Finding the Root Cause


Sometimes I have to ask myself if I am really doing anything different than the M.D’s.  What is the difference, really, if someone is on Prozac or St. John’s Wort?  If they are on Lipitor or Red Yeast Rice extract?  The answer is none.  There really is no difference.  Sure, we can talk about reduced side effects and better tolerance, but are we really more effectively treating the problem?  Again, the answer is no.  Substituting a drug for an herb or supplement is, in my opinion, ultimately not a solution, and it is a disturbing direction that I see alternative medicine going as it becomes more and more main stream.  This practice is taking alternative medicine further and further away from its roots and is turning it into nothing other than a gentler form of allopathic (M.D.) medicine.  However, this is not the way it is supposed to be, or even has to be.


I have always thought that most (not all) “alternative” M.D.’s that I come across just don’t “get it”.  The reason is because they are basically doing what I outlined above.  Their patients want to get off their drugs, so they just substitute their drugs for natural compounds that work in similar ways.  Often times, the drugs are just derivatives of the natural compounds to begin with, so what are we really doing?  Are we really helping our patients by doing this?  Once again, the answer is no.  We are just enabling them to continue to their dietary and/or lifestyle habits that put them in their situation to begin with.  All too often, I see people start to throw supplements at patients without ever trying to figure out what the heck is going on.  Suppressing a symptom with an herb instead of a drug is still suppressing symptoms.  No, what sets, or what should set, alternative medicine apart is that we look further.  We look underneath the symptoms.  What is going on here?  Why are these symptoms manifesting?  These are the questions that we ask and that makes what we do so effective.


I can do some acupuncture on someone or give them a supplement to help them with their chronic sinus congestion, and they will feel better, but I know what they will just be back in my office at some point in the future with the exact same problem.  I haven’t solved anything.  However, it is the true alternative medicine practitioner who will look deeper.  Why is this chronic sinus stuff here?  The body is not supposed to produce enough mucus to wax a car, so there must be a reason.  Is it because you are eating a food you are sensitive to?  Is it because you have a yeast infection that you are producing an allergic reaction to?  Is it because you have 5 cats that all sleep on your face?  Is it because your immune system is shot because of chronic use of antibiotics because of chronic sinus infections?  Or is it something else?  That is my job – to figure that out.  Because until we can figure it out, nothing is going to change. 


And that is what alternative medicine strives to do – produce lasting, life-long changes that will significantly improve your level of health and wellness of years to come.  When I, or any good alternative practitioner, works with a patient, my goal is to have that person out of my office within a few months or so and have them never return for the same problem again.  Now, sometimes it takes more than a few months, but it can happen.  This happens with a combination of effective symptom relief combined with a vigorous search for the underlying cause.  Often times, this will mean significant dietary or lifestyle modification, but it is not always the patient’s “fault”.  Sometimes, it can be that their organ systems – adrenal, thyroid, digestive, etc. – are worn down or out because of previous therapies or habits.  Or, in Chinese medicine, we talk a lot about the body being out of balance and this can happen due to various causes.  However, if the body is not returned to a state of harmony and balance, or if those organ systems are not returned to health, nothing will ultimately change. 


So, if you are seeing an alternative provider, or are thinking about seeing one, ask yourself about these questions.  What are you really trying to accomplish and what will be a satisfactory outcome for you?  Maybe a simple substitution of your current meds will be all that you are looking for, but I look beyond that to the possibility of changing things and finding causes to allow you to not be on ANY supplement and still feel your best.  With a dedicated and motivated patient, and a good practitioner trying to flesh out the root cause, the sky is the limit.  Good Luck and Happy Hunting!

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