseases and ask all of our care providers to do the same.
Dr. April L. Schulte-Barclay is a doctor of acupuncture and oriental medicine and a licensed acupuncturist. She has been practicing in Grand Junction since 2004 and is an expert and leader in integrative and collaborative medicine. Learn more at hhacumed.com or call Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions at 256-8449.