By HANS DUVEFELT
We use the word health rather loosely in America today. Especially the expression health care, whether you spell that as one word or two, is almost an oxymoron.
Health is not simply the absence of disease, even less the pharmaceutical management of disease. The healthcare “industry” is not the major portion of our GNP that it is because there is a lot of health out there, but the opposite. What consumes so much money and generates so much profit is, of course, sick care. The sicker people are, the more money is spent and earned in this market segment. It is a spiral, and a vicious one.
Health is a naturally occurring phenomenon, a state of perfection. Modern life has corrupted many natural, self-healing biological mechanisms and upended the natural order of things in our bodies – just the way it has altered our environment.
Our bodies are pretty ingenious in their ability to heal. When I crushed my finger in my garage door a few years ago, my disfigured fingertip, bisected nail and contused nail bed slowly regained their original shape, almost like a lizard grows a new tail. Yet in an opposite scenario, a person with scleroderma can lose their fingertip to gangrene without physical injury because of what we call autoimmunity – instead of self healing, our bodies can engage in self destruction. My fingertip could heal perfectly but some people’s skin or stomach ulcers fail to do so.
We intuitively seem to have accepted that, most of the time, nature takes care of itself if we don’t mess with it. And when temperatures rise, forests burn or species go extinct, we are quick to assume our industrial or agricultural processes are the cause.
Yet, we have this head-in-the-sand view of disease that it is a random occurrence, the sudden manifestation of ancient and rare genetic glitches or I don’t know what. The real answer is that much of it is a consequence of what we eat and otherwise expose our bodies to – how we produce and refine food, how we alter its natural properties and how we over- or under-consume basic nutrients.
Functional Medicine asks and answers many of these questions and promises to be the future of medicine. I believe in this, but I also believe that the sick-care industrial complex is powerful enough to severely slow down this revolution. I also believe the food industry will double down its efforts to continue misleading the public.
Functional Medicine cannot charge MRI scale fees for telling people to simply follow an ancestral diet, so corporate medicine will never fully embrace it.
Functional Medicine, I believe, will grow slowly and steadily as a counterculture and somewhat of a cottage industry. But then, once it gains enough momentum, maybe the “industry” will want to pay some homage to it in order to stave off the revolution that could lead to its own demise.
I fully expect corporate medicine and the pharmaceutical industry to offer healthy sounding shortcuts, like healthy eating in pill form and fecal transplants for exorbitant fees when the natural ways seem too time consuming or boring. But I seriously doubt that we will see decreased sick care spending in the next 100 years.
But I do think a growing portion of Americans will lessen their faith in traditional “health care” and live more consciously, experience better health and alter some of the disease statistics that have seemed to worsen so much just during my 40 years in practice: diabetes, obesity, heart disease and many cancers.
Hans Duvefelt is a Swedish-born rural Family Physician in Maine. This post originally appeared on his blog, A Country Doctor Writes, here.