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Where’d the science go?

this light never turns green

I woke up pissed off today. Not sure why. I could venture a few guesses but that would be a waste of good, ranty writing time :-)

My friend Robb Wolf posted a great story on his blog today. It was by a girl who calls herself “Fat Girl.” I guess it struck a cord with me. “Fat Girl” went to doctor after doctor for migraines and about 20 other health issues for years. In the end, she fixed the problem herself with a ton of hard work and – you guessed it – a Paleo diet. The scenario plays out again and again. It’s almost become cliche: Someone has myriad health issues and goes to doctor after doctor, sees “specialists,” maybe even goes the “alternative” route and sees a Naturopath or 20 and gets absolutely nowhere. Then, in desperation they start doing their own research and their own “doctoring,” find Paleo and get better.

My prediction: This is going to happen more and more until our current “Healthcare” system – conventional AND alternative – implodes. There is too much information out there and too much freedom to access it. People are going to wake up and start taking responsibility for their health and finding out the truth. And this isn’t going to happen for any grand reasons – it’s going to happen because the current systems are USELESS when it comes to dealing with chronic disease.

I used to be a believer

I studied Chemistry in college. I was – still am in a way – a hardcore science type. And I still can’t believe I considered going to medical school. I had a the grades and a Chemistry undergrad degree – I even started the application process. I just decided not to go…

Being a “scientist” and young and kinda cocky (OK, A LOT cocky :-)) I was all into the “better living through science” thing. I guess, when you spend all your time in a lab with other geeks that’s pretty much the default mindset.

I’d also had a few run-ins with Naturopaths and found them to be useless, unscientific and more interested in selling overpriced supplements than actually helping anyone heal. I was hardcore science all the way. It probably didn’t help that I was working as a Research Associate in a Biotech lab…

I REALLY wanted to believe

When I was about 30 (I’m 38 now) I started having intermittent digestive problems. I was under incredible work stress, life stress, working out too much and too often, sleeping too little, taking night classes for another degree and all the other crap society tells us is required to be successful. I was eating a “healthy diet” low in fat and full of nice, whole grains though. At least I knew it couldn’t be a problem with nutrition…

But, I believed – and had been taught – that technology and education (mainstream, of course) was the answer to everything. Even if technology was screwing stuff up, all you needed was more technology to fix it…

Everyone is a Douchebag…

Someday, I’ll go into my whole story about how I almost died from Ulcerative Colitis and how I cured myself and got my health back on my own because there was NO – as in NO, ZERO, ZIP, NADA – help out there for me or anyone else with that illness or any other chronic digestive disorder. I STILL can’t get myself to delve into that whole story – the incompetence I witnessed from supposed health professionals in every area STILL enrages me.

Like the Gastrointerologist whose response to my very early discovery that I seemed to feel better if I ate only fruit smoothies and steamed vegetables was that I could have nutrient deficiencies on such a “limited” diet and I needed to eat “bread.” In addition to bread, this genius and supposed man of science (he was the HEAD of the Gastrointerology Department, BTW…) gave me enough prednisone to kill a large farm animal and insisted I’d need it for the rest of my life. Or, the Naturopath who insisted I drink HUGE amounts of raw cow milk as a “cure” for my colitis and chronic fatigue. When I told him my symptoms had increased DRAMATICALLY when I started drinking the milk he told me to drink MORE and that I was “detoxing.”

The point is, virtually EVERY health care option readily available to us IS BROKEN. I don’t care if it’s mainstream, alternative or something in between. They’re all pretty messed up in their current state.

The mainstream medical establishment is fixated – to the point of insanity or idiocy, I can’t decide which – on individual systems in the body. As far as they’re concerned, nothing is related to anything else. If you’re depressed, it means your brain is broken – it couldn’t have anything to do with your diet. I mean, look how “far away” your stomach is from your head. How could they be related? Anxious? Your brain is broken – but in a different way from the depression. It couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that the speed of life and the volume of stress we endure every day is THOUSANDS of times faster than anything our equipment is evolved to handle. And, if you’re having digestive problems it couldn’t have anything to do with the coffee and donuts you have every morning. As far as the medical establishment is concerned, the body is just a dumb machine that can be manipulated with chemicals and man’s scientific genius. IS THIS NOT THE HEIGHT OF CONCEIT? A few hundred years of man and science are smarter than MILLIONS of years of evolution? This is man’s ego run amuck.

And, remember, I’m a trained scientist! I lived in that world FOR YEARS!

Lest you think this is going to be some tree-hugging alternative medicine rant, let me assure you that douchebaggary reigns supreme in the alternative field as well. In my experience, Naturopaths apply as much selective interpretation and foolishness in their practice. And they medicate symptoms just as much as allopathic doctors – they just use supplements and herbs that are a lot less powerful. Oh yeah, and they SELL you the herbs and crap they prescribe directly. At least the regular doctors profit from their prescriptions indirectly. Naturopaths have no such compunction to encourage them to hide their profiteering…

I suppose I should say here that, if I ever get hurt in an accident of some kind, I’d like to go STRAIGHT to an emergency room where medical technology can be applied in all its glory. Emergency medicine is one thing. It’s the chronic illnesses we’re missing the boat on…

One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small and the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all. Go ask Alice when she’s ten feet tall…

A few years ago I was convinced I had ADD. It couldn’t have been chronic exhaustion combined with work I found utterly unfulfilling or anything. Wanna know how they diagnose ADD? They give you a prescription for Adderall and if you feel better on it and can focus better when you take it – SLAM DUNK – you have ADD. I don’t have any data in front of me, but I suspect that the number of people who feel “better” and focus more readily when taking amphetamines like Adderall is pretty high.

What’s really cool though is that, after I started taking the Adderall, I started having really bad anxiety. Side effect of the Adderall? Nah! Panic Disorder – here’s some Xanax… So now I’m washing my Adderall down with coffee in the morning and taking Xanax to calm down in the afternoon and to sleep at night. I went down that track for about a month before I saw the insanity of what was going on. Better living through chemistry…

This light never turns green

There’s that whole thing about not complaining about the problem without offering a solution. I’d like to offer some solutions, suggestions and maybe point the way toward a better future. In effect, I’d like to issue a call to all of us…

Can we PLEASE pull our collective head out of our collective ass when it comes to health, healthcare, diet and healthy living?

Here are what I think are the most important points we need to keep in mind as we move into the SECOND DECADE of the 1st Century:

We have become VERY good at understanding the chemistry and minutia of the body. We still don’t know SHIT, but we know a lot. It’s probably time to start looking at the body as a whole as opposed to a bunch of isolated systems. This isn’t a car here, people! In a car, a problem with your brakes probably has no effect on the fuel injection system. The body is just a might more complex than a car  – yes, even the Escalade your doctor and Jesus drive. Can we PLEASE start treating the body as the complex miracle of evolution that it is?

Diet has EVERYTHING TO DO WITH EVERYTHING. There. I said it. What eat has EVERYTHING to do with our health and is the key to dealing with the chronic diseases we’re facing today. Pills need to be more of a last resort than a first one. And, medicating one issue and then medicating the side effects caused by the first medication is kind of silly. This kind of stuff has spiraled out of control in recent years and it will continue to spiral until it completely breaks and/or we fix it.

Lifestyle has something to do with it too. The average lifestyle is becoming more and more stressful, more and more complex and people are sleeping less and less. This is causing all sorts of problems and all sorts of misery. As a society we really need to acknowledge that doing “more” isn’t always the answer to everything and sometimes we need to slow down to go faster. Maybe, before you take that third job to help pay for your anti-anxiety meds, high blood pressure pills and Type II Diabetes drugs, you might want to look at your life as a whole and see if there are other changes to make. I know, sleeping that extra hour is going to be considered the height of laziness by society at large, but we already know what I think about them :-P

Can we start to admit that this Paleo, Evolutionary Health thing might have something to it? Like, putting an organism that evolved to hunt and gather over millions of years in a car going 80 miles an hour while talking on a cell phone, texting, drinking coffee, eating a donut (or a Zone bar), swatting at the kids in the back seat and worrying about the three mortgages on the house – all at the same time – just might not be the most suitable environment for us. I know, this is radical, “fringe wacko” stuff here, but there just might be a possibility that some of the stuff we do isn’t the smartest.

Most importantly, can doctors and medical professionals PLEASE start thinking and acting like scientists again? There was a time when medicine was about science and looking for causes and solutions – not dispensing pills and prescriptions and doing routine tests because that’s all the insurance pays for. My Physical Chemistry Professor, Dr. Kumar, once told us that the people who make the best scientists are the ones who expect a certain result – don’t get it – and become intrigued and even frustrated by that and are compelled to figure out why they didn’t get the result they expected. Today, we’re prescribing more and more drugs, are more and more concerned about “health” and “diet” and spend more and more time with doctors and healthcare providers – AND WE ARE SICKER THAN EVER. We’re engaging in behavior that is supposed to produce a certain result – and we’re not getting that result – can we PLEASE ask WHY?

In short, can we PLEASE find the science again? This Paleo thing is working for A LOT of people. And “regular” healthcare ISN’T working for a whole bunch of people. How about if we ask “why?”

That’s about it for now. I think I’m ranted out at the moment. Go eat some bacon, read Robb Wolf’s book, join Strong is the New Skinny on Facebook and lift something heavy.

ttys

Adam

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About Adam

Adam Farrah has been studying and experimenting with Paleo approaches to health, eating, living and moving since 2005. Connect with Adam on Google+

Comments

  1. A great book about the history of nutrition is Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors by Randy Roach. It documents where the medical industry departed from preventative medicine into corrective medicine at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, thanks to large financial backing from folks who needed tax breaks so they sunk tons of dough into medicine, creating an industry that had to sell itself. So the medical industrial complex was born, an industry that cannot survive if it centers on preventing illness. Yes, our medical establishment is way off track.

    But eating well doesn’t have to fall under this trendy (yes, I said it) blanket of Paleo. Why does eating well have to have a catchy name, especially one that has questionable accuracy (oh uh, here comes the crap storm)? I guess we like our labels, but why can’t we just eat like humans, not a time period?

    • Thanks for the post, Chip! I actually talked about Randy Roach’s book a while back in this post: http://practicalpaleolithic.com/paleolithic-diet-blog/muscle-smoke-mirrors-kettlebells-paleolithic-diet. I also did a review on his site. Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors IS an absolutely outstanding book. It’s fascinating on SO MANY different levels!

      I also – believe it or not – agree with you on the Paleo terminology. I DO fear that the “title” can set it off into a “trendy” category. That’s not helped by all the chatter about the diet and the products that are appearing to capitalize on the popularity of the diet. I do think “Paleo” gives us a convenient name for a HUGE field of diet and theory. Yes, healthy eating and living was here LONG BEFORE anyone uttered the words “Paleo” and, yes, many will cluelessly jump on the Paleo bandwagon, but I do think a diet that is OVERALL as positive as the one we commonly refer to as “Paleo” can only be a positive thing. If the “Paleo hype” helps get the message out, so be it. We’ll all be better for it…

      Adam

  2. I DO think diet has everything to do with how we look and feel. BUT I don’t feel eliminating carbs is the way to go. I am living proof the the “eat clean” diet that changed my body, mind and energy level. I have no injuries or illnesses (any more) thanks to getting rid of CRAP like processed food, sugar, milk, and food in boxes. Fruits, veggies, eggs, whole grains and beans (and some high quality meat) now fill me mini-meals and I have never been leaner or had more energy.

    My point is, you can look and feel great and eat carbs. They get a bad rap but not all carbs are bad.

    We are sicker than ever because of the crappy Western diet filled with fake and processed foods. Clean, whole, un-tampered with foods leads to a long life filled with lots of energy, but NOT lots of disease.

    Oh yea, and a daily does of hard core SWEAT doesn’t hurt either.

    That is my 2 cents.
    Sincerely,

    Christa
    Kickass trainer for 9 years, fitness studio owner and one strong fit chick :)

    • Christa, thanks a lot for the comment. Paleo absolutely IS NOT an “eliminating carbs” or anything of the sort. I eat plenty of carbs. My carbs come from fruits and vegetables as opposed to grains. I even get a few from my goat yogurt. It’s a pretty common misconception that Paleo is a ketogenic diet. IT IS NOT. An average Paleo diet will be in the 20-40% carb range. Some take this to an extreme and go keto, but this IS NOT a typical Paleo approach.

      And, yes, you’re right about processed crap. That is the cause of a lot of problems and completely eliminated with a true Paleo approach.

      Paleo is NOT a ketogenic diet though…

      Adam

  3. I found Paleo 6 months ago and haven’t looked back. What I wouldn’t have done to know about this 10 years ago. I get so frustrated with my friends taking medicine after medicine for migraines and stomach issues and such…mostly from the scoffs I get when I suggest cutting things from their diet. They are slowly coming around though. But most of all, I wish I’d had known what drastic changes diet makes for the body. My mom was morbidly obese, high blood pressure, diabetes, hypothyroidism, depression and bi polar who, surprise surprise, developed kidney disease. She died just short of her 50th birthday, though I don’t know if it was her body or her mind that did it. She might be alive today if she had changed her eating.

  4. Adam,

    Thank you, thank you thank you! For your rant, it is beautiful and perfect and timely!! And as an engineering geek type with some small level of critical thinking skills I am so thankful that someone is pointing out the group mindsent/insanity we are currently living in is the cause of our ills, not the cure!

    • Thanks, Louise! I’d like to think we can love technology, science AND rational thought while still caring for our health and our planet. I don’t think the problem is technology as much as technology – and man’s ego – run amuck!

      Adam

  5. TheFitnessDr says:

    Hi! Let me start by saying I love your blog, am a fan of ‘strong is the new skinny’ and
    living proof that nutrition, exercise, sleep and sun are the foundation of good health. I am also have a undergraduate chemistry degree (magna cum laude) , a post-grad degree in Naturopathic Physician (also graduated with honors), a CrossFit trainer for 2+ years. I am sorry that you had a bad experience with other “naturopaths” but take offense to your overgeneralizations of our profession. Perhaps you meet with someone who had a degree from a mail-order diploma mill, and not a graduate of a Department of Education accredited school like myself. We are trained to be primary care physicians and licensed to practice as such in many states. Now, of course there are those that practice ‘green allopathy’ and not true nature-cure, but I think it’s unfair to say we are all a bunch of unscientific, foolish, (natural) pill pushing quacks. I personally don’t even agree to work with patients unless they are willing to change their diet and exercise. No pill (natural or pharmaceutical) will EVER correct a bad diet, bad (or no) exercise, poor sleep habits and lack of time outdoors.

    • Thanks for the comment, Fitness Dr! I agree with you that I over-generalized. And I did so with the allopathic as well as the Naturopathic disciplines. Unfortunately, to date I’ve dealt with about 5 Naturopaths and had bad experiences with all. In fact, the guy with the raw milk – who literally almost killed me – is a highly regarded Naturopath who also teaches and has several books published.

      I’m sure there ARE good doctors out there – natural and “regular” – I’ve just gotten sick of spending time, money and effort to find them when odds are they will be a disappointment.

      I had an allopathic general practitioner who was WONDERFUL and highly supportive of me doing a drug-free approach with my health. She did whatever she could to help me and never pushed drugs or told me I couldn’t heal drug-free. Unfortunately, she’s now in another state and I haven’t even bothered to try and replace her because I’m so doubtful I can.

      So, yes, I know there ARE great doctors out there of all types, but I also know they are VERY few and far between.

      Adam

  6. TheFitnessDr says:

    Thanks Adam for your thoughtful response. I see you live in CT, which is a licensed state, meaning only graduates from accredited schools (like myself) can be legally called ND’s. I am really disappointed to hear your bad experiences with people who I know to be educated to do better than that. One of our core principles, is to treat people as individuals, it seems some of these doctors were more interested in pushing their personal agendas and theories without looking at your response (your story about the raw milk and the doctors response makes me really sad).

    I guess the naturopath’s I know and keep in touch with are then one’s who think like I do. And maybe I have a unrealistic view of how most naturopaths practice. I just know how we were trained, which was to work with lifestyle factors first.

    Again, thanks for the discussion. I look forward to your next blog!

    • All we can do is be the best at what we do and do our best to help people do the right thing. I think those who are truly outstanding in EVERY field are few and far between – it’s just with health the stakes are too high to work with someone who isn’t great at what they do.

      Thanks again for the comments and supporting the blog and SINS!

      Adam

  7. Are you sure you’re not being nostalgic for a time in medical history that never WAS? I doubt the majority of people in ANY profession at ANY time have practiced the kind of unbiased, in some ways selfless (what if the data makes the sponsors look bad?!) “scientific” approach to making sense of the information at hand. Doctors are not researchers. Mostly i think they are students who want to apply what their teachers have taught them to help people, and their teachers are doctors…so somehow you need to get this information to the doctor/teachers at medical schools. Because the doctors themselves are too busy applying what they’ve been taught to do a lot of research or to read a lot of journal articles. But it’s probably going to be slow going because the teachers are passing on what their teachers taught them and so forth….but i’m no expert. I’m neither a doctor nor a teacher nor a researcher (just a disgruntled cashier at the moment, lol).

    • Thanks for the comment, Karin! There were times when doctors didn’t follow a “cookie cutter” approach. The had more time to spend with their patients and there was a lot less “this drug for this problem” stuff. There are SO many reasons medicine has become unscientific (in a broader sense) and focuses on drugs as opposed to lifestyle changes, exercise, etc. One of the biggest problems is that most of the doctors’ info comes from the pharmaceutical companies themselves..

      Adam

  8. Thank you for rant!

    I wish I could put things as well as you did in this post. I have been tossing the same ideas around for months now, but I can’t seem to make the words line up. I am glad to not be the only one shouting to the mountain tops about the current situation with doctors, food and health in this country. The more I look at things, I see through the fog. The information is available, and the so-called experts are losing their footing.

    Mike

    • Thanks for the great compliment, Mike!

      I agree, the information is spreading further and further and I think the current mess is going to implode faster than we all think. People are too well informed to sit back and say “Well, the doctor says…” It really is like a fog, isn’t it? We’re going to see massive change in the coming years… Let’s hope, anyway!

      Adam

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