Why I hate doctors who hate integrative medicine

I was looking into alternative medicine-friendly medical schools and stumbled upon this post by a guy who seems pretty peeved that the University of Toronto is adding a “Centre for Complementary and Integrative Medicine” to their medical school. Sometimes I get so immersed in the land of nutritional therapy and functional medicine that I completely forget how hostile some people can be towards alternative therapies, but you can bet that when I’m reminded of that hostility, I go into full-on rant mode.

First of all, I’d just like to know where the logic centers of medical students’ brains are being stored, because I’m sure the collective common sense that has been stolen from that population probably has enough reasoning power to find the last digit of pi, put a man on Pluto, and negotiate world peace.

Let’s leave aside for a second the drug companies who really don’t give a flying fart about whether people live or die, and just focus on the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed med students that all want to “help people.” And let’s, just for a moment, focus on our nation’s biggest current healthcare crisis, which is not broken legs or the flu, but chronic diseases that are becoming more and more common by the year.

In what universe does it make sense to address an illness without trying to figure out the cause? Last time I checked, heart attacks were not caused by a Lipitor deficiency. And I’m pretty sure ulcerative colitis isn’t caused by a Remicade deficiency, and I know cancer isn’t caused by a radiation deficiency. I get that we don’t know exactly what causes most chronic diseases (probably because there isn’t one cause for any of them) and that we need to manage symptoms until we figure it out, but the end goal should not be to take a drug for the rest of your life that barely manages your symptoms and has uncomfortable (and even dangerous) side effects.

Furthermore, we do know some of what causes these chronic diseases, and you’d have to be a brainwashed idiot to ignore the evidence. For example, the amount of research out there on the connection between gut bacteria and IBD is astounding. But did any of my FOUR gastroenterologists ever mention that to me? Nah. Not even when I kept asking them if they knew anything, anything at all, about what causes ulcerative colitis. Not even when I actually brought up the concept of “bad bacteria” in my appointments after reading Elaine Gottschall’s book Breaking the Vicious Cycle.

“But wait!” you protest. “This is all new research! You were talking to your GI doctors five years ago! They wouldn’t have known about this connection back then.” Okay, lemme just do a quick Google search. OH LOOK, the very first result when I googled “IBD gut bacteria” just now is a paper from 1995 entitled “Tolerance exists towards resident intestinal flora but is broken in active inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)!” The research was out there. But did my doctor suggest any antimicrobial or probiotic therapy, or even tests for gut dysbiosis, before she turned me over to a surgeon to dig out my large intestine? Nope!

I’m sure there are MD’s out there who genuinely do their best to keep up with the research, and take an investigative approach to figuring out their patients’ problems. But based on my experience, there sure as hell aren’t enough of them. And also based on my experience, there are a lot more practitioners operating under the umbrella of “integrative medicine” who actually give a damn about helping their patients and won’t give up the second their arsenal of drugs runs out.

Yes, there are “quacks” out there. There’s also rampant pseudoscience, fear-mongering, and just-plain-wrongness out there, and much of it hides under the “integrative medicine” guise. But that doesn’t mean you can conclude that every health practitioner out there who isn’t a licensed MD is a bumbling idiot who disregards science and believes we should forgo food altogether and live off of air and the earth’s vital force.

And you know what, people-who-like-to-hate-on-integrative-medicine? As soon as you can get rid of diabetes and heart disease, or heal people with lupus, or get IBD patients to stop bleeding out of their assholes 15 times a day without taking out their entire freaking colon, you can hate on integrative medicine and sing the praises of your “evidence-based approach” all you want. Until then, why don’t you get off your high horse, spend a little less time hating on integrative medicine, and spend a little more time figuring out how you can make your patients better.

After all, that’s the goal…right?


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