ARTICLE 2) A Critique Of Holistic Health Care
Author: Donald S. Rehm

Will alternative medicine submit to a critical examination? First of all, the term "alternative medicine" bothers me. The word "alternative" implies that we are secondary to or not quite as good as "real" medicine. If you consider that allopathic medicine treats symptoms and ignores causes and that the goal of alternative medicine, at least in theory, is to remove the cause of poor health and let the body heal itself, which do you think is the real health care? Also, the word "medicine" obviously brings to mind the use of prescription drugs and all that implies. I prefer the term HOLISTIC HEALTH CARE and I suggest that we standardize on this or a similar term. Good health care requires much more than "medicine." Proper lifestyle is not medicine. Medicine is something to avoid, if possible.

Recent events have led me to believe that Holistic Health Care is falling far short of its potential. My story began several months ago when I consulted a holistic doctor who had the added distinction of being a past president of the American College of Advancement in Medicine, the organization to which most chelating doctors belong. I figured I would get good advice about my problem which was a cold feeling in my toes and a growing numbness on the bottom of my feet. I felt this could be the result of poor circulation caused by the slow buildup of plaque in the small arteries of my feet.

The doctor ordered a complete series of blood tests and also tested the blood flow and blood pressure in my legs using a machine in his office. Actually, his assistant performed the test which took less than 30 minutes. For this I was billed $750 which I thought was outrageous for a routine test. He found that I did indeed have poor circulation in my toes. The course of action recommended was 30 chelation treatments. He also had some vitamin and mineral supplements that he wanted me to take. When I asked about my blood tests, he replied, "Everything looks fine. Your cholesterol is a little elevated at 247, but the ratio of total to good cholesterol is within normal limits so Iím not concerned." He made no mention of my diet.

Soon thereafter, I had 30 chelation treatments in another part of the country but my symptoms did not improve. Apparently, chelation can be a lifesaver in some cases of atherosclerosis and ineffective in others. This is something which chelationists should clarify and provide some statistics on. Otherwise, we are just "shooting in the dark."

In my search for an answer to my problem, I consulted a clinical nutritionist. He looked at my test results, ordered a hair analysis, and was certain that my problem could be solved if I would start taking a dozen different supplements which he obviously bought at wholesale and sold at retail. He said, "Donít buy supplements anywhere else. There is a lot of poor-quality stuff on the market." I took the supplements for a while but stopped because I felt this could not be the answer.

I went to an acupuncturist, as much out of curiosity as anything. He said, "Oh, yes, Iíve seen conditions like yours improve greatly. Letís schedule you for a series of treatments. And I also have some Chinese supplements I want you to take." I had a couple of treatments but soon realized that this was not the answer either.

A friend recommended a chiropractor who said, "Your problem is caused by pressure on the nerves to your feet. We cure conditions like this all the time. Letís schedule you for a series of spinal manipulations. And I also have some supplements I want you to take." I saw this as an overoptimistic sales pitch and never went back.

At this point my luck changed. I was browsing through the health books at my local library and came across not one but eight books on the same topic, the fat in our diet, all by knowledgeable authors with scientific data to back up their conclusions. Somehow, with all the books I had read on health matters, I had missed this. I must have thought it was people who wanted to lose weight who were making all the fuss about low-fat foods. I learned that 247 is a dangerously high cholesterol level and a sure sign that cholesterol was being deposited in my arteries. I learned that in areas such as Thailand and rural China, where cardiovascular disease is almost unknown, cholesterol levels average around 125, certainly no higher than 150. My cholesterol level of 247 was obviously 100 points too high. My LDL, or bad cholesterol, of 180 should have been under 100. The reason for our universally high cholesterol levels is that we get over 40% of our calories from fat. This should be no more than 10% if we want to keep our cholesterol at a safe level. I used to think that refined sugar was the worst thing we put in our bodies. I now know that our high fat diet (especially refined, hydrogenated and oxidized fats) is far worse and is the cause of a multitude of serious degenerative diseases, from diabetes to cancer to macular degeneration.

Our cells are nourished by the blood which brings oxygen from the lungs and nutrients from the intestines. Red blood cells are larger in diameter than the capillaries. They pass through in single file and must even fold themselves to get through. This is the system designed by nature to force the red blood cells to give up their oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. How can the cells be properly nourished if the arterial walls are coated with plaque?

I immediately went on a low-fat diet. After two weeks, the coldness in my toes had disappeared. After two months, my total cholesterol was down to 199 and my LDL was down to 130. The numbness in my feet was nearly gone. My goal is now to get my cholesterol down to 150.

Ironically, I owed my salvation not to the numerous "alternative" doctors I had consulted but to the unknown book buyer at the local library who had the wisdom to see the value of these books and make them available to the public. I recalled how I had consulted two other chelating doctors in the years prior to seeing the one mentioned at the beginning of this article. They also knew what my cholesterol level was but said nothing about it. They also had chelation and supplements they wanted to sell me. To make it more confusing, all the people I have talked to recommended different supplements! Some even criticized the supplements that had been recommended by others.

I could not understand the incompetence of all these "experts" that had caused me to waste thousands of dollars and had delayed my recovery by several years. Had I chosen an allopathic doctor, I might even have had my cholesterol problem identified and I certainly would not have spent money on chelation and supplements. I wrote a letter to the original doctor who had done the blood tests and the blood pressure studies and let him have both barrels: "Why didnít you tell me my cholesterol was dangerously high? Why didnít you refer me to this literature? If this kind of patient education is not part of ACAM protocol, it should be. Are you not doing what we accuse the allopathic doctors of doing - treating symptoms and ignoring causes? What is the sense of trying to remove plaque from my arteries with chelation while I continue to build deposits with a high-fat diet? Does the fact that there is easy money to be made from the sale of supplements and chelation, but not from referring a patient to a book, have anything to do with it? Frankly, I expected something more from a past president of ACAM. And with regard to your $750 fee for a routine test performed by your assistant in less than 30 minutes on a machine that has been paid for many times over, I just hope that you donít take your car to a garage to have the spark plugs changed and be presented with a bill for $750 along with the explanation, ĎYes, I know this only took 30 minutes, but here we donít bill for our time. We charge by the procedure. This is our customary charge for this procedure. It is also not our policy to post our fees or to tell anyone in advance what we plan to charge." Needless to say, my questions went unanswered.

This business of charging an exorbitant price for a routine "procedure" is one of medicineís dirty little tricks. Why do we tolerate it when we would not do so in any other field of work? I fear that the public will come to believe (as I have concluded) that you canít trust any doctor to tell you what you need to know. They all want to sell you what they have for sale, whether it is drugs, surgery, radiation, acupuncture, chiropractic, supplements, chelation, or something else.

When I first noticed my foot problem, I went to a podiatrist because I wanted to rule out pinched nerves as the cause. He found nothing wrong but gave me some foot pads that he said would bring relief. How could he not realize that this could be a circulation problem? How can a person who calls himself a doctor be this ignorant?

The basic problem here is that we have inherited an outmoded system of sickness (not health) care in which the doctors get richer as we get sicker. There is not the slightest financial incentive for a doctor to teach us how to stay well and not need the doctorís services. It is this system that creates the monsters who prey upon the public. Do you find these words too harsh? What would you call the coronary bypass surgeon who knows some of his patients will die on the operating table and others will find their arteries clogged up again in a few years but who says nothing about chelation or dietary changes? With the possible exception of tobacco company executives, this is about as evil as you can get in the business world. The sad truth is that it is in the doctorís financial interest to keep the patient ignorant.

We need to scrap this system and put in its place a system in which family doctors are compensated for educating the public about good nutrition and healthful living. Is this a utopian idea? I donít think so. Who could have predicted that we would see all the health food stores, organic foods and low-fat foods that have become commonplace? We are already in the midst of a revolution in health awareness. Letís extend it to the doctor-patient relationship. Until that day comes, letís try to imagine what we can do now to create a truly ethical and holistic approach for a family practice that could be a national model.

A doctorís waiting room should be an educational experience. Get rid of the usual worthless magazines that are deposited there. There should be health books for sale and informative flyers on various health problems, ideally prepared by the doctor and not accepted from drug companies or the like. Patients should be encouraged to browse and purchase what interests them. There is nothing unethical about offering books for sale. Selling supplements is another matter because, in that case, the supplements, like drugs, are "prescribed" and it is difficult for the patient to say no.

This library of material should be divided into several distinct sections. The section which is most important and which should be given prominence could be called "Health Through Proper Lifestyle." Books on proper dietary habits, exercise, stop-smoking programs, etc. would go here. A second section could be called "Treatment Methods." Here would be books on supplements, chelation, homeopathy, herbs, etc. for those who wish to try these things. A third section would be called "Miscellaneous" and could contain literature on topics of general interest such as getting a second opinion, the drawbacks of HMOís, etc.

There should also be a handout that explains the doctorís philosophy of care. A promise should be made that "In this practice, patient welfare always comes before financial gain. Lifestyle changes are tried before costly or risky treatments are recommended. We wonít try to sell you treatments or procedures just to make money."

Alternative medicine today, viewed by an informed consumer, presents a bleak landscape. We are not even moving in the right direction. We leave ourselves open to criticism and ridicule from those who would be happy to see us disappear. The title "doctor" at one time meant "teacher." Today, it is more likely to bring on feelings of distrust and suspicion rather than respect.

I challenge the Holistic Health Care community to correct the abuses mentioned here. It is time to put our house in order and show that we deserve the respect of the public.

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