Monday, May 3, 2010

Doctors Don't Know Beans

The title of this post is an overstatement, of course. Doctors know a lot, and we have all benefited, at least once, from their skills—especially in emergency situations. America's trauma/emergency care continues to get the world's highest rankings among developed nations.

Sadly, America's doctors know little of curative medicine, depending on their allopathic training to change presenting symptoms rather than identify root causes. Especially is that true when it comes to nutritional approaches to the healing arts—letting "food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food" (Hippocrates). The average doctor "doesn't know beans" about the healing power of food unless they gained such knowledge after completing medical school.

The following quote is from a book I'm reading, The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest Diets from Around the World—Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home by Daphne Miller, M.D. (Collins, 2008). This is a book about the foods eaten in traditional cultures around the world, cultures that manifest few of the chronic disease associated with those who eat an American diet. The quote is the author's own confession of her lack of training in nutrition while being trained at some of the best medical schools in America. I find it refreshing when a doctor 'fesses up about what he or she doesn't know, and how s/he set about to fill in the gaps in his or her knowledge base and practice.
Like Angela, most of the patients that I see daily in my medical practice are trying to prevent or treat a chronic health problem, lose weight, and preserve vitality. For many years, I felt ill equipped to help them achieve their goals. After four years of medical school [at Harvard], three years of residency training [at UCLA], and two in a postgraduate fellowship, this is a hard confession to make.

Of course, I was well versed in using medications. Initially I found it satisfying to watch how rapidly many of these drugs took effect—sometimes lowering blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels in a matter of days. However, after several months of practicing medicine out in the real world, it became obvious to me (and certainly obvious to my patients) that there were many unintended side effects from the treatments that I was dispensing daily with my prescription pad. Furthermore, it seemed that my standard approach was not getting at the root of so many of these health problems: the foods my patients ate on a daily basis.

These days, the majority of serious health problems can be traced back to a poor diet. (p. 9)
Who wouldn't feel confident being treated by a doctor who trained at Harvard and UCLA? Yet how many of us have ever sat in a doctor's office and been asked about "the foods we eat on a daily basis"? Good for Dr. Miller for taking a different approach.

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