In the modern world, the medical model of healthcare is falling short, and people are suffering as a result. But what is missing from this model?
Once upon a time, there was a Greek physician named Hippocrates. He believed that the key to vibrant health was a commitment to fitness and a nutritious diet. Hippocrates is often referred to as the “founder of modern medicine.” In fact, each licensed doctor today has recited the Hippocratic Oath, in which they vow to:
- Treat the ill to the best of their ability
- Choose prevention over cure
- Focus on the person instead of the disease
- Use warmth, compassion, understanding before drugs and surgery
- Pass down the teachings of health and medicine to the next generation
The principals were put in place as guidelines by which medicine should be practiced. When followed, doctors and patients alike would experience the joys of life and health.
Hippocrates believed that health was the natural human state and that sickness was the anomaly. It was his belief that a person could use all that was available in nature to assist the body in achieving a natural state of health.
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food” – Hippocrates
The concept of simply treating, or covering up the symptoms of an illness, was foreign to Hippocrates. He insisted that prevention of disease, which was the primary focus of healthcare, should be achieved through a diet of nutritional food and exercise to improve one’s overall health. His teachings stressed the importance of prevention, not just the treatment of symptoms.
These concepts and principles were put in place over 2300 years ago. Yet today, the recommendations of Hippocrates seem to be echoed only by alternative, integrative and holistic health practitioners. At the same time they are all but lost in mainstream medicine. The advances in medical technology and explosion of pharmaceutical drugs have taken center stage while the founding principles of medicine fall by the wayside.
So when did it all go so wrong?
The Emergence of The Modern Medical Model
With the discovery of the telescope, we were given the power to peer into the vastness of “outer space”. Shortly after, the optics were altered, giving humans the ability to look deep into “inner space.” The microscope was born. Scientists began to analyze biological structures of the body. They discovered blood cells, microorganisms, and bacteria. This all led to the improved understanding of the human body and the development of modern medicine.
Health Care becomes Sick Care
With the technology and enthusiasm to understand disease at the microscopic level, scientists and doctors turned their attention to major diseases of their time, such as polio, typhoid, and tuberculosis, in search of a cure. Once the medical community realized they could cure these diseases with vaccines and drugs, the focus of modern medicine shifted from prevention of disease to the treatment of it. Physicians became more and more engaged in the business of “sick-care”. Medicine became about diagnosis of disease, and the use of pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures to treat patients. The modern medical model practiced today is illness-based. It focuses squarely on diagnosing “diseases,” naming them, and applying remedies aimed at managing the symptoms.
Gone are the days of prescribing a healthy diet and emphasizing fitness as a means to good health. Of the 130+ medical schools in the USA, 70% do not require a single course on nutrition to become a Medical Doctor. Additionally, at 30% of these institutions, nutrition isn’t even offered, let alone required. The very item that laid the foundation for medicine has simply been omitted. Doctors, instead, spend a large amount of their time studying pharmacology and which drugs are appropriate to treat each disease.
Disease or Dysfunction
In the 1800’s most deaths resulted from the contraction of infections and the spread of epidemic disease. Medical advances led to the development of powerful vaccines and antibiotics. As a result, these forms of disease declined significantly.
Today, most deaths are not caused by infectious diseases. Sure, we still get scares from time-to-time. These days, the Zika virus is a concern. Not too long ago, Ebola and H1N1 were a cause for concern; before that, it was SARS. The medical community is constantly on high alert for the next global epidemic.
In 2016, people are less likely to die of infectious disease. These days, most illness and death are associated with chronic degenerative problems such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. More people die in one day from heart conditions and cancer than the overall total that died from Ebola, H1N1, and SARS combined.
It’s time to put the “health” back in healthcare
Physicians must join with other health care practitioners whose focus is on building health and wellness and not just managing disease and illness. Drugs and surgeries target the main complaint and symptoms. But they fail to address the cause of the problems plaguing current day society. No amount of medication will address the true cause of degenerative diseases if the dysfunction within the body is not identified and restored. The irony is that the majority of the top 10 causes of death in modern society are rooted in diet and lifestyle (heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, Alzheimer’s – to name a few). These conditions may never have grown to their current epic proportions if the medical community would have continued to honor the fundamental health building values of diet and exercise.
Back to the Basics
We are lucky to live in a time where medicine has become so sophisticated and advanced. We can now monitor a baby’s heartbeat while still in the womb, we can use cameras to see inside of our organs. And we can even manufacture replacement body parts. We also have medicines to manage serious medical problems and prevent epidemic infections.
The problem is that all this shiny new technology and fancy pharmaceuticals monopolized our attention. It can be very easy to get excited about the latest and greatest treatments and completely forget the very foundations of good health: diet and exercise.
Wouldn’t it make sense for someone who wants to be healthy to consume nutritious food and supplements that work for their unique body. For them to add exercise and get proper sleep before resorting to drugs and invasive medical procedures?
Of course that makes sense. Yet the majority of North Americans are doing quite the opposite. The number of people currently taking medication for a chronic disease or health condition, is staggering. And yet they continue to eat fast food, get less than optimal sleep and refuse to practice stress management. Conventional doctors are available with pills and surgeries when needed, but they aren’t necessarily going to be able to walk you through a healthy diet and behavior modifications.
Allopathic vs. Holistic
Allopathic medicine refers to the type of medical practice that uses medication, drugs, or physical interventions (like surgery), to manage symptoms and the process of disease.
Our current medical model is allopathically-based. Physicians practicing under this model are trained to focus on sickness, not health. They hone in on the presenting signs and symptoms and treat the manifestation of what usually is a much deeper issue. It’s a symptoms-based system. If someone has high blood pressure, allopathic medicine provides a drug to lower it.
Holistic medicine represents the idea that the system, as a whole (physical, biological, social, etc.), determines how the parts function together. Dysfunction in one area can lead to symptoms presenting in another. A holistic health practitioner will look beyond the symptoms to determine the origin of dysfunction that caused the symptom to appear. The high blood pressure is merely a clue to an underlying dysfunction, which holistic medicine would seek to uncover.
Allopatic is Best for Urgent Care
The conventional allopathic medical model is effective and beneficial when addressing most acute and urgent care situations, such as broken bones, blood loss, or loss of consciousness. For example, if you are involved in a severe car accident, wouldn’t you want to be treated in a well-equipped, modern facility and be treated for your presenting symptoms? Of course you would!
This type of acute care is exactly what the medical model excels in: mending bones, cleaning and healing wounds, surgery, blood transfusions, and pain medication to make it all bearable. Again, we are blessed to live in a time when we have the equipment, drugs, and knowledge that allow us to recover from otherwise life-threatening conditions.
After you are released from the allopathic care of your western doctors, it might be wise and beneficial to follow up with a holistic practitioner, rather than simply continuing to take pain medication. A holistic practitioner can meet additional needs of the patient such as alignment problems, chronic stress, anxiety, poor nutrition an other behavior requirements
The Best Model of Health Care
The medical model is allopathic and focuses on illness while the holistic model focuses on underlying causes and building health. Allopathic medicine is widely accepted and easily accessible. IT’S EASY and it can get you out of immediate trouble. However, taking pills to control your condition or undergoing a surgical procedure requires little behavior change for the patient. Holistic medicine, on the other hand, could require hard work, commitment, and difficult lifestyle changes. And both have their place in our lives.
Not everyone is ready or willing to take on a holistic approach since it usually means undergoing many lifestyle changes. This may be uncomfortable for some. And it will be an extensive process in which they will need to actively participate.
Know what is even easier, cheaper, more effective, and saves more time than allopathic or holistic treatments?
Taking the time to understand your current health situation, optimizing your diet and exercise in accordance to your metabolic type and lifestyle, getting enough sleep, drinking enough clean water, and learning to control stress and cultivate happiness, is quite possibly the best model of health that a person can follow. In other words, take care of yourself. Hippocrates stressed prevention in his early teachings, and Ben Franklin eloquently stated:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Self-care Is the Best Health Care
Unfortunately, many people aren’t doing a good job of caring for themselves. Many are not taking full advantage of the lifestyle tools that can keep them healthy, whether it’s keeping their weight in check, exercising 30 or more minutes a day, getting a good night’s sleep, or eating real whole foods.
The truth is, doctors have a lot of tools to save lives and make you feel better… but, whether they are allopathic or holistic, their efforts fall apart if you don’t step up to the plate and perform as an equal partner in the doctor-patient relationship.
You have the power to help to make the best treatment plan in the world work — or fail. You have the power to make choices every single day that may determine if you’re going to live to a ripe old age in good health, or die miserably young. And you have the power to avoid many cases of diabetes, heart disease, certain types of cancer, and other diseases.
Educate Yourself Before you Medicate Yourself
Not feeling so powerful when it comes to taking care of your own health? Don’t worry. Knowledge is power.
Perhaps you don’t need a doctor, you just need a teacher. Someone to dispel all the confusion over what is healthy and what is not. You don’t have to spend years in school or pour over piles of texts and case studies. There is a ton of information out there, but you don’t need to learn it all. All you need is a coach to show you exactly what the best plan of action is to improve YOUR health.
At Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® (FDN) we train each practitioner on a scientifically-based and holistically grounded system of health. In turn, each practitioner educates their clients on how to identify their own unique healing opportunities. They are also taught how to listen to their bodies, and how to determine their own personal best diet and lifestyle program. In other words, with FDN, each client learns a complete system of self-care that they can use for the rest of their lives.
The answers have been around for over 2300 years. Hippocrates understood true health care and the importance of prevention through nutrition and lifestyle. Yet, modern medicine is still focused on the treatment of chronic degenerative disease in industrialized countries. Our culture has grown dependent on medications and medical intervention as a main form of “health care”. As a result, placed less importance on diet, exercise, and lifestyle, the true foundations of health.