Category Archives: 5. Doctor’s Notes & Editorials

Change vs. Transformation

It has certainly been a while since the last post!  Rest assured, I have not abandoned this blog.  Many ideas have been swimming around in my mind, and today I feel compelled to share with you one of the most important of those ideas.

I want to have a serious conversation with you about how to approach the Journey we call Healing…

One of my main goals for our patients is to be successful on this Journey and reach their potential for optimum health.  “Optimum health” means different things to different people, and each person has his or her own potential, limited only by factors we can’t control, such as some genetics, some lifelong diseases, and some environmental impurities.  However, even if you DO live in toxic surroundings, carry some “bad” genes, or have been diagnosed with a lifelong disease, that doesn’t mean that you can’t reach YOUR potential.  We just have to find out what that potential is.  You may have never experienced it (yet).

During this journey toward optimum health, we undergo a healing process.  It’s important to know that “healing” is not the same as a “cure”.  Conventional medical school teaches that a “cure” is defined as an “infinite remission” of a disease.  Understandably, that becomes their main goal.

That sounds good and noble.  But is conventional medicine good at curing disease?  Recent statistics indicate that 7 out of 10 deaths are due to chronic disease, the major ones being:

  1. Cardiovascular Disease (heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and others)
  2. Cancer (all types, quickly overtaking Cardiovascular Disease as the #1 cause of death)
  3. Diabetes (especially Type 2, which is exploding, although we are seeing many more adults develop Type 1 than before)
  4. Autoimmune disease (Multiple Sclerosis, Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, alopecia areata, Parkinson’s Disease, Sjogren’s Disease, Lupus/SLE, and many others)
  5. Neurodegenerative and cognitive disorders (such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as other types of neurological problems like neuropathies and seizures)

Another staggering statistic is, one out of every two adults had at least one chronic illness.

Verdict: conventional medicine doesn’t have a great track record of curing.  This is not to say that they don’t save lives, especially in emergency or advanced situations–there is definitely a time and place where conventional medicine is exactly the right approach–but its principles don’t hold up so well when applied to treating chronic disease.

We must think instead in terms of healing.  A Functional Medicine doctor must know who the person is in order to help make them whole.  (This is one of the reasons we ask so many questions on our intake forms!)

Each person has several layers of being

  • Our parts – our body and brain – these constitute the “material” layer
  • Our mind, thoughts and psychological status – these make up the “awareness” layer
  • Our meaning, values, and things we deem important to us – these form the “non-conceptual awareness” layer
  • Our transpersonal relationships and spiritual paths – these help us to “transcend”

When we talk about healing, we’re not talking about eradicating a disease.  We’re talking about healing a person, a person with dreams, thoughts, desires, wishes, secrets, aches and pains, losses, regrets, hurt, headaches, digestion issues, mobility problems, excess weight, high blood sugar, short-term memory problems, sadness, and many other aspects.  We are multidimensional beings.

We are also interpersonal beings, and we identify with our associations, which often include our family, our marriages, our circles of friends, our careers, our communities, and more.

Next, I want to make a bold statement:  Illness is a gift.  That statement might cause some resistance, to put it mildly–in fact, it might make you angry, but please read on, because I’ll explain.  (In fact, despite the tough battle I must fight regarding my own autoimmune diseases–yes, plural–I had arrived at this conclusion myself, for the same reasons I’m about to discuss.)

Illness is a gift in that it presents for the person a HUGE opportunity for growth and transformation.  That doesn’t mean that this is always a happy or pleasant journey.  In fact, it’s a very challenging path, with many potholes, ravines, unstable rocks, roadblocks, and steep cliffs along the way.  Hippocrates, known as the Father of Medicine (the same one who said, “let thy food be thy medicine”, taught us that one can learn how to gain from our illness by one’s own thought.

This means that healing is a journey.  When you’re first dealing with your illness, you may experience denial and anger.  Eventually, this may evolve into acceptance and benefit and if it does, this is the stage at which you can begin to heal.

A colleague told a story about another friend/colleague of his that developed cancer.  His friend became angry, frustrated, and resentful, blaming it on an office issue in which he had a staffing issue with someone he hired.  His cancer required a lot of his attention and a lot of time spent away from the office, and he could not allow this issue to continue in his absence.  So, he dealt with that issue once and for all and resolved it completely.  This was a major stressor that had affected his whole life for years, and the development of the cancer forced him to resolve the issue.  Had he not developed it, he might have allowed this issue to continue, dragging him down for the rest of his working life.  As it stands, I believe his cancer is in remission, and his office is solid and peaceful.

My own autoimmune disease was a gift as well.  If someone had said that to me early on, I would have thought they were crazy.  However, I slowly realized as time went on, and I fruitlessly searched and searched for a doctor who could really help me and would take the time to try and solve my mystery, that such a doctor would not be made available to me anytime soon, and that I would have to become that doctor myself, to make sure that no one else went through what I did.  So, I went through school and although this cost me dearly (my disease got worse and progressed into multiple diseases), I emerged, tattered and broken, yet alive, and resolute: no one in my care was going to suffer or walk alone.  Had I not developed that disease, I would not have found my calling to serve, and I would not have sat here before you.  My disease(s) ARE indeed a gift.

That doesn’t mean the journey was easy.  It required transformation.  Transformation is not the same as change.  Change is what it takes to be different, in which State “A” is different than State “B”.  Change involves small alterations, Baby Steps that can be taken quickly, such as vowing to take 3 deep breaths every 20 minutes, in order to relieve stress at work.

Transformation happens on a grander scale in which you begin to identify or connect with something else and ingrain into your core being so that it becomes part of you.  An example of this might be the discovery of yoga or Nia for that stress relief, in which you experience a “wow!” moment.  When you hit a “wow!” or “a-ha!” moment, you’ve just undergone a transformation.

Another sign you’ve undergone transformation is when you begin to “do a 180” from your previous opinion and believe the opposite of what you believed before.  One of my patients, always the skeptic and always one to do what he was going to do and never put much stock into my gluten-avoidance advice, read a particular book, “Wheat Belly”.  Not several months later, this man is not only gluten-free but GRAIN-free, realizing that corn (something he once consumed rather freely) isn’t so great, either.  Every chance he gets, he strikes up conversations with visitors or even some regular patients in our front lobby, professing the evils of the grain family, especially wheat (“that stuff is killing us!”)  I smile and laugh inside.  Transformations are beautiful and fun to watch.  Witnessing someone go through transformation, as painful and confusing it can be for the patient (and the doctor–we don’t want to see you suffer either!) is one of the greatest rewards for me in practice.

All transformation involves change (lots of change), but not all change is transformation.  Almost anyone can go on a crash diet and lose 10 pounds in two weeks to fit into that bikini during Spring Break.  Anyone can eliminate gluten for a week.  However, some people are so hooked on the adrenaline rush of the evening news cast or political AM radio talk shows that despite the fact that these stimuli are causing subtle, low-grade stress reactions that slowly eat the person alive, they can’t bring themselves to stop watching or listening.  Or they can’t simply leave that toxic ex-significant other alone.  If these people were to take those steps, they would surely have “wow!” moments…and undergo important, potentially life-saving transformation.

On a grand scale, there have been some pretty famous transformers that not only experienced personal evolution, but shared this with the world; examples include people like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr…you get the idea.  You don’t have to be the next Gandhi, but it might not be a bad idea to use his level of commitment and vision as a role model for your own personal journey.

Sometimes, transformation occurs through the resolution of dissonance.  Dissonance is the difference between what you want (more energy, less weight, cancer remission, a sharper mind, fertility, clear skin, better lab test results) and what you’re currently doing (are you eating salads or sodas for lunch? Are you walking or watching violent movies at night?)  Sometimes, all it takes is to be AWARE of the dissonance; that alone can motivate people to make changes.  Other times, it takes an event that really hits home (such as a heart attack, or a conventional doctor’s mention of an insulin or statin drug trial).

My job as a Functional Medicine doctor is to help YOU facilitate that change, and to walk with you as a guide through your journey, holding your hand in support every step of the way, so that you do not ever feel alone.  My patients come to me ready to do something; most aren’t sure what, but they know they can’t keep doing what they’ve been doing and expect different results.

It’s also my job to understand that most patients will likely take steps backward in their journey.  This is normal, and it is not a sign of failure.  To give up completely and drop out of care without another idea in mind would be failing; to keep going, even if you’ve veered off the path, is not failure.  The path to healing is not linear; it spirals and curves, twisting and turning.  Sometimes you fall.  You don’t need to hide it and you don’t need to be ashamed.  You just need to get back up and keep trying.

Spirituality can bring about massive transformation, and even help alleviate some chronic diseases.  Some people find God, while others begin to question the religious framework in which they were raised.  Still others try out spiritual paths for themselves, dabbling in one philosophy or another, as if trying on clothing to see if it fits.  (There is NO problem with that!  If you feel drawn to do this, then by all means, please do.)  Some people merely get in touch with nature and that provides a spiritual springboard for them.  Others seek counseling or cut toxic drama-prone people from their lives.  These trials and excisions may cause a little (or a lot of) pain, but they bring about healing.

Every good healthcare professional (Functional Medicine and otherwise) should make Compassion their top priority.  Compassion can be eloquently defined as, “where love meets suffering.”  It is our job to love our patients for who they are, wherever they are in their lives and on their journeys, leaving no room for judgment or condemnation.  If we doctors are to call ourselves healers, this is an absolute requirement…

…because healing is MORE than a cure.  Chemotherapy cures cancer, but it does not HEAL the person.  Chemo may be necessary in many cases, but that person must also work to heal from the inside and undergo a true transformation.

Let’s walk. 🙂

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When does one profession get to tell another profession what to do?

I don’t usually get into politics. However, where my patients’ rights of healthcare choice are concerned, it’s time to mobilize NOW, whether you’re a patient or a doctor, or someone with a friend or loved one under a doctor’s care.

What we have going on boils down to a private trade organization (the TX Medical Association, or TMA) attempting to tell the Texas Board of Chiropractic Examiners (they regulate us and are also known by their initials TBCE or Chiropractic Board) what to do and how to practice. The Chiropractic Board is allowing 2 measly lawyers to completely re-write our scope of practice (which ultimately states what we can and cannot do under our chiropractic license). Neither of them have heard of Functional Medicine. Neither of them practice chiropractic. Neither of them understand natural approaches to health. And yet, these *2* people hold the health of 22 million Texans at stake, in their hands.

Frankly, we’re a little worried. Right now, we enjoy multiple avenues of helping our patients – adjusting any joint in the body, doing muscle work, brain-based neurological therapies, Functional Neurology, ordering diagnostic lab testing and recommending supplements, and let’s face it – we get people better, doing things no other healthcare profession bothers to do.

However, the TMA is being given too much power.  After losing a lawsuit against the TBCE last summer, they have refused to give up and allow us to practice within the rules we currently have.  The judge last summer ruled that the TMA may not sue the TBCE anymore, but stipulated that the TBCE must get their act together and define our scope (rules we play by) a little more clearly.  Fair enough.  However, the Chiropractic Board has gone about it all wrong.  In fact, one of these two measly lawyers mentioned the option of “negotiating” with the TMA! (Hint: this never works in our favor; the outcome will NOT be good.)

What all this means is, in one fell swoop, overnight, they can reduce us to a mere FRACTION of our chiropractic medical education, allowing us to adjust the SPINE ONLY, no ankles, shoulders, wrists, hips or ribs!) and ONLY in cases of back pain (no athletic performance or senior/elderly fall prevention). They would remove our ability to even recommend nutritional supplements to our patients. No more Functional Medicine. No more autoimmune disease management. Those of you with Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis, and fibromyalgia should be ESPECIALLY concerned.

What this will do is force the best (chiropractic) doctors in the state to move elsewhere. This will severely restrict your choice of doctors among whoever is left over. This will also severely restrict your ability to receive sound nutritional advice.

The time to act is NOW. Make your voice be heard. If this passes, please know that you’re always welcome to come see us in New Mexico, where they have just given chiropractic doctors EXPANDED rights to care for their patients – and I envision many Texan patients doing just that!

The REAL facts about Gluten Intolerance

I’m putting together a presentation for a class in which I’ve been invited to give a guest lecture.  When putting together any presentation, I bury myself knee-deep in searches for facts and figures, graphics and diagrams, and sources to cite.

When I searched for facts about gluten intolerance, I came across doctorgrandmas.com, a company that sells certain processed foods (which should probably be a red flag right there) that had the repugnant audacity to suggest that: “it has become very fashionable to be told by persons claiming to be health providers that a person is gluten-intolerant” and that “this is [a] serious disservice to the public.”

Uh, no.  Not even close.

Thus, in return, I felt I had no choice but to submit the following response (I’m posting it here; it may never otherwise see the light of day, as it is understandably awaiting moderation on their website):

Hi there. I need to take a very STRONG issue with the comment above…

You said: “It has become very fashionable to be told by persons claiming to be health providers that a person is gluten-intolerant.”

I don’t know what kind of medical practitioner you are or what kind of formal education you have, but if you actually see patients every day with fibromyalgia, thyroid problems (including Hashimoto’s), other autoimmune disorders such as Lupus, gastrointestinal problems, adrenal fatigue, leaky gut syndrome, and the list goes on and on and on, maybe you would take a different stance.

There is absolutely *nothing* “fashionable” about this concept. In fact, getting the conventional medical establishment to recognize it has been like pulling teeth. And yet, it’s happening. In fact, it’s old news. Read about the estimated underdiagnosis of Celiac Disease here: http://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/news/20080520/celiac-disease-underdiagnosed

And that’s just Celiac Disease itself. There is another mechanism concerning gluten intolerance that can be found here: http://www.glutensensitivity.net/VojdaniDiagrams.htm#GI; simply scroll down to the Gluten Intolerance picture; this is very well-documented in the most recent scientific literature. Dr. Vojdani himself (a PhD immunologist) has written roughly 200 papers on the subject. This particular phenomenon is even MORE serious than Celiac because now at stake is the ability to form antibodies to your own nervous tissue (i.e. brain and spinal cord).

I can understand your desire to sell your product and I can understand what sounds like a frustration with a shift in population needs, tastes, and demands–a shift toward gluten-free foods (which you are not at this time willing to produce)–and thus away from your products. However, to make light of–and scoff at–such a serious, legitimate, established disorder is nothing short of odious.

I wonder how many of you know someone with any of the disorders I mentioned above? You might want to do some research…and then perhaps change your tune.

Thank you for your time.

I don’t know about you, but most of us arrived at our gluten intolerance diagnosis either by taking our health into our own hands after doing some lengthy investigation, or visiting a doctor (or other healthcare practitioner) who happened to have a clue.  In my case, it was both.  Judging from the people who seek my help, these practitioners are few and far between.  Thus, gluten intolerance is not anywhere near a “fashionable” diagnosis.  It is hard-fought, struggled for, and finally won.

I don’t know how many diagnostic lab tests a food processing company orders on its patients, but I run lab tests every day that indicate that the patient needs to eliminate gluten completely in order to have any hope of getting better.  Even if the tests don’t show it, the medically-supervised Gold Standard of food intolerances–the Elimination/Controlled Re-introduction regimen prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is a gluten problem.  I have seen the need to pull every single one of my patients off of gluten completely, except for one.

I’m sorry that this company feels so defensive.  Perhaps they’re feeling the pinch of competent doctors who pull their patients off gluten–or grains altogether, in favor of a hunter-gatherer diet of sorts that is much more compatible with our evolutionary design and genetic makeup.  And if they don’t feel this pinch, chances are that they will eventually.  The tide is turning, as people catch on to the real source of their chronic health problems and the accompanying misery.  Corporate farms, food processors, and restaurants who refuse to adapt will inevitably get left behind.

I just felt I had to speak up against this company’s assertion because the real disservice lies in their words.