Volume 12, Issue 49 |  
Why conventional doctors skip the best treatment for most diseases

You may not realize this, but most conventional doctors skip the best treatment for most diseases. However, a new report suggests things in the medical community are changing. Take a look at this:

"Between high patient loads in the office, pharmaceutical reps pushing the latest and greatest drugs, and patients wanting a quick fix, lifestyle-as-medicine can sometimes be overlooked. Mainstream medicine is supposed to promote lifestyle as first-line treatment for many, if not the majority of chronic diseases before prescribing a drug." This sounds like a page out of my book almost 35 years ago. But it's not. These statements are from an article published just last month in the conventional medical news web site MedPage Today. I read this and I started to have hope that this silly medical system that we have that just waits for people to get sick and then plies them with drugs might actually change.

The authors of the article are a board-certified internist and a board-certified family practice doctor. And they both focus on modern medicine's almost complete lack of prescribing lifestyle-based treatments for obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular, and other diseases in favor of pills and procedures. To make their point, they go on to cite all of the medical references that document how effective, safe, and inexpensive these treatments are compared to pills and procedures.

In terms of cardiovascular and other diseases they say, "It should be evident that lifestyle therapy is the foundation for cardiometabolic disease, but often unnoticed are a variety of other diseases that can be prevented or treated via a groundwork of lifestyle-as-medicine." Wow! Diseases can actually be treated and prevented by changes in lifestyle without pills or procedures.

When they focus on osteoporosis and prevention of falls, they describe these problems as "a perfect example of an area that absolutely depends on lifestyle medicine." They go on to say that "The National Osteoporosis Foundation, the AACE, and the Endocrine Society all put lifestyle first, focusing on diet (including calcium), vitamin D, weight-bearing exercise, and muscle strengthening, with the ultimate goal of fall prevention."

How about arthritis? According to our good doctors, "One of the most common complaints we get in the clinic is about joint pain stemming from osteoarthritis. The American College of Rheumatology puts an emphasis on various lifestyle changes to help mitigate the progression and pain including exercise and weight loss." When was the last time you went to the doctor complaining of arthritic pain and he took the time to show you how to change your lifestyle before he prescribed a medication?

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The doctors go on to say that, "Even GERD gets lifestyle as first-line treatment according to the American College of Gastroenterology." This they say is despite the fact that most doctors "simply like to throw PPIs and H2 blockers at everyone." PPIs and H2 blockers are the drugs that are used for GERD.

And then they lament: "It has unfortunately become common for both the physicians and patients to want to begin with a medicine for diseases that can be treated with lifestyle. As physicians, we should strive to do what we were taught in school and what is given as first-line treatment in these major evidence-based guidelines." Now here is where I have to disagree.

These therapies are not taught in medical school. Other than a quick "Make sure you exercise, lose weight, and eat right," graduating doctors have absolutely no clue at all how to use lifestyle medicine in a real medical setting. When a doctor finishes his official training, he still has to go out of his way to learn about how these lifestyle therapies are used in individual patients. And that's not the only problem doctors face.

The other problem is time. The average doctor is working for an insurance company, not for a patient. And he has little more time than a quick, cursory discussion and examination before pulling out his prescription pad. Medicare and the other insurance companies have made sure that doctors will not be paid for anything that takes more time than it takes to prescribe a drug.

About 20 years ago, I was talking with another alternative doctor, and we were discussing what to tell a patient when asked, "What kind of doctor are you?" I told him I usually say I'm an alternative medicine doctor, although I know that most people at that time did not have a good idea of what that was. Then he said something very interesting. He said, "I tell them I specialize in good medicine." I always liked that answer because that is exactly what it is. As the authors of this paper emphasize, good medicine is what doctors do when they take the time to learn about and focus first on natural lifestyle treatments. I hope you find a doctor like that.

Yours for better health,

Lifestyle Medicine: Guidelines Support Lifestyle Changes First By Karl Nadolsky, DO, and Spencer Nadolsky, DO. MedPage Today. www.medpage.com. Published: Mar 31, 2015.

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