This is Not Functional Medicine. What is Innovative Medicine?

Innovative Medicine is frequently mistaken for functional medicine. In fact, it’s often mistaken for many different approaches that don’t quite do it justice. And while functional medicine, integrative medicine, energy medicine, and a host of other types of medicine have made many advances in overall therapeutic and health practices, Innovative Medicine is in a league of its own. For the sake of this article, I’ll be referring to Innovative Medicine as the unique medical approach to healing, and not to the organization and company of the same name.

As such, I often get asked the question,

“What is the difference between Innovative Medicine and functional medicine?”

Surprisingly, Innovative Medicine incorporates functional medicine, as well as many other components from the medical spectrum. I’ll explore the differences between these two in more detail below.

But first, let’s look at all the therapeutic options and different approaches to medicine to get a better understanding of the whole spectrum. I find this incredibly important for setting the stage to better understand the differences of many different types of medical approaches. It’s a somewhat crowded field, so we’ll navigate briefly through it together.

The Full Spectrum of Medicine

If we were to break down the different clinical options of what’s out there in medicine and plot it on a spectrum as if it were political positions on an axis, it’d look something like the above.

To the left, you’d have conventional medicine. To the right, alternative medicine. I’d say to the far left you’d find your hardcore fanatical surgeons that just want to cut everyone open, and to the far right are the spiritual zealots who could care less about the human body and biochemistry and want to live on a higher plane, but they’re both out there on the very fringes of this spectrum.

First, let me address the left side of this spectrum, as most of us are most familiar with this conventional approach. Traditionally, conventional (orthodox) medicine has led the way toward medical treatment and better health. Doctors and healthcare providers alleviate the symptoms, manage the disease, and do so with a host of pharmaceutical and surgical options. But the problem with using solely conventional medicine, as I learned following my own father’s career as a conventional physician, is that it normally only offers a band-aid solution for chronic disease. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an absolutely fantastic approach for acute health crises. Broke your bone in a car accident? Cut your finger off in a freak home renovation mistake? Conventional medicine has you covered. But when it comes to chronic and complex conditions, there’s definitely room for improvement (the statistics prove that). And while these orthodox approaches do provide the means to help a person feel better, they don’t necessarily solve the root of the problem.

For instance, you’re given daily pills to take for your high blood pressure. And these pills will absolutely help keep your blood pressure levels down, at least for some period of time. However, there is still the question, What is causing your high blood pressure in the first place? Is it your diet? Is it your lifestyle? Is it stress? How about an infection (yes, that can cause it)? It doesn’t exactly pinpoint what is really going on or take action to solve the root problem – which is where functional medicine comes in.

Now let’s move to a slightly more centric position on the spectrum. This is where things like nutrition, lifestyle and environmental factors hold more weight. It’s also where functional medicine sits. Here is where healthcare professionals assess the interactions between a person’s genetics, environment, and lifestyle that may ultimately be contributing to their pain or illness. Instead of turning directly to a pharmaceutical drug, functional practitioners will prescribe nutritional supplements and lifestyle/diet changes. It’s an awesome step in the right section, but (I know, there’s almost always a but)

Functional medicine still has some limitations as it does not consider (or greatly undervalues) things like energy, spirituality, and some psycho-emotional aspects. For example, there’s a whole segment of energetic, emotional and spiritual or consciousness-based therapies that are often overlooked. We’ll jump back into that a little later.

If we were to move further along the spectrum and start to get really close to the center, you’d find European Biological Medicine. Here’s where functional medicine meets a more traditional natural approach. You’ll start to hear a lot about ‘self-healing’ in European Biological Medicine. What that means is that the practitioner will provide remedies such as homeopathic, herbal, or spagyric remedies to assist the body in healing itself. Sounds great right? But there’s still a downside, as very little from the right hand of the spectrum is utilized here, and therefore a large area of potential healing options are missed.

When we enter the right side of the spectrum, we start to talk about energy medicine. That’s not energy as in you’re full of physical energy from drinking coffee, this is the unseen energy that governs nature and is the basis of Einstein’s work. One of the most common modalities that many have heard of here is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). An ancient practice, TCM involves acupuncture, massage, herbal remedies, cupping, acupressure, and exercise variations – some of which have been around for thousands of years. TCM strives to restore balance of the ‘qi’ – the body’s energy – to heal an individual’s ailments. This is where medicine and healing are starting to be found in the esoteric and energetic realm. And while science hasn’t exactly uncovered how some of these methods work, many individuals attribute TCM as a major factor in guiding them toward optimal health and we can’t overlook the usefulness.

If you’re looking a little further down the spectrum, Reiki is another form of energy healing. Reiki also guides the ‘qi.’ Energy is thought to transfer from the provider’s hands or palms into the client. Ultimately, this transfer of energy is thought to help restore emotional and physiological imbalances.

And then, there are psycho-emotional therapies. There are an array of subsets in this category. For example, certain therapies may lean toward a more spiritual approach where past life regression is explored. Other therapies or counseling subsets may dive into your mental well-being and offer a safe space to talk through any stressors or factors causing emotional distress.

Related: The Death of the Diagnosis

So where does Innovative Medicine fall? It’s pretty much somewhere right smack in the middle. It is the perfect balance and mix of conventional, functional, European, psycho-emotional, spiritual, and energy healing. In turn, it offers an extensive toolkit. This toolkit enables healthcare providers to propose the best treatment possible for every patient in a highly personalized manner, and would look something like this:

A Deeper Look at Functional Medicine

As aforementioned, functional medicine aims to find the root cause of an individual’s grievance as opposed to just treating the symptoms by more advanced laboratory tests and data analysis. It’s considered a holistic approach – which in a way, it is.

It is a science and evidence-based approach that takes data collection to the next level. Healthcare providers look at how the body’s systems, organs, and processes interact with each other. They look to understand the genetic, biochemical, and lifestyle factors impacting a person’s health. From there, they use data to determine a treatment plan specific to the individual.

To better illustrate the functional medicine approach, let’s take the example of a patient with high blood pressure. A functional medicine healthcare provider may prescribe a medication to get the person’s blood pressure levels under control. But at the same time, they’ll address the person’s lifestyle factors. They may ask questions and make recommendations relating to the person’s diet and physical activity levels. They may put them on nutritional supplements and pick up on deficiencies or toxins that are hampering the body. Consequently, the patient may not have to be on blood pressure medication for the rest of their life.

And for some people, functional medicine is enough. If a person’s only problem is that they don’t exercise at all or that they have a poor diet and have some symptoms, then lifestyle factors will absolutely help and likely solve their borderline diabetes problem or possibly high blood pressure issues.

But for some other people, like the chronically ill that make up over 50% of America, it’s probably not enough. The body’s energy circuits, spiritual factors, and psycho-emotional aspects are often left unaddressed. We’re treating the body, but not the mind and spirit. Perhaps the reason a person is overweight is due to a life-long experience of emotional turmoil and distress. They aren’t going to be able to make a lifestyle change with these mental, emotional, and spiritual barriers.

Related: Medicine is Asking All the Wrong Questions

I turned to my co-founder at Innovative Medicine, Dr. Mark Iwanicki, to elaborate on the gap within functional medicine further: “I think the biggest problem with the current functional medical approach is a lack of coordination and integration of the numerous modalities that exist in both the natural as well as allopathic healthcare systems into something that is truly personalized and individualized for each unique patient. The missing link, I believe, in that more complete integration is the concept of bioenergetic compatibility. Innovative Medicine introduces this concept in a definitive way that is truly groundbreaking to the modern notions of health and healing. Many functional docs play lip service to the concepts of energy or energy testing but no concrete, or practical approach has ever been fully put forward that truly utilizes the concept of the human bioenergetic body to the degree that Innovative Medicine’s approach does. By using bioenergetic compatibility we are able to open a doorway into the body of the patient and get the exact answers needed to build a perfect roadmap to healing.”

In other words, the functional medicine toolkit is limited. It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s still missing key variables that lead to optimal health and well-being.

“The missing link, I believe, in that more complete integration is the concept of bioenergetic compatibility. Innovative Medicine introduces this concept in a definitive way that is truly groundbreaking to the modern notions of health and healing. Many functional docs play lip service to the concepts of energy or energy testing but no concrete, or practical approach has ever been fully put forward that truly utilizes the concept of the human bioenergetic body to the degree that Innovative Medicine’s approach does.”

Mark Iwanicki, ND

What is Innovative Medicine?

I’ve always loved this quote from Dr. Sandeep Budhiraja, a well respected physician in India, to answer the question of what is Innovative Medicine:

“As physicians we come across several challenges in identifying the root cause of the most common diseases –‘lifestyle diseases’, while modern medicine provides us with options to treat the same but to be able to understand the reason behind the disease and address patient concerns we are often faced with several challenges– no clear answers. Combining best of all medical options is the way forward to provide the finest and quality healthcare to the patient. Innovative Medicine is a very personalized and individualized route that gives a more in-depth insight as we dive deep into the root cause of diseases. No singular method can be the best method and for me as a physician, a mix of conventional medicine and biological medicine ensures that I am able to provide the optimum course of treatment and clear answer to my patients.”

“Combining best of all medical options is the way forward to provide the finest and quality healthcare to the patient. Innovative Medicine is a very personalized and individualized route that gives a more in-depth insight as we dive deep into the root cause of diseases. No singular method can be the best method and for me as a physician, a mix of conventional medicine and biological medicine ensures that I am able to provide the optimum course of treatment and clear answer to my patients.”

Sandeep Budhiraja, MD

Head of Internal Medicine – MAX Healthcare

As you can see from Dr. Budhiraja’s insight, Innovative Medicine fills in the gaps. It draws from and uses all types of medicine that have been viably and clinically proven to improve patient results. Not every individual will need all aspects addressed, but Innovative Medicine takes them into account. Here’s a truth medicine must acknowledge: every person is different. Thus, every person’s health or lack of it manifests in slightly different ways. Innovative Medicine recognizes that, and is the most beneficial way to optimize a person’s health and well-being in a tailored, specific and prioritized manner.

View the complete Podcast episode

Basis of Treatment

As previously mentioned, functional medicine incorporates a good amount of lab testing and data. But more information doesn’t necessarily mean better outcomes. Too much information may lead to the paradox of choice and confusion due to the complexity and infinite initiation factors that lead to the results one is interpreting.

And don’t get me wrong, data can be a good thing and Innovative Medicine uses lab results as well. Yet, these tests are used as a secondary tool. The main goal is identifying the causes at their source. Have elevated hormonal levels? We want to know precisely WHY, without guessing or making assumptions on the biochemical reference results. Many of these levels cannot be examined or explored via regular lab testing. For instance, a lab test can’t measure emotional stress, EMF, or geopathic stress and its impact on any given patient.

Thus, Innovative Medicine incorporates traditional medicine styles, as well as emerging medicine. Innovative Medicine stays on the front lines of new therapies and new medicinal practices. It’s truly dynamic. And energy therapies and technology are an important part of this. Some people accept them as medicine and viable treatment options – while others don’t. But Innovative Medicine incorporates all varieties of promising procedures and treatments, puts them to the test and clinically applies them to see their worthiness and effectiveness before adding to the toolkit.

Innovative Medicine recognizes that acupuncture, TCM, Reiki, ‘qi’ therapy types, Ayurveda, homeopathy, herbology, emotional techniques, spiritual practices, and therapeutic touch energy therapies benefit certain individuals. It also realizes that great advancements have been made in energy medicine and the application of this ancient wisdom combined with technology and modern discoveries have advanced what is now possible. And although it can’t necessarily be measured via typical lab tests, it doesn’t mean it does not work to heal and would not be an important part of a patient’s personalized treatment program.

These types of therapies are also a step forward away from more traditional and invasive procedures that may not be fully necessary and are normally accompanied with side-effects and risks of complication. As the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath states, “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.” I believe we can group in a whole series of other therapies along with warmth and sympathy before turning to the scalpel or prescription drugs.

For instance – although 50-70 years since abandonment – a lobotomy, for a period of time, was the go-to when it came to treating mental illness. Today, we know better. Continual technological advancements and alternative therapies offer a variety of approaches that don’t involve surgery or possibly, brain damage.

And while surgery is necessary in some cases, medicine is now less limited. We’re blessed with access to more options from around the world that are paving a way toward better treatment and ultimately, a better quality of life.

Imagine a patient comes to a clinic complaining of stomach pains and digestion problems. With the Innovative Medicine toolkit, a doctor won’t only explore the person’s diet. They will inquire into all factors. They’ll tap into the patient’s inner intelligence to see what particular stressors are impacting their health, whether that be physical stressors such as pathogenic infection, or unseen factors such as emotional or electromagnetic stress. In other words, they find the real root cause. As a result, they may not only prescribe a specific supplement to address a deficiency. They may also use specific energy balancing techniques and a particular stress-reduction methods to improve digestion. Treatment may include several different holistic modalities and procedures, but all would be highly tailored to the patient with great specificity, frequency and priority.

The critical takeaway here is that they’ll address the root cause by using a wide-range of tools and personalizing it to the patient. And while some tools may not work for one individual, they may work for another. It’s a scientific and personalized approach to healthcare and overall well-being of the mind, body, and spirit. Innovative Medicine is essentially a unified medical system that guarantees each patient gets the best treatment possible for their unique situation or condition in the most efficient manner while minimizing side-effects and adverse reactions.

Think of the difference between functional and Innovative Medicine like testing the water downstream where a river is wide. At this wide point in the river, potentially, a number of concerning factors are found. And there’s a lot of data to be pulled down there. But then it becomes a cumbersome task where predictive analysis and intellectual guessing are used to come up with hypotheses. A treatment is then based off of these possible hypotheses. This is generally how many medicine types, such as functional medicine, work. Some doctors are very good at their educated guesses, others not so much. And yet others rely on generalized protocols and trial-and-error approaches.

A better approach, in my humble opinion, would involve going to the source of that river – where it originates and is just a small stream of melting ice and collected rain water. At the source, various initiating factors (underlying causes) can be tested with ease. From there, it can be determined what is causing the downstream effects. It doesn’t involve guessing. Instead, you’re relying on concrete answers to establish the definitive cause of the downstream problems. And this is what Innovative Medicine is about.

The Innovative Medicine Toolkit

Going back to the Hippocratic Oath, “I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect the person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.” To adequately care for a chronically ill patient of today, you have to address the multitude of causes. And to do that, you need a comprehensive tool kit. That’s where Innovative Medicine shines. It gives every tested modality and therapeutic option a seat at the table. The patient is seated in the middle. There are no specialties or preferences. The most important thing is helping the patient. It doesn’t exclude any therapy. There is no ego, no prejudice, and no preferences or biases.

For instance, if surgery is identified as the best option, then that’s what is done. When you treat the ‘why’ instead of the ‘what,’ you see each patient as a blank canvas, as opposed to grouping them based on diagnosis or symptoms. Again, the patient’s best interests drive this form of medicine.

And the experts agree. Kuba Bryl, LAc, states, “I think that Innovative Medicine is the way medicine is going. It is a very comprehensive assessment where we can know everything in a patient, including the treatment. So, without spending all the money on all the different tests that are out there, you have a tool, and you have a protocol that you follow that will lead you to finding out what’s appropriate to treat in that patient at this particular time. I think this is the future.

Conventional Medicine

You would think Innovative Medicine would leave out conventional medicine, but that’s simply not true. We honor the amazing advancements in orthodox medicine, and of course, some patients will require a conventional approach to their issues – or a combined approach involving conventional medicine and other methods. As explained above, a healthcare provider may prescribe medication or recommend surgery. Yet, these factors aren’t usually the end all, be all. A combination of treatments and types of medicine also contribute to the eventual recovery and good health of the patient.

Biological Medicine

Applying what we know about biology to health factors is undoubtedly important. The body should be looked at as a whole since it functions as a whole. Individual systems, organs, and processes rely on and impact each other. It takes into the perspective that the body can self-regulate – which is not a perspective to be overlooked.

Energy Medicine

Some believe energy medicine is acupuncture or waving hands over the body, but innovative medicine takes a slightly different approach to this part of the toolkit. We consider energy medicine equal to that of other therapies. Various types of energy healing have worked for millions of people. It is also based upon thousands of years of tradition. And although, science can’t prove it or we don’t currently or fully understand it, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Energy medicine plays a part in spiritual, emotional, and mental well-being – all of which are only becoming more recently mainstream.

Psycho-Emotional Therapies

There is an inevitable link between physical and mental health. The human body reacts to emotional and mental stress and distress. And innovative medicine recognizes this. We incorporate a variety of approaches and therapies to include psychological and emotional factors. These factors are often – but not always – entangled with a need for lifestyle adjustments or spiritual therapies.

Spiritual Therapies

Spiritual therapies may include spiritual counseling, meditation, Ho’oponopono, consciousness practices, and more. This factor is often waved off by healthcare professionals. Yet, spirituality has always been a major aspect in human life. You just have to look at the variety of religions through history to understand its significance. And studies have linked religion to happiness and a sense of purpose. However, it’s not limited to religion. It’s also linked to connections within the universe and an understanding of our existence. Innovative Medicine understands the spiritual association when it comes to happiness and health. Spirituality is closely related to mental well-being. A 2004 study solidifies these ideas. Researchers found stress and depression were linked to a decreased immune response. Thus, these aspects leave the human body susceptible to disease and may be the ultimate cause of one’s illness.

Lifestyle Adjustments

Functional medicine emphasizes lifestyle changes. And Innovative Medicine also considers it an important piece of the puzzle. It can impact a person’s physical, emotional, spiritual, and mental state. In Innovative Medicine, lifestyle factors aren’t limited to diet and exercise. These factors also involve stress-related mechanisms, relationships, and psychological consequences associated with psycho-emotional therapy methods. A sense of purpose or a person’s general happiness may also contribute to disease or illness. Innovative Medicine takes everything into account.

It’s Time for Innovation. It’s Time for Change.

I want to applaud functional medicine for taking a bold step in the right direction and moving away from a limited ‘far-left’ viewpoint. I am not against it, and think there are wonderful functional medicine doctors doing fabulous work and healing people. This article is mainly to show the difference and allow others to gain knowledge. From there, they can make the best decision for their health and ultimately, better their lives.

Medicine is Asking All the Wrong Questions

Medicine is asking all the wrong questions, and we’ve been programmed to follow along and ask those same wrong questions when it comes to our health. The whole situation reminds me of a scene from Moneyball where Johan Hill’s character Peter Brand is explaining what’s wrong with the way baseball players are being managed and selected to Brad Pitt’s character Billy Beane (see below for video). Read more

The Death of the Diagnosis

It is the holy grail of medicine – the diagnosis. TV shows like ‘House‘ were based upon finding the correct diagnosis in dramatic and somewhat unrealistic fashion, as it is the only way to move forward and treat the patient. Doctors find a diagnosis, and only then can they construct a plan of action to bring you back to health. And while this approach of diagnosis first and then a generalized treatment has worked for quite some time, does it have merit in the 21st century where we have seen an explosion of complex and chronic conditions?

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with an internist who specialized in undiagnosed patients and is part of NIH’s Undiagnosed Diseases Program. These patients are passed along from physician to physician, specialist to specialist, yet they are not treated for their health problems because a definitive diagnosis cannot be determined. The symptoms are real – the discomfort and agony are real – but for whatever the reason, a diagnosis is impossible. And without the all-mighty diagnosis, nothing can be done for these patients. They drift along hoping that someone will give them a diagnosis, so they can then begin their treatment and hopefully alleviate some of their symptoms. That’s just how important the diagnosis has become.

Research shows women are more likely to wait longer for a health diagnosis and to be told it’s ‘all in their heads’. That can be lethal: diagnostic errors cause 40,000-80,000 deaths in the US alone.

So why the title “The Death of the Diagnosis“? Because, for all we know about the human being and that we are not machines, but truly unique individuals, the diagnosis means nothing! It’s a bold statement that most doctors would cringe at, but it’s one that a growing number of open-minded physicians are beginning to embrace. Let me explain why.

A patient arrives to a doctor’s office with the following complaints: headache, fatigue, poor memory, loss of concentration, minor gastrointestinal complaints, depressive mood, and some general pain in the joints and lower back. And to be honest, those are most likely just the main symptoms that the patient could come up with at the time. Maybe they also have some pains in the gums from time to time, or slight muscle twitches that they dismissed as a post-workout spasm, and have no relevance to this evaluation. The stressful work situation they are in also doesn’t have much to do with this health problem, or does it? Did they mention the diet of fried and processed foods mostly eaten late at night? Or the fact they work around some chemical solvents from time to time? Or that their father-in-law is battling cancer and it has put strain on their relationship with their partner? Probably not.

Nevertheless, the doctor has his symptoms. He runs the tests, and according to the blood work, his own history/knowledge and physical evaluation, and the patient’s limited statements, a diagnosis is provided. Perhaps the doctor identified an infection in the body, or that the symptoms alone allowed the doctor to deduce what is the probable culprit. A generalized, blanket protocol that is the accepted treatment plan for the said diagnosis is given, and a wait-and-see approach is taken with the hopes of symptom resolution. Sometimes there is resolution, other times there is not. And if there isn’t resolution, we either go with plan B in generalized treatments for the diagnosis, or try and re-diagnose and give that a shot.

The fact remains, a diagnosis will never take into consideration the truly unique and personal issues that affect each and every one of us differently. The diagnosis will never address the stress one receives from a dysfunctional relationship; from the reaction an artificial preservative in a certain food we ate has on our large intestines’ absorption rate; from a chemical in a lotion we use daily that over time has compounded in one’s connective tissue and only after several years of use is exhibiting in a symptomatic manner. The diagnosis assumes we all live in a vacuum – that we all react the same to stimuli and endure the same stimuli.

The reality is, the magnitude of compounding detrimental factors that affect the average human being today has rendered the diagnosis pretty much useless. The modern day physician must be able to identify all areas of dysfunction, all root causes of imbalances in the body (whether biochemical, psycho-emotional, or even spiritual) and create a personalized plan of treatment that can efficiently address these areas. The good news is, with the growing prominence of functional medicine (a step in the right direction) and more advanced personalized approaches such as the one we advocate at Innovative Medicine, we can begin to move past the diagnosis and truly tailor treatments to each patient and with a wide range of options spanning many different therapeutic modalities.

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.”

Sir William Osler

Founding Professor at John Hopkins Medicine

The diagnosis is dead. It may be a hard pill to swallow, since as human beings, we love to label everything. But for medicine to progress and reverse the rising rates of chronic illness, we have to move past this mentality, and realize that we are all so different and distinctive. Shouldn’t our treatments and plans to restore health reflect this truth?

Stop Treating Your Symptoms!

Symptoms are not treatable. Yes, you heard me right. Symptoms are not treatable. Why do I say this? Because you can’t treat a leak in your wall by replacing the wall – you need to figure why it’s there in the first place and fix that. Let me explain.

I recently had a water leak problem in my bathroom. One day after a long shower, I noticed that when I stepped on the tiles floors right outside the shower, they made a slight squishing sound. ‘Not good‘ I thought. I called up the superintendent, and the first thing he did was bring in a vacuum to help dry the tiles. They put the nozzle right at the point of grout between the tiles where the most water could be heard making that squishing sound when you stepped on it. A porter held an industrial vacuum at this junction for 15 minutes with very little effect. The tile was still squishing when you stepped on it. Next thing the super did was try and find the cause. He began at the sink, turning it on full blast and looking at the connections under the sink. All looked well. Next, the toilet. He flushed a number of times in a row and inspected the toilet and surrounding area meticulously on his knees, and saw nothing wrong there. So he moved on to the shower – the main suspect now that the other 2 checked out. He turned the shower on, looked at the spigot, the shower head, etc. He finally said that it did not look like anything was wrong, but noticed the caulk where the bathtub met the tiled wall seemed cracked, and water may be seeping in under the tub and settling under the tiles. Didn’t seem like a great explanation, but plausible. So the next day he re-caulked the whole area, and all looked well.

Unfortunately, all was not well. A week later I had a friend stay over and we took back to back showers, and lo-and-behold, the squishing tiles returned. Caulk still perfectly white and intact, but tiles wet underneath. The superintendent seemed a bit baffled, but noticed some minimal water damage near the entrance of the shower, between the bathtub and sink. “Ahhh, it must be that water is leaking around your shower curtain and dripping down the side here” he told me with a proud smile like he was Sherlock Holmes and just cracked the murder case. At this point, I was almost sure he was wrong, but had no other recourse. I bought a plastic shower guard that connects from the edge of the bathtub to the tiled wall where he believed water was leaking around my shower curtain. It was a special extra-large one – not pretty – but I didn’t want to take any chances. We installed it to ensure no water would be leaking from that corner. All seemed well afterwards and whenever I bumped into the super in the hallways, he would gloat and say “I told you it was the water leaking in the corner of that bathtub.” If only it was.

“If your only tool is a hammer then every problem looks like a nail.”

— Abraham Maslow 

A few weeks later after a morning shower, I stepped out of the bathtub and the dreaded sound was heard – the squish was back! To make a long story shorter (this isn’t a post on plumbing), the super had to call in a plumber and they had to look behind the walls. Turned out it was a faulty pipe connection. While a simple shower wasn’t enough water leakage to cause the tiles to squish, if someone took a prolonged shower (like 2 in a row) or the neighbor showered at the same time, enough water would leak to cause the squish in the tiles. Over a month after the initial problem and after a good amount of trial-and-error plus a large hole in my bathroom wall, and the problem was solved.

Now, to the point of the leaky pipe case – you cannot solve a problem (faulty water pipe, disease, illness, health issue, etc) without looking at the SOURCE. The squishy tile was a SYMPTOM. When my superintendent treated the symptom with re-caulking and replacing some external parts, he did achieve some relief from the symptoms, but he did not correct the problem. This is the same in medicine and health. If we treat symptoms, we may achieve what we believe is success and those symptoms may diminish or even disappear, but the source problem will still be there and those symptoms will either return at some point, or express themselves in a different way.

Related: The Death of the Diagnosis

In the case above, my super may have continued to treat the symptom and performed “surgery” on the tiles, replaced them with new ones that somehow do not allow water to get under them and will never squish, and that would probably have worked – for a while. Sooner or later, that leaky pipe would continue to leak water, and although the new special tiles wouldn’t squish anymore, the water from the leaky pipe may travel and collect under the wood floors the next room over. Not only would this damage the wood, it may also cause toxic mold, and thus not only call for total replacement of my wood floors, but also for treatment on my new respiratory problem caused by unseen toxic mold spores. Suddenly a little leaky pipe becomes a total home renovation and a trip to the hospital.

We see this all the time in medicine. We try and treat symptoms by suppressing them with drugs, medications and surgery, only to find a completely different illness has arose years later. Normally we don’t correlate the two, and little explanation is given over why this new, usually worst, illness has come up. A patient who treated their hypertension with anti-hypertensive drugs controls their high blood pressure, but after years of using these suppressing drugs they are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Everyone reacts differently, so the suppression of a symptom may be completely different case-to-case. But one thing is for sure, you cannot treat symptoms.

Side note: In acute cases, you may be looking to relieve your symptoms with OTC medications. This is fine, but this is not treatment. It’s your immune system that does the treating in your body in acute cases, such as a common cold. It’s always better to have a strong immune system rather than rely on medications that relieve symptoms. The immune system is smart enough to go after the source in a healthy person with an acute case.

“De-Victimize” Yourself – A Path to Health

We’ve become a nation of victims – whether it be victims of the economy, victims of our government, or victims of disease and an unhealthy state. And with 50% of the US population diagnosed with chronic conditions, that makes for a great deal of misunderstanding of the sources of these conditions and feelings of victimization. So, what can we do to “de-victimize” ourselves and place ourselves on a path back to health?

The first, and hardest thing for most people to conceptualize is that we must take responsibility of everything that happens to us – including our health and the diseases that afflict us. So many motivational speakers, life-coaches, and personal development experts preach this simple point: You are responsible for everything that happens in your life – Don’t blame, complain, or criticize.  And while this is often times easier to apply to money, careers, and relationships, it is more difficult for most to relate this point to health, especially when talking about sensitive and life-threatining conditions like cancer and degenerative conditions. But this is critical to get over – you are not blaming yourself for your health conditions, you are simply taking responsibility and understand that you have the power to change your circumstance. This may go against many beliefs and what some medical professionals will tell you, most commonly that genes are the reason you have a specific disease and there is nothing you can do about it. But we now know this not to be true; and while genes are an indicator of our predispositions to certain afflictions or diseases, they are not the ultimate determinant of our health. As a Harvard Health article entitled “Genes Are Not Destiny” illustrates (in terms of obesity), some genes can increase a person’s risk of disease, but our genetic makeup does not explain everything about disease, and healthy lifestyles can counteract these genetic effects.

“We are not victims of our genes, but masters of our fates, able to create lives overflowing with peace, happiness, and love.”

Bruce Lipton

Author of “Biology of Belief

Let’s Talk Epigenetics

People get excited over the ever evolving genetic research coming out as well as genetic testing, but there’s another side of the story we should really be looking at: epigenetics. Simply put, epigenetics involves genetic control by factors other than an individual’s DNA sequence. This means that your environment and lifestyle can either turn on or off certain genes. It’s also the main reason we need to stop blaming our genes for the chronic conditions we acquire. Not saying that your genes will not predispose you to certain ailments, but that does not mean you will actually become sick. And the research behind epigenetics is showing us why.

Here’s an excerpt from an article entitled “Epigenetics: The Science of Change:
“Other studies have found that epigenetic effects occur not just in the womb, but over the full course of a human life span. Manel Esteller, director of the Cancer Epigenetics Laboratory at the Spanish National Cancer Center in Madrid, and his colleagues evaluated 40 pairs of identical twins, ranging in age from 3 to 74, and found a striking trend, described in the 26 July 2005 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Younger twin pairs and those who shared similar lifestyles and spent more years together had very similar DNA methylation and histone acetylation patterns. But older twins, especially those who had different lifestyles and had spent fewer years of their lives together, had much different patterns in many different tissues, such as lymphocytes, epithelial mouth cells, intra-abdominal fat, and selected muscles.”

Later on in the same article, the author goes on to write, “Epigenetics, says cancer biologist Jean-Pierre Issa of The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, could prove more important than genetics for understanding environmental causes of disease. “Cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease [are all] acquired diseases where the environment very likely plays an important role,” he points out. “And there’s much more potential for the epigenome to be affected … than the genome itself. It’s just more fluid and more easy to be the culprit.”

We have to stop playing victims to our genes and understand that everyone of our actions has an impact on our lives and health. We have the power to take actions and steps to mitigate our genetic predispositions, and it should be our duty to seek out the best options to make sure we live long and healthy lives. This may be hard to grasp at first, but when you realize you are responsible for your current state of health, it empowers you with the realization that you can also change your current state of health for the better. 

A better understanding of why you are where you are:

It’s often very difficult to understand how we became unhealthy when we can’t pinpoint what lead us to an unhealthy and diseased state. The truth is often much more complex than finding a single source of dysfunction, and often is a culmination of numerous different and compounding factors. Here are a few of the more common and misunderstood factors of disease:

  • Lifestyle – I won’t even go into the benefits of exercise as this is quite obvious that a healthy body is an active body, but this is more focused on the stress so many of us live with and don’t realize has an incredible detrimental effect on our health. Some quick fixes include medication, breathing exercises, and disconnecting from our hectic and often stressful jobs and situations to practice mindfulness and gratefulness for everything we have in our lives.
  • Diet – People often feel they have this one in the bag, when in reality what they are eating may be the lead cause of their distress. Low-fat and diet type foods and drinks make people think they are eating healthy, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, these types of foods are littered with chemicals that are known to have serious negative effects and can act as neurotoxins and carcinogens to the body. Eat natural, eat clean, eat in moderation. Learn and read, and don’t fall trap to the ads that make you think eating a heavily processed sandwich from Subway is healthy.
  • Emotions – Our emotions have a direct impact on our physical being. Don’t believe me? Grab the biochemical markers of a severely depressed individual or one with emotional distress. Keeping track of your emotions and staying in a positive state is critical to living a truly healthy and balanced life.
  • Spirituality – People today mixup religion and spirituality, and believe a scientific and rational mind cannot believe in such things. Spirituality goes beyond religion, and todays neuroscientists are showing how spiritual brains function in a beneficial manner. Spirituality is also beyond a secular belief in a God, and is more so related to human consciousness, purpose in life, and living in resonance with all there is in this Universe.

“When we blame, we give up power; it’s as simple as that – take power back & be responsible for everything that happens to you”