It is my firm belief, after 38 years in medicine, that the future of medicine very clearly lies in the marriage of what we call, “biological therapies”, therapies that work with our body and with conventional medicine. Instead of us being into two different camps. That’s what I have been trying to do for the greater part of my career, and what I’ve pretty much dedicated myself to.
When I graduated in 1973, I immediately went into emergency medicine because trauma was my main interest at that time. I worked at San Francisco General, the Highland Hospital in Oakland, then gradually filtered my way to Mount Diablo Hospital in Concord, CA. After seven years, the “real” trauma medicine seemed to disappear, and my work turned into treating rashes that were four weeks old at 3AM in the morning. I got tired of this particular job.
Statistically there are two things that have to be true in order for us to be healthy. The most statistically reliable information that has been studied is the answer to these two questions: 1) Are you happy? 2) Do you like your work? If you can answer “yes” to those two questions, you’re in good shape. Statistically speaking, those are the things that correlate most with longevity. Since I didn’t like my work, I decided on a career change. I chose to go into general practice.
After six months in general practice it became very apparent to me that I was not really doing much with chronic disease except for “sort of” helping people along. They continued to have diabetes, they continued to have arthritis, and they continued to have all the other chronic ailments. I may have helped them with some their symptoms, but they never really got over their problems. Then distressingly enough, about a third of the time, they would get sick from the drugs I gave them. This was not at all anything I was pleased with.
So, in the late 70’s, I set out on a search to discover what else I could do to help my patients, and that search continues today. This lecture will provide some of the fruits of that journey. I hope to share with you some of the line of thinking that I have come up with over the years, and how I approach what I refer to as “Biological Integrative Medicine”.
I like the word, “biological medicine” because it refers to the systems of the body repairing themselves. One of the problems with the conventional medical approach is that it’s a statistical approach. In conventional medicine, a lot of times, you approach the patient as though they were a statistic. And you say forty percent of the time this will work for people in your condition. If I give you this I’m expecting a forty percent chance you’ll get well. They just dish the medicine out on a statistical basis without looking at the individuality of a person.
In biological medicine – alternative medicine – the individuality of the person is entirely what it’s all about. We don’t do statistics. Many times, studies based upon statistics don’t have a particular relevance to us because we’re just looking at this individual sitting in front of us. We look at it in this way: everybody has susceptibilities that’s your inherited strengths and weaknesses. One guy can get away with staying up late and partying, and we can’t because we are susceptible in that area. Conversely, we can get away with something that they can’t. Some people can get away with a lot, and some people can’t get away with much. Again, this depends on your inherited strengths and weaknesses, and we refer to that term as “your susceptibility”.
So, in biological medicine, we pay a lot of attention to looking at an individual to determine what their susceptibilities are and we work our program around that. We’re not just treating everybody like they’re the same. Then we look at the stressors. The stressors basically refer to things that are outside the patient that impinge upon them that they have to adapt to. This could be mental or emotional stress. It could be chemicals. Or it could be a contaminated water supply. It’s all the things we have to adapt to from the outside. Given our strengths and weaknesses, and given how our environment impacts upon us, we get thrown into a state of biological imbalance. This is a normal state of affairs, and it happens thousands of times each second.
An example would be adapting to the climate in the room. The reason it’s not a problem is because, although we go into a state of imbalance, we have systems which we loosely call “regulation systems” that regulate our body and bring us back into a state of homeostasis. The regulation systems are able to sense when something is out of balance and then set about to correct that. These are typically all automatic or autonomic, in other words, you don’t have to think about it, your body adjusts automatically.
What regulation systems do is what Albert Schweitzer referred to in the late 1800’s when he said, “We doctors don’t do anything; we just work with the doctor within”. You each have your own little clinic inside of you. A part of you diagnoses what’s out of balance and sets about to bring it back into balance.
In the course of the regulation systems bringing the imbalance back into a state of homeostasis, sometimes we get some acute symptoms. For example, if you have something in your stomach that shouldn’t be there, and your body senses this, it will cause you to vomit and get whatever that substance is out. That would be an example of a symptom. The vomiting is a symptom. Is the vomiting a bad thing? No, not really, it is a good thing, as it helps you get rid of whatever the problem is. Rashes are very similar to this. Rashes are toxins that are internal that are working their way out of your body. So, when you get a rash, is that a bad thing? Well, you don’t like it, but it is actually a good thing because it is getting rid of a toxin that is deeper in your body, and it’s pulling it out more shallowly.
Many symptoms that patients get are just their body working; nothing’s wrong with them. It just indicates all systems are working. These acute symptoms are something you wouldn’t want to suppress. If you have something in your stomach and your body is trying to throw it up, you don’t want to interfere with that and give a drug to stop the vomiting. You want to help get the thing out of there, so the vomiting will stop. You don’t want to suppress the symptom, because if you suppress the symptom, you may drive that toxin deeper into the tissues, and you may interfere with the body cleaning it out. You may interfere with the doctor within.