7 reasons the old medical model is failing to treat illness today


By Niki Gratrix, nutritional therapist.

In the crazy world we live in, doctors and hospitals are a leading health hazard. You can’t afford to be ignorant of the risks, so in this article I lay out the seven biggest mistakes of orthodox medicine, what you need to know about each, and what you can do about it.

Mistake 1: The old medical model sees you like a machine

In the old medical paradigm, your body is seen like a machine that can be reduced to its constituent parts. So when there is a problem, medical doctors focus on the individual part in question.

This view led to major specialisation in medical science. So we have endocrinologists who have a deep understanding of how hormones work in the body, neurologists who spend their careers focusing on the brain and nervous system, gastroenterologists who specialise in looking at the gut, and so on.

The problem This mechanistic “Newtonian” model of health only works for a minority of the diseases which take up most of the time of health professionals across the Western world today.

The major illnesses blighting humans in advanced countries are illnesses which involve multiple interacting systems and organs. For example, you’d think heart disease would just involve going to see a cardiologist. But chronic inflammation is now known to be a primary factor associated with heart disease, and this is an immune system imbalance.

The old model is totally inadequate at dealing with chronic complex illnesses from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME, to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and many more.

These require an understanding that the body is a dynamic, interacting system which cannot be understood by reductionistic approaches that look at individual parts in isolation. Causes are multi-factorial and coherent answers to chronic illnesses can only be found when the body is seen as greater than the sum of its individual parts.

The solution While the orthodox medical profession catches up, patients today can still choose to take a multi-factorial approach to their treatment by taking charge of their health. This means letting go of expecting a one-shot cure and working with enlightened practitioners who understand the importance of a truly holistic approach.

Mistake 2: The germ theory of disease is prevalent in the old model

The second major part of modern medicine was the predominance and importance of “The Germ Theory of Disease” which came with the discoveries by Louis Pasteur. The work of this nineteenth century French biologist led on to what has now become a cornerstone of Western medicine: the belief that micro-organisms are the cause of many human diseases and these can be eradicated with antibiotics and prevented with vaccinations.

The problem The medical profession did an extraordinary job fixing infectious diseases in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. But it ignored and downplayed all aspects which could affect the body’s natural resilience to pathogens of all kinds. These include:

  • Environmental aspects: diet and toxins
  • Cultural aspects – stigma around illnesses, doctor-patient relationships, the importance of supportive networks
  • The impact of genes
  • The role of the “body electric” and physics of the body
  • Psycho-emotional aspects
  • And more…

Germ theory totally downplays the role and importance of the body’s natural resilience to infection. It’s effectively all about the “bug” and killing the bug. Even in the major flu epidemics which killed millions of people in Europe, it was well known that down a single street and even within a single household, some people would die while others would remain completely unaffected. So how can it just be about the bug? There must be other factors at play.

In many chronic complex illnesses today, a bacteria or virus is associated with the illness, but rather than being “the cause” it is more likely to be a symptom of other imbalances which allow the bug to exist in the body.

The solution Of primary importance for patients of chronic illness is building resilience to infection and understanding which factors affect resilience. Bugs are likely to play a role in many chronic illnesses and sometimes treating them directly with antibiotics, anti-virals or natural alternatives is needed – but not without addressing the underlying imbalances which led to these bugs taking hold in the first place.

Mistake 3: The importance of genes in health is overrated in the old model

The research into genes and DNA in the 20th century revolutionised medicine. It became apparent that each human has a certain set of genes which we inherit and which predisposes us to certain conditions.

This has led to great hopes for modern medicine using gene therapy to “switch off” genes associated with many chronic diseases, and there is a huge media fanfare every time the gene associated with a particular condition is found.

The problem There is widespread misinformation about the role and importance of genes in chronic complex illnesses. It’s not about genes, it’s about gene expression, and that is determined by the factors discussed in the last section.

For example, it is true there is a gene linked to obesity. But how many obese people were there 150 years ago? The human gene pool has not changed for tens of thousands of years, so what changed in the last 150 years?

Everything to do with the human diet and lifestyle!

These factors changed the environment of the cells, causing certain genes to express.

The solution Gene expression is determined by the environment of the cell. Who controls the environment? You do with your choices on diet, lifestyle and psycho-emotional factors.

Mistake 4: In the old model, the doctor is the expert

In the old medical model, the power and control in the patient-doctor relationship lies with the doctor. It is a patriarchal system which puts the doctor as the primary expert on your body; the one who has the knowledge on how to “cure” you.

The problem This old paradigm needs to change for several reasons:

  • First, in chronic complex illness there needs to be a movement towards increased patient responsibility, because so many of the factors affecting the patient’s health relate to diet, lifestyle and psycho-emotional issues – i.e. to choices made by the patient. It is the job of the doctor to help the patient become aware that they have the power to make better choices, and to facilitate them in feeling empowered to take responsibility for their own long-term health
  • Second, the old paradigm sends the wrong message about who or what is responsible for healing. Few patients really understand that it is always their own body which heals them from any ailment, whether chronic or acute.

The solution Understand that doctors, healers and therapies are only facilitators, and even the informed patient is purely a facilitator! It is ultimately the body which heals itself.

Mistake 5: The old model looks for a single cause and a single one-shot cure and focuses on reducing symptoms rather than promoting recovery

As mentioned, obsessions with a single virus or set of genes are so often the primary focus in the current medical model. Social, cultural, environmental and emotional factors are downplayed and ignored. There is another reason for this: most medical research costs millions of pounds to complete so it usually has to be funded by the large drug companies, who clearly have an agenda. Drug companies are looking for a single treatment in a pill form because that’s how they make big money. But drug treatments simply reduce symptoms rather than remove underlying causes.

The problem The current medical model is fuelled by self-interested drug companies who need single treatments in a pill form which they can sell, and which only reduce symptoms rather than “curing” as this means patients become customers for life. Even within the world of complementary and alternative medicine, there are practitioners promising one-shot-cures, or treating symptoms and not causes. These practitioners may be working “naturally” but they are still falling into the trap of the old medical model.

The solution Again, take a holistic approach to your health and ensure any practitioners you consult do, too.

Mistake 6: The old model sees health as the simple absence of diagnosed disease

Many patients who go to their doctors with symptoms are told there is “nothing wrong with them” as their blood tests came back “normal”. Why? Because many imbalances experienced by millions of people today fall in between the state of disease and optimal health.

Health and disease exist on a continuum.  Like the colour spectrum on a rainbow, there are degrees or steps of colour between black and white light. A disease like heart disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/ME or diabetes does not suddenly appear over night although a trigger may give the illusion of fast onset. Susceptibility to chronic illness happens over months and years of diet, lifestyle and psycho-emotional choices, in combination with genes and each patient’s unique biochemistry.

Many patients also experience symptoms before the full illness is diagnosed by a medical doctor – and by the time that diagnosis happens, it is very late in the game.

The problem Millions of people are walking around in the category I called the “walking wounded” – not yet diagnosed with illness by a doctor but suffering – sometimes severely. Doctors are already overwhelmed dealing with patients at the diagnosed stage of illness – when patients still do not fall into that category, they have to be sent home, despite having debilitating symptoms.

The solution Do not become discouraged or sidetracked by medics who tell you everything is “normal”. Understand what frame of reference they are using. There is a big difference between optimal health and the absence of disease. If your doctor can’t give you the answers you need, invest in some functional testing. These testing protocols are much more sensitive than those used by medical doctors, and can diagnose imbalances much earlier.

Mistake 7: The old medical model does not recognise the connection between your mind/emotions and your health.

Every aspect of your psychology affects your physical health – both directly, through its effect on your biochemistry, and indirectly, through its effect on your behaviour.

Psychoneuroimmunology is the study of how our thoughts and emotions create electrical impulses in the brain which travel through the nervous system and then influence changes in other systems of the body, including the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems.

World-leading mind-body researchers like Candace Pert, author of the psychoneuroimmunology classic Molecules of Emotion, have demonstrated just how interconnected these systems are. Pert and her colleagues state that biological systems are part of an inseparable mind-body system, and that the connection between mind and body is bi-directional – meaning a healing impulse from either the physical or the psycho-emotional side can lead to correction of the entire system.

In his book The Biology of Belief, molecular biologist Dr Bruce Lipton outlines the effects of our thoughts and beliefs on our cells. Emotional stress is now linked with many chronic illnesses including the two largest causes of death in the Western world: cancer and heart disease.

Finally, the placebo effect is one of the most important proofs of the link between intention or belief and physical bodily response – and no agent in history has been more tested than the placebo!

The problem The old medical model doesn’t understand how intricately connected mind and body are.

The solution Your attitude and expectations regarding your health are hugely important to your chances of getting and staying well. How you think and feel directly affects your biochemistry. In addition, if suffering from a chronic illness, staying committed to a long-term plan of recovery is critical but if you don’t believe you can recover you won’t try, so your thoughts become your reality.

Niki Gratrix (Dip ION BANT) is an award-winning nutritional therapist who also offers training for practitioners. She regularly writes for health publications in both the UK and the US, and is a sought-after speaker. In August 2015 Niki hosted the Abundant Energy Summit, featuring 30 world-leading health experts. If you’re interested in overcoming fatigue and/or optimising your energy, you might want to get hold of the recordings and transcripts from this event – which you can do here.

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