Health Matters: A Modern Approach

The face of medical care is changing. At the very time modern medical technology is making the most incredible advances, more and more people are choosing ‘Alternatives’ rather than Orthodox medicine. The swing has been so significant that alternative medicine has been said to be the second most successful new industry in Europe in recent times – second only to the microchip. To understand the reasons for this swing we should examine the underlying principles of both conventional medicine and ‘Alternative’ or ‘Complementary’ medicine.

Conventional Medicine: The Use of Mechanistic Tools

Medical schools are in reality sophisticated technical colleges. Their goal is to teach the mechanics of the body by understanding the structure (anatomy), the functioning (physiology), the diseases (pathology) and the treatment (therapeutics). The tools used in the treatment of the body are largely mechanistic and the approach is very similar to that used when repairing a very sophisticated machine.

For example in SURGERY when an inflamed appendix is removed, the body recovers from a dangerous situation and may continue to function normally. This is not dissimilar from removing a buckled mudguard from a bicycle and cycling without it. Surgeons can replace damaged parts such as hips and kidneys with dramatic results, just as a car mechanic may replace a damaged, worn-out tyre or broken generator. Surgery is a high skill, carried out by very special individuals but the mechanistic analogy is valid.

In the use of DRUGS the body is also viewed as a mechanical system. Imagine a situation where water is being pumped into a simple plumbing system and for some reason the pressure in the pipes has become dangerously high and they are in danger of bursting. The condition of high blood pressure may be seen in this way where the heart represents the pump and the arteries represent the pipes. The physician tackles the problem in the same way as would a plumber. He uses drugs to affect the heart beat – that is, he regulates the force of the pump. He uses other drugs to dilate the arteries – that is, he increases the diameter of the pipes. And with diuretics he reduces the total volume of the blood by causing the person to pass a greater volume of urine – that is, he decreases the amount of water in the system. The treatment of a very important problem is essentially mechanistic.

I am not suggesting that doctors perceive their patients as machines – far from it. Most doctors are thoughtful, kind people who care profoundly about their patients. However the tools of modern orthodox medicine mainly reflect a mechanistic approach. What we should ask is “Are these always the best available tools?” I do not believe they are and this is why people all over the world are turning in their thousands to alternative forms of medicine.
We must not reject surgery and drugs. As the main tools of the modern doctor they are spectacularly successful and indispensable in the treatment of numerous, dangerous, acute conditions such as physical trauma, appendicitis, meningitis, pneumonia and many, many others. Nevertheless in many chronic diseases such as eczema, arthritis, asthma, migraine headaches and irritable bowel syndrome, the treatment is more palliative than curative. The doctor, accepting that he cannot cure the troubling, ongoing condition does his best to ease the suffering of the patient with medication. Thus is the eczema soothed by steroid creams, the inflammation and pain of the arthritis reduced with anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications, and the asthma eased by inhalers.

Some people are content with palliation but many are not so satisfied and remain concerned about possible drug dependency and unwelcome side effects. While drugs are aimed at a particular part of the body they are usually taken by mouth eventually reaching the bloodstream and ending up just about everywhere in the body. Where they are not needed they may have adverse effects and the drug manuals are full of lists of these possible side-effects. Thus the unfortunate arthritis sufferer may also suffer a severe upset stomach and the taker of antidepressants may suffer with an uncomfortable dryness of the mouth.

Although the tools of modern medicine have been wonderful in treating many conditions especially acute illnesses, there are numerous chronic diseases where they fall short of the mark. Is there an alternative? If an alternative does exist it must be based on a different principle from the mechanistic model of orthodox medicine.