If asked, you would say that you live a good life. You’re comfortable in your home and job. You even get to take vacations once or twice a year. But you can’t seem to shake the feeling that something is wrong inside. You just don’t feel your best and you have been to the conventional doctor and been told that “everything is all right”.
When it comes to healthcare, you have two primary choices: Either trust your healthcare to the conventional allopathic medical system where the focus is on disease management, pharmaceutical medications and surgery, or opt for the new paradigm in healthcare, frequently called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) or just Integrative Medicine. The choice is yours and the question is which way do you choose to live? Read on to learn more about the two choices.
The System That Fails Many People: Conventional Allopathic Medicine
Do you find yourself being a bit more irritable than you know yourself to be? Or, maybe you are experiencing perimenopause and you have some up and down days and maybe even a hot flash here or there. Your doctor probably just told you that this is just part of the “normal” aging process. Do you find yourself a little short of breath when you walk up the stairs? Or do you have overwhelming fatigue and have been to multiple doctors, even the ones at the world-renowned clinics, but have been told that nothing is wrong or even worse, you have been misdiagnosed. You may have even been prescribed an anti-depressant! Or, has the life been zapped from you with constant muscle and joint pain and once again no diagnosis has proven to lead to helpful treatment?
Conventional allopathic medicine is pretty good with treating single system well-defined illnesses where there is a known drug or surgical solution that works. But where the illnesses are multi-system, multi-symptom and not fitting one of the established disease patterns, you may feel lost and without hope. Or maybe you are healthy and just searching for a doctor to help you optimize your health so you can stay that way.
Conventional allopathic medicine would have us believe that our bodies are meant to breakdown once we hit the 50s and 60s. While accepting this idea may be good for your short-term finances— it isn’t the way to live if you want to be running around with your grandkids when you’re in your 70’s and 80s. Keep reading to see how Mary, a 75-year-old tutor, maintains a part-time job, exercises a few hours per week and keeps up with her grandkids on the playground every Saturday.
Mary was born in the summer of 1943 when the minimum wage was just $0.30 an hour and the life expectancy was 68 years for females and 61 years for males. She grew up in a small Eastern Tennessee town known for its whiskey and bluegrass music. Now, like most Americans, she grew up with the notion of, “if it ain’t’ broke don’t fix it.” But when it comes to healthcare in the 21st century, this approach is not the best way to approach your body if you want the golden years of the 60s – 80s to truly be golden. The reality is that conventional allopathic medicine isn’t the answer either. You have to empower yourself to take care of your health using all that modern medicine and science has to offer.
The following illustration and commentary explain why conventional allopathic medicine doesn’t work for many patients.
- The waiting room shown above is a typical site for a busy family practice office.
- Primary Care Physicians (PCPs) typically have patient loads of over 2,000 patients and see as many as 35-40 patients in a day. With those numbers, it is easy to see why there is no time to discuss complex symptom histories needed to diagnose and treat complex chronic disease.
- Visits with conventional PCPs last between 5 -23 minutes with the average somewhere between 15-17 minutes according to multiple recently reported studies and reports.
- Most of these doctors are doing what is “allowed” within the confines of insurance-based medicine where with very few exceptions, the focus is on disease management rather than prevention.
- Consider that excepting well-baby care, mammograms, colonoscopies, periodic physicals once you are beyond a specified age and a very short list of other items, conventional medicine does NOT pay for prevention. You have to be sick to visit the doctor and for him/her to get paid.
- Most of these doctors are operating from the “standard of care” manual that is outdated and does not include emerging approaches to prevention and disease management.
- Even if they were to get trained in these emerging approaches, they can’t deviate from the “standard of care” without risk of losing reimbursement
Mary’s wake up call
On December 12th, 1983 when she was just 40 years old, Mary’s older sister Joann, died. She had a sudden heart attack. This unfortunate event in Mary’s life caused her to wake up to the fact that she needed to take care of her body. Joann was not a smoker nor an alcoholic, she got her regular checkups and was told that “all was fine” other than being a little overweight. In fact, Mary had recently spoken to Joann and when Mary asked about her health (because she was overweight), Joann said “My doctor said that I am fine as my total lipid panel is 198 (“normal”). Over the years, Mary’s sister Joann had become more and more overweight. Every time she would go over to her house, she would be eating fast food. Her job exposed her to harmful chemicals and she never worked out. She was diagnosed with hypertension at the young age of 32, and although she took her daily pill for high blood pressure, her lifestyle continued to wreak havoc on her body.
This was Mary’s wake-up call. Her sister’s body had been giving her all kinds of signs that something was wrong. But sadly, she ignored every one of them. Fortunately, Mary made a decision from that day forward to live a long healthy life.
Conventional medicine is cheaper in the short run but what about the long term?
What if I told you that you didn’t have to suffer from declining health as Joann did? And all it takes is more of an investment upfront rather than later when it’s too late?
Sure, conventional allopathic medicine may be cheaper now. But what happens 10, 20, 30 years from now when you’re staring at a skilled nursing home bill? Following the traditional ways of healthcare will ultimately catch up with you and cost you more in the long run when there are expensive surgeries, costly monthly prescriptions, and skilled nursing facility costs.
Before Mary decided to invest in herself, it was a completely foreign idea to her. Like most of us, she grew up with the ingrained idea from the very beginning that when you get really sick, then you see a doctor. Otherwise get your periodic checkups, pay your $10-$20 copay and all will be fine until it isn’t. Then there are pills and surgery to fix things if you develop a disease.
Mindless Suffering Ends Here with Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is the medical approach that focuses on the optimal functioning of your body and your organs. It focuses on understanding the root cause of disease then implementing strategies to optimize your body in order to avoid disease and proceed gracefully through the so called “golden years”. Physicians that practice this way typically refer to themselves as practicing “integrative” and/or “functional” medicine.
CAM practitioners use very advanced lab testing (some of which is not covered by insurance) and advanced imaging that together with traditional markers gives a more complete and accurate picture of the biological age and health status of the patient. These markers include genetics, advanced lipid markers that go well beyond the conventional standard lipid panel, volumetric imaging of the brain, chemical, heavy metals and environmental toxin exposure testing including mold and Lyme disease testing and much more. For example, had Mary’s physician looked beyond the standard lipid panel, he/she might have seen that while her overall cholesterol numbers were fine, that she had lots of very small dense LDL particles and that her LPPLA2 (inflammation marker) was through the roof and her Cardio CRP was also elevated. All of those markers are readily available with an advanced lipid panel. They might also have done some non-invasive imaging such as a Carotid Intima Media Thickness (CIMT) ultrasound and found that she had dangerous plaque in her arteries. If found early, they could then have implemented interventions to help Joann avoid having that massive heart attack that killed her. Remember that about 50% of patients that die from a first-time heart attack patients don’t even make it to the hospital according to the CDC.
Even the world-renowned Mayo Clinic has adopted CAM as a viable treatment approach and has a wing dedicated to alternative treatments. According to an article written by the Mayo Clinic, approximately 30% of adults report having used CAM. Read here for more:
Also, due to the increasing popularity of CAM approaches, there is now a new federal organization under the National Institute for Health (NIH), called the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). This organization is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on complementary and integrative health approaches whose mission is to define through rigorous scientific investigation, the usefulness and safety of complementary and integrative health interventions and their roles in improving health and health care.
The benefits of choosing complementary and alternative medicine over conventional allopathic medicine look something like this.
The specific advantages of using Complementary and Alternative Medicine over Conventional approaches are:
- A healthcare model that empowers you to take charge of your health
- A healthcare model that leverages the current body of emerging clinical evidence, where conventional medicine relies mostly on what was taught in medical school 30 years ago.
- Initial visits regularly last 1.5 – 2 hours so that there is sufficient time for the practitioner to understand your medical history at a detailed level including possible environmental exposures, familial history, personal disease history, symptom etiology along with your health goals and treatment preferences.
- Significantly more detailed laboratory analysis focused on achieving optimal levels rather than being within laboratory reference ranges. In many cases the laboratory reference range is a statistical range that 80-85% of the population fits into. CAM-based physicians operate from “optimal” ranges rather than these laboratory reference ranges and they use a much broader array of tests since they can use both insurance-based tests as well as tests that insurance routinely don’t cover.
- You get personalized precision care plans since practitioners are armed with a detailed history and more detailed laboratory analysis. This is a big one if you’re tired of the “one size fits all” model that most conventional doctors follow today that has led nowhere after several years of trying to determine what is wrong.
- A focus on the root cause of an illness rather than just treating the symptoms. This approach leads to true healing rather than just masking symptoms.
- A focus on preventing chronic illness rather than the wait and hope approach of managing the disease once it has manifested
- Practitioners have a bigger toolbox full of treatment options. CAMS physicians use medications, nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, homeopathics and nutrition/lifestyle as part of a total solution. Conventional practitioners pretty much just use medications and surgeries including many “band aid” medications that may do more harm than good and many surgeries that don’t resolve the issue. For example, many patients suffering from menopause symptoms that present with mild depression end up getting prescribed anti-depressants. Also, many patients presenting with MARCoNS (Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci) from mold exposure end up having sinus surgeries that almost never resolve the MARCoNS.
- The “total cost” of electing this model of healthcare is significantly lower than the cost of conventional care, if you factor in the costs of the expensive medications and surgeries, the cost of lost time from work and the impact on your mental health for going for years without getting treated effectively. In the short run, there are some out of pocket costs that you will need to pay to get this kind of treatment but in the long run, you will likely live a healthier life in the golden years.
The Choice that Mary Made
Mary started listening to her body. She went through specific tests designed to figure out the status of her body from a perspective of optimizing her health. She had many tests done that were outside of insurance but these tests revealed subclinical deficiencies in nutrition, gut health, cardiovascular health and brain health. It should be clear that these deficiencies would never have been detected by a physician working in the conventional allopathic model . Then, working with her physician, they created a plan to optimize her suboptimal areas through clinical interventions, lifestyle changes, dietary changes and exercise – all geared towards preventing chronic illness. Investing in her health was the best choice she could have made. Looking at the picture above, we can see that Mary made the right choice.
When you first start out on this journey of preventing illness and being proactive there can be some resistance either from within, someone close to you or even your conventional doctor. This is completely normal. But in order to enjoy the long-lasting benefits of integrative, functional and preventative care, you must push through this. Through integrative and functional medicine, you can not only prevent many chronic diseases, but if you do get one, it can be treated in a way that brings about real and lasting healing.
At Proactive Wellness, we have seen patients come to us with chronic illness that hadn’t been focusing on optimizing their health. Many of them are significantly debilitated, unable to work and therefore leading a very compromised life. However, we have also seen some of our long-time patients who worked year in and out on optimizing their health become victim of a tick bite and develop Lyme disease or become exposed to a moldy building at work and develop mold illness/CIRS. There is, however, a marked difference between the two cases. The optimized patient is not debilitated, is highly functional and able to continue with life while getting treated. We have seen these scenarios repeated many times over the years and it is very clear that when patients have optimized their bodies, they are much more able to withstand a disease and persevere through it without debilitation.
We are pleased to offer a wide variety of treatments to help you starting with our Wellness/Optimization/Prevention programs and continuing through our chronic disease treatment programs including Lyme Disease, CIRS/Mold illness, parasitic infections, viral infections such as Epstein Barr, gastrointestinal illness including Crohn’s disease, intestinal permeability and others. To get a precise diagnosis, we leverage leading-edge genetic testing and advanced lab testing using some of the best testing facilities in the world. This allows us to deliver personalized, precision diagnosis and treatment. Some of the specific programs we offer include bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), heart attack, and stroke prevention, the Bredesen protocol to prevent and reverse cognitive decline related to Alzheimer’s and related diseases, advanced detoxification/binding/chelation programs, and IV Nutritional Therapy.
We are excited to be a part of this movement that is bringing real change to healthcare. We are pleased to see and hear how these treatments are transformative for people that feel as though they got their life back. In closing, we will share one true short story of a patient who came to our practice when he was 49 years old. For his 50th birthday, he had hoped to climb Mt Kilimanjaro. When he presented to us, he was 80 pounds overweight, had numerous lab that were outside of the optimal range and had little hope of climbing 19,000 feet to the mountain top although that had been his dream for over a decade. But we were able to create a personalized clinical plan for him that ultimately helped him to lose 80 pounds and make significant improvement in multiple markers in a little less than 9 months, and he went on to climb the mountain and achieve his personal goal. Just before he left, he asked us to make a banner for him and we are so pleased to have been a part of this with him.
The choice is yours. How do you choose to live? Will you be a Mary or a Joann? Without your health, you have nothing! Investing in yourself can make a significant difference with how you age, not only for your present and future happiness, but also for your loved ones. If you don’t take care of your body then you may not be able to enjoy the golden years in the way that you had hoped. Living long is one thing, but living a long and healthy life is what most of us want. Are you ready to climb your personal mountain?