Is “A Pill For Every Ill” The Only Way To Handle Chronic Illness?

Class is about alternative approaches to illness

Do you find yourself wondering about alternative approaches to illness? A foundational tenet of modern medical research is to find a single drug which reverses a particular disease process, without producing any negative side effects.

This is the so-called “Magic Bullet”. Another way to think of it is, “a pill for every ill”.  But does it really work that way? For example, is chronic migraine headache really a “sumatriptan deficiency”? Or, is chronic low back pain really an “ibuprofen deficiency”?

Of course, when we put it that way, it sounds ridiculous.

However, for a number of reasons this has been the primary approach, in both medical research and clinical practice.

Now certainly medicines can be useful in treating chronic illnesses. But, it’s worth exploring whether there might be
alternative approaches to illness.

Medicines Treat the Symptoms – They Don’t Reverse the Disease Process

Don’t expect medicines to reverse the fundamental disease process because they’re designed only to treat the symptom. Or they may alter a limited aspect of the process, like the blood pressure reading or the cholesterol level.

So, what’s the solution?  Is there a better way to treat chronic illness? What are alternative approaches to illness

Fortunately, researchers and forward-thinking clinicians have been able to implement strategies to actually reverse those disease processes. Reversal of a disease process may be a new concept for you, as it was for me several years ago when I learned about it.

Let’s talk about what that really means.

You may be aware that most chronic illness worsens over time, for lots of different reasons. Take the example of joint pains, what most people would call “arthritis”.  We have all watched arthritis sufferers worsen over the years, and most people assume that this progression is unavoidable.

But it turns out that many forms of arthritis (and joint pains in general) can be related to an immune system programmed to attack the body’s own tissues, including joint tissues.  The technical term for this process is autoimmunity, and medical researchers are finding it’s pretty common.

But what if we could retool the person’s immune system that has been programmed to produce autoimmunity?

Here’s a Real-Life Example

One of my patients was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, which is a well-known form of autoimmunity which can be associated with joint pain.  The “conventional” approach involves a prescription for a thyroid pill and ibuprofen for joint pain.  My patient’s joint pain, however, was becoming debilitating and he desired a therapeutic approach that addressed the underlying autoimmunity.  He was actually wondering if he would eventually end up in a wheelchair due to the pain.

How would you feel?  It’s one thing to read an article about someone suffering with knee pain, and quite another matter to wonder if you’d still be walking in two years!

As you can imagine, reversing an underlying disease process this severe can require considerable focus and effort.  In my patient’s case, it required designing a customized dietary plan, along with additional supplements and other nutritional approaches.

Not surprisingly, this sort of approach requires a highly motivated patient.  It may be more accurate to say that this approach only works for a patient that is borderline desperate!

Happily, with persistent focus, my patient’s knees improved by 90% within the year.  His overall vitality, energy and sleep quality have also continued to improve, which is typical of patients who experience a reversal of autoimmunity.

I hope this vignette has opened your eyes to an “alternate reality” of the actual science behind chronic illness.

Scott Cunningham, M.D. teaches Reversing Chronic Health Problems: An Integrative Approach to Illness at Colorado Free University in Denver. The next opportunity to take his class is June 18, 2019.

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