Why the Modern Medical System Sucks - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

The reason most doctors are incompetent and how to find real cures through great doctors.

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I’ve had various health issues over the years – who hasn’t? From annoyingly-persistent rashes to migraines (check out my tips for migraines), I felt as though I couldn’t escape my various health issues. The many doctors and specialists I saw in NYC kept pushing ineffective and often dangerous prescriptions at me to merely mask my symptoms, but not to cure the underlying cause.

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

Big Pharma Bribes & Laziness

The formula is really quite simple. The problem is that natural healing methods don’t make any money for Big Pharma / the drug industry. In fact the Journal of the American Medical Association documented that over 87% of the physicians who determine the practice guidelines for medicine receive compensation from the drug industry. So the doctors who determine what treatment should be prescribed are on the payroll. Hence, people who have a heart attack aren’t told to change their diet; they’re prescribed Lipitor.

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

In my experience, the vast majority of doctors simply have no idea (and no interest about) how to look for the root cause of health issues. And why would they want to? All the money is in maintenance, not cures. Instead of being curious and reading the latest (non-big-pharma-pushed) research and articles, the majority of doctors stop reading up on medical issues after med school and rely on big pharma reps to give them their info. Which means the more pills the patient takes, over the longest period of time, the better. For the doctor and his pharma reps, anyway.

In other words:

The doctor’s perspective: Why bother finding the root cause of something when it’s so much effort and so unprofitable for me and my big-pharma pals?? The $$$ is in the treatment. Not the cure.

The bubbly, big-breasted, college-aged big pharma reps reward them with luxury golf trips and African safaris, or paid ‘consulting’ gigs, when they sell enough of their product or pills. Whether the patient may, or may not, benefit –or be harmed– by taking them, has become an afterthought (or given no thought at all).

In a survey of almost 3,200 American physicians in six specialties published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Almost all (94%) of the family practitioners, internists, pediatricians, cardiologists, general surgeons, and anesthesiologists surveyed said they accepted drug company money or gifts.”

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

And Big Pharma corrupts ’em early. In a survey of more than 1,100 students, the average student received one gift or attended one sponsored activity per week from drug companies. 93% of medical students said that their school supervisor pushed them to take gifts from drug companies. Talk about a messed-up, corrupt system!

So it’s no surprise that a study published by Mayo Clinic a few years back reveals that 70% of Americans take at least one prescription medication and 20% of Americans are on five or more medications.

Here’s John Oliver’s take on it:

And another topic that you may want to look into is this: When a new drug gets tested, the results of the trials should be published for the rest of the medical world — except much of the time, negative or inconclusive findings go unreported, leaving doctors and researchers in the dark. In other words, doctors don’t know about most of the potentially seriously harmful effects the drugs they prescribe may have on their patients. And, studies show that thanks to the free samples from Big Pharma’s reps, doctors prescribe the most expensive, newest and least ‘safe’ drugs far more often than they would otherwise. #scary

In a nutshell, that’s why, after seeing about 30 doctors, dermatologists and specialists (including a neurologist and a dermatologist who teaches at Columbia U) over the course of a year, I ended up with a bunch of prescription products that did me no good (in fact, the pills thinned my hair, the creams thinned my skin, and one painkiller almost killed me, but that’s another story).

Dermatologists: Botox, Botox, and More Botox

I found that dermatologists nowadays –even the ones who say they practice medical dermatology (ie. they claim to treat a lot of rashes)– actually spend the vast majority of their time creating their own gimmicky skin care lines, and pumping fillers or Botox into people’s faces. Why? Because it’s far more profitable and there’s incredible demand. The problem is, all these cosmetic procedures simply leave no time for learning about actual medical issues like rashes or skin conditions.

Maybe that’s why I had a supposedly Yale-educated Manhattan dermatologist try to prescribe me a super toxic cream and then tell me not to worry about its toxicity because nothing that I put on my skin is absorbed by my bloodstream. Duhhhhh, ever heard of Nicotine patches??

Only part of the picture

It’s widely recognized that a person’s genomics, microbiome, and micronutrient intake play a massive part in their overall health. If you’re not familiar with these terms, that’s expected. Regular doctors aren’t either. That’s because these are preventative and curative, and doctors are only taught to manage your symptoms (…which keeps you sick and taking pills). If they want to learn more, they need to take extra initiative.

Look for a doctor who understands these areas of medical study:

Genomic Medicine and Nurtigenomics – This area of medicine looks at which of your genes are expressing. In the perfect body, all of your genes would be expressing, but pollution and toxic chemicals have the ability to ‘turn off’ some of your genes. This can interfere with important bodily functions, like detoxing, fighting cancer, etc. If you want to learn more, google MTHFR and genomics.

The way to find out if you have genomic issues is to get a DNA test (like 23andMe) and then run the results through any number of websites that put the results into a more readable, health-focused format, then to find a doctor who can help you understand the results. Doing this changed my life, and I’ll be writing more about this shortly.

Microbiome – These are all the little bacteria in your gut. You have thousands of different types of bacteria in your intestines and they all have different tasks. Scientists have discovered that the microbiome is in control of almost everything in your body, from your immune system, to your mood (fixing your microbiome can cure depression), to inflammation levels, to absorbing micronutrients, to fighting disease and more.

Lots of people (myself included) have had their microbiome destroyed by antibiotics, and many probiotics are ineffective, or only replace a few of the thousands of types of bacteria that you need. It’s important to test your microbiome so you can see if you have an overgrowth of bad bacteria (like h.pylori, which I learned through experience, is very common and dangerous) and make sure you’re on the right diet to grow all the helpful bacteria types needed to keep you healthy.

Micronutrients – Typical doctors don’t get an education on how food and nutrition affects the body. That’s partially why you rarely hear a doctor tell you to take a supplement like Oregano Oil or Dandelion Root, or to make sure you get enough spinach in your diet. It only takes a minimal level of common sense to realize that the fuel we put in our body greatly effects how our body runs and how we feel. That’s why I see a doctor who understands micronutrients and can tell me what supplements to take and plants to eat.

It’s dangerous when a doctor doesn’t understand these things, because typical doctors are taught that there’s a pill for everything, and so they make a guess (often wrong) and give you a pill. I had a top NYC doctor insist that I had Lyme Disease and try to put me on several antibiotics over months. I refused and switched doctors, only to find out that I definitely did not have Lyme. When I told him that he’d misdiagnosed me, he admitted that he didn’t know what was wrong with me but he hadn’t wanted to admit it, so he pushed me to take antibiotics instead. Had I taken those antibiotics I would have become far more ill and irreparably damaged my microbiome and health.

How to treat the cause, not the symptoms

So after all those specialists and modern western medicine, I still had a rash and migraines. Why? Because I had yet to discover the healing wonders of naturopathic medicine.

What is naturopathic medicine? Basically, instead of putting a band-aid on the symptoms with a prescription (which is likely to cause even more problems), the holistic approach is to do tests and use natural supplements to figure out the actual root cause of the health issues. ie. WHY do I have a rash? What is causing it?… and then treat the cause, instead of the symptoms.

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

Have you ever left your doctor’s office thinking, “Oh I forgot to tell him about this!” or “S/he really didn’t hear me. I don’t need this prescription!” Or perhaps, you felt rushed, and left without really addressing what you came in for.

Well, there’s another doc in town, a doctor who listens – a naturopathic or integrative doctor. Naturopathic and integrative doctors attempt to find the root of problems within the person, and subsequently treat their patients with natural remedies, before instantly turning to a prescription for medication.

A great example would be someone suffering from migraines. What’s actually causing these migraines? Is it an overload of hormones? Can we adjust that naturally? It’s a completely different process, versus the band-aid approach of: ‘Take this pill’ (and never mind the possibly life-threatening or long-term side effects that are sometimes caused by it).

If you’re curious why you feel sluggish, or your health issues are persistent, an integrative or naturopathic doctor is the one who will try to find out WHY.

What is holistic medicine? The holistic approach is to view you as a whole person, instead of just a symptom. Holistic (also known as naturopathic) doctors do tests that typical doctor’s don’t do (like microbiome tests, for example) and use natural treatments and supplements as well as, often, changes in diet, to figure out the actual root cause of the health issues. ie. WHY do I have a rash? What is causing it?… and then treat the cause, in addition to the symptoms.

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

What’s the difference between a naturopathic and integrative doctor?

Accredited naturopathic doctors have attended a 4-year medical school, and are trained in a similar way to primary care physicians. Some naturopaths even specialize in pediatrics, women’s health, oncology, endocrinology, or other specialties.

What makes an integrative and naturopathic doctor different from a typical doctor is their approach — based completely on the individual. The first visit is typically at least an hour long!

Unlike a typical doctor, both integrative and naturopathic doctors have knowledge in vitamin and mineral supplementation, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, physical medicine, hydrotherapy treatment, and nutrition, with a strong emphasis placed on diet, lifestyle, and exercise.

In licensed states, naturopathic doctors may have the ability to prescribe medication. In New York State, Naturopathic doctors aren’t licensed to prescribe pharmaceuticals. Integrative doctors go through regular medical school, so they’re able to prescribe Western medicine, but have decided to use homeopathic methods whenever possible.

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

Here are a few principles that naturopaths and integrative doctors live by, as outlined by Dr. Serena Ma:

The Healing Power of Nature

Before modern medicine created pills with complicated names, people used to use herbs to heal themselves. You see this phenomenon everywhere. A forest burns, but years later…regeneration. The human body has the power to heal itself, but there are often obstacles in the way that we address: poor diet, poor sleep, stress, etc.

Treat the Cause

This principle goes hand-in-hand with the first one. For instance, I see a lot of inflammatory issues. Naturopathic and (good) integrative doctors dig deep to figure out the source of inflammation. You can never really put that fire out until you find its source, right? Ask any firefighter that.

First Do No Harm

Instead of throwing the big guns at our patients (drugs/medication), we often start with lower (safer) interventions, like nutrition, herbal remedies, or vitamins, believing in that healing power of nature.

Doctor as Teacher

A naturopathic or integrative doctor’s biggest role is to be a health educator, teaching our patients about how the body functions and how to nourish it. We empower our patients to take responsibility for their own health, to become their own health advocates by questioning doctors and doing what’s best for them.

Why the Modern Medical System Sucks

Treat the Whole Person

Our body is all connected: the different organ systems, and even the impact of the mind/spirit/soul on the body (and vice versa). Naturopathic and integrative doctors consider and address the physical, mental, emotional, genetic (if available), environmental, and social factors that make up one’s well-being.

Prevention

I always have this Chinese proverb in mind: The best doctor prevents illness, an average doctor visits when the illness is imminent, and the unskilled doctor treats your present illness. Many of my patients are healthy but they keep coming in, to stay that way.

So the next time you’re not feeling well, take a few extra minutes to research the integrative and naturopathic doctors in your area and give them a try. Your body will thank you.

A writer, artist, and designer since she was young enough to put pencil to paper, Hilary taught herself code and created Urbanette when she was a teenager. Currently, she lives in Monte Carlo, but spent the past decade living in NYC, still considers herself a New Yorker, and visits regularly. She's always traveling, looking for hot new topics, destinations, and life hacks to bring to Urbanette readers.

Reader Discussion: 86 Comments

  1. I was lucky to have the most amazing doctor as a kid, who always looked for the causes and treated my siblings and I really well every time. As a result I always know what qualities to look for! I agree with Jen that it's all about finding what works best for you and your body.

  2. Sara E Liz

    I think a lot of people forget that when it comes down to the wire, the medical industry is a business. This makes me less trustworthy of western medicine. Patching up our problems with endless pills is NOT the way to go, so I totally agree that homeopathy is the way to go in many cases (not all though).

  3. Jen Spillane

    Interesting article. I have to play the devil's advocate here. While I'm sure that there are some doctors whose priorities are not where we'd like them to be, this is certainly not true of all doctors. It sounds like you had a terrible experience, and I can relate. I too have had persistent problems with eczema, migraines and non-eczema rashes. I went through a very frustrating year of failed attempts to diagnose and treat my conditions. However, I did eventually find a handful of fantastic doctors who not only did not push drugs on me, but refused to prescribe anything until we got to the bottom of the problem. It turns out the migraines are hereditary, but I can lessen the chance of them occurring by watching my "triggers": caffeine, alcohol and sugar (which, really, I should be doing anyway ; ). The eczema and rashes were both the result of a contact allergy. I had never considered this before because I only use all-natural, organic products. Turns out, even these have a slew of chemicals that can be harmful, and in my case, certainly are. Often homeopathic medicine is presented as an alternative when the conventional system has failed, but I think there's a lot to be said for homeopathic medicine in its own right. I think there is also a lot to be said for an integrated approach, as both are imperfect sciences. In any case, I'm glad you have found the solution that works for you!

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