Address underlying problem, not just symptoms
By Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND
In a previous column, I discussed feasible solutions to address our present health care crisis. Spiralling costs and long wait times are only a few of challenges facing our current health care system. To address these issues face on, I proposed an integrated approach that sees family physicians (MDs) and licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) working side-by-side with the aim of improving health care in New Brunswick as well as for all Canadians.
What else does this new vision for our health care system include?
The logistics of an integrated approach is one thing, but what about changing our philosophy in how we understand and treat medical conditions. A new paradigm that promotes health and focuses on prevention is timely and long awaited.
I often tell my patients that I don’t treat symptoms. Without further explanation, it would seem that I wouldn’t be left with anything to treat! On the contrary, through extensive detective work, many imbalances in the body can be revealed. By understanding how your body is working (or not working), treatments can more specifically address the true cause of your medical condition.
To understand this concept further, let’s look at the flow chart diagram entitled "A Dual Approach". Generally speaking our conventional medical system focuses mainly on the left side. Most of today’s modern pharmaceutical medications are designed to control symptoms, usually by changing the biochemistry in the body. Examples include blood pressure medications for hypertension, statins for high cholesterol, painkillers for headaches or menstrual cramps, and sleeping pills for insomnia. These medications can provide relief, and depending on the condition can also save lives and serve an important purpose within the context our present health care system.
This treatment approach however, does not promote true health because ultimately it does not address the underlying problem (i.e. the causes of one’s health condition). When symptoms are masked with medication, the disease still exists which can cause symptoms in other areas of the body to develop over time. I prefer to think of symptoms as warning signs that indicate imbalances in the body.
Because many symptoms are often uncomfortable especially in acute conditions, I maintain the importance to palliate symptoms. This provides increased comfort in a patient’s life while the underlying causes are addressed. The key, especially in chronic illness is to always incorporate not only the left side of the flow chart, but also the right side.
This new vision aims to take your health further than symptom management. Adopting the right side of the flow chart moves a patient towards a long-term cure.
The goal is to look for the reason your body has developed symptoms. Within this philosophy, symptoms are used as a guide to discover the underlying imbalances in your health. The true causes of weight gain, high blood pressure, insomnia, allergies, as well as depression and anxiety were discussed in past columns. In weight gain for example, numerous imbalances exists that prevent fat loss even when a superb diet and exercise program are in place. Underlying causes includes stress, inflammation, low thyroid function, sex hormone imbalances, a disrupted pancreas and blood sugar dysregulation, poor liver function, a sluggish digestive tract and neurotransmitter imbalances. There can even be other reasons! By determining the root cause(s) of your health condition, treatment can be more individually prescribed to re-balance bodily systems and offers better long-term success.
Bringing forth your natural state of health and an understanding of what contributes to your personal well-being is paramount. The overall aim therefore of this new health paradigm is to address the true cause of your medical condition while still giving relief from your primary concerns.
Published by Dr. Gleixner on Wednesday June 30th, 2010 in Times & Transcript.
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