Chronic Disease

Article: Two Reasons Conventional Medicine Will Never Solve Chronic Disease

An Article That Echoes My Feelings About and Approach to Chronic Disease

I love this article (linked below) by Chris Kresser, author of “The Paleo Cure” on why modern medicine struggles, or fails to effectively deal with chronic disease.

So many of the points made are those that I so often make to clients on a day to day basis.

Essentially, it is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. They just do not fit with each other. The conventional medical approach developed at a time where the vast majority of us suffered from, and died of acute infectious diseases and trauma.

The most effective approach in these cases is an intervention based approach isolating the problem and eliminating it; i.e. via antibiotics, surgery etc. It involved putting out spot fires. And it worked spectacularly well.

If I suffered from an acute, potentially life threatening  infectious disease, or experienced a life threatening trauma, I would immediately seek the help of a conventional medical doctor at a clinic or hospital.

Yet chronic illness is not like a spot fire. It is not acute in it’s development. Chronic illness is invariably insidious (on slow and silent) in it’s development, and often impacts multiple areas of the body.  Effective treatment therefore logically involves investigating and treating the underlying cause of the chronic illness that lead to the development of symptoms, rather than just focusing on symptoms alone. Research has suggested overwhelmingly that lifestyle is by far the number one factor in the development of chronic illness.

To quote Kresser: “Chronic diseases are difficult to manage, expensive to treat, require more than one doctor, and typically last a lifetime. They don’t lend themselves to the “one problem, one doctor, one treatment” approach of the past. 

Unfortunately, the application of the conventional medical paradigm to the modern problem of chronic disease has led to a system that emphasizes suppressing symptoms with drugs (and sometimes surgery), rather than addressing the underlying cause of the problem.”

Enter the world of evolutionary biology or medicine. The approach that has most influenced my practice. It investigates the lifestyle, behaviours and habits of our hunter gatherer ancestors and compares those with the way we live in our modern, so-called ‘developed’ world. Genetic and anthropological research has found that evolution is a very slow process, and it takes tens of thousands of years for changes in the environment to be assimilated by our bodies. What this essentially means is that our body still thinks it is wandering the bush as our hunter gatherer ancestors did some 40,000 to 100,000 years ago.

An example from the article of a modern culture that still lives close to these roots describes beautifully how we are built to live:

“As a case in point, consider the Tsimané, a subsistence farmer and hunter–gatherer population in Bolivia. They eat meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some starchy plants. They walk an average of 17,000 steps (~8 miles) a day. They spend a lot of time outdoors, get plenty of sleep, and aren’t exposed to a lot of artificial light at night.

In a recent study, researchers found that the prevalence of atherosclerosis was 80 percent lower in the Tsimané than in the United States. Nearly nine in ten Tsimané adults between the ages of 40 and 94 had clean arteries and faced virtually no risk of cardiovascular disease. What’s more, this study included elderly people—it was estimated that the average 80-year-old in the Tsimané group had the same vascular age as an American in his mid-50s.”

In short, we have created a mismatch between the body we have inherited and the culture we have created, and this makes us sick and unhappy.

A quote by Daniel Lieberman beautiful sums up this mismatch and has been a quote that I have used as an inspiration for my practice and for my clients;

“We didn’t evolve to be healthy, but instead we were selected to have as many offspring as possible under diverse, challenging conditions. As a consequence, we never evolved to make rational choices about what to eat or how to exercise in conditions of abundance or comfort. What’s more, interactions between the bodies we inherited, the environment we create, and the decisions we sometimes make have set in motion an insidious feedback loop. We get sick from chronic diseases by doing what we evolved to do but under conditions for which our bodies are poorly adapted, and we then pass on those same conditions to our children, who also then get sick. If we wish to halt this vicious circle then we need to figure out how to respectfully and sensibly nudge, push and sometimes oblige ourselves to eat foods that promote health and to be more physically active. That too, is what we evolved to do.” Daniel Lieberman, ‘The Story of the Human Body. Evolution, Health & Disease.”

This is how I approach my work with clients, be it in treating chronic illness or in helping clients achieve greater health and well-being, or those seeking to perform at higher levels.

And I believe it is why I see far better results in clients since I have adopted this approach.

If this blog resonated with you, contact me via tim@timaltman.com.au or 0425 739 918 to book an appointment.