For many decades whenever a doctor has dared to prescribe vitamins and other natural approaches, he or she risks being called a “quack” by the establishment…never mind that the doctor may have been recommending the very best approach. In fact, that doctor may well have been practicing what I consider the highest quality medicine which is now known as functional medicine. According to the Institute for Functional Medicine (functionalmedicine.org), “Functional Medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.”
Although there is training specific to functional medicine, I use the term as a shorthand to cover a broader scope of disciplines. These methods have much in common and contrast with the typical mainstream medical approach of just prescribing drugs to suppress symptoms. Integrative medicine, naturopathic medicine, nutrition-based preventive medicine, clinical nutrition and chiropractic are all alternatives that share the goal of finding and fixing the root cause of problems…or better yet, preventing them in the first place. These systems have gained valuable insight from ancient gentle arts such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda (from India) and Native American Shaman healing. Practices that have worked for thousands of years shouldn’t be discounted simply because they didn’t come out of a white coat Western laboratory. The functional approach is gaining traction in mainstream medicine as evidenced by the fact that the prestigious Cleveland Clinic has opened a Center for Functional Medicine.
Here is an example of the difference I’m talking about: High blood pressure is obviously a risk factor for stroke and kidney disease. The conventional approach is to simply prescribe a drug such as Lisinopril. That may well bring down the blood pressure, but in the process, the patient might well suffer any one of a number of drug side effects which might generate more prescriptions. A functional medicine practitioner might first try any one or all of the following natural approaches to lowering blood pressure: exercise, smoking cessation, weight loss, salt intake reduction, increase in vegetable intake and supplementation with magnesium (this is a new study), vitamin D, probiotics, fish oil, Kyolic Aged Garlic complex #109 and others. All of the above will likely lower blood pressure and each will provide extra benefits in other parts of the body. Because they all work in different ways, they can be combined and thereby provide a natural synergy. (Read my article on 6 ways to lower blood pressure.)
Symptoms send people to the doctor where they most likely will receive a prescription for a medication–and not just because the doctor suggests it. We patients might demand it because we’ve been well trained to have a knee-jerk reaction: if we have symptom, we need drug! However, besides the fact that drugs don’t usually fix the root cause of the problem, drug side effects are often soft peddled by drug company reps and therefore by doctors. Television drug advertising purposely distracts our attention from the long list of side effects (some lethal) by showing us how much better life is when we are medicated.
It makes sense to me that when a symptom appears, instead of asking which drug we should take for it, we should ask which drug might be the cause. That brings me back to the question of what should define a doctor a quack. Click here to read my short article on the subject.