It’s a common complaint around here: “My doctor doesn’t know anything about health or nutrition, but only wants to prescribe drugs and procedures.”
Statin cholesterol drugs, levothyroxine, “move more, eat less,” “everything in moderation,” “you don’t need to take iodine,” “your magnesium is fine,” “there’s no such thing as SIBO” . . . a seemingly endless list of virtual vacuums of knowledge among people who position themselves as experts but are nothing of the kind.
I often talk to my colleagues and cannot resist asking them questions to test the depth of their knowledge. For instance, I ask gastroenterologists about issues surrounding bowel flora—they come up dry, knowing virtually nothing about this crucial and fundamental topic instead telling me that they are too busy with a schedule full of endoscopies and colonoscopies. I ask cardiologists about lipoproteins and metabolic markers relevant to cardiovascular risk and they yawn, saying that they already know how to prescribe Lipitor, Livalo, or Repatha and need to get to the cath lab. Ask a general or orthopedic surgeon about health questions and you will encounter insights that are relevant to surgery, such as which prosthesis to insert or how to remove a gallbladder laparoscopically, but ask questions about health and you might as well talk to a third-grade child. The sophistication of dietary insights alone is something akin to the knowledge of a checkout clerk at Walmart, little better than the commercially-motivated advice that comes from the American Heart Association, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, or the American Diabetes Association.
There are a number of reasons why modern day physicians are woefully ignorant when it comes to issues of health. Among them:
- Doctors are educated and trained to deliver healthcare, not health—there’s a difference. Healthcare is the delivery of products and services designed to provide near-term solutions to a problem—an antibiotic for pneumonia, a coronary stent for angina, a knee prosthesis for advanced osteoarthritis, craniotomy for subdural hematoma, Lyrica for fibromyalgia, etc. while ensuring a flow of revenues to the practitioner or healthcare system. But achieve optimal thyroid status, eliminate cardiovascular risk with nutritional approaches, restore magnesium that is no longer obtainable via drinking water, restore vitamin D that normalizes calcium metabolism, identify and then manage SIBO that underlies fibromyalgia, IBS, anxiety, depression, rosacea—it’s not on their radar, it doesn’t even interest them.
- Doctors practice willful ignorance—Focus on becoming educated on computer-assisted surgery, or non-surgical aortic valve replacement, or biliary stent implantation, exciting and financially rewarding activities. Pay no more than lip service to diet, insights into the microbiome, addressing common nutritional deficiencies that show up as medical problems—these activities do not translate into financially rewarding activities and are therefore are of no interest to the doctor—even when a simple, inexpensive, safe, and effective solution is available. As a result, the doctor says things like “That doesn’t work” when it’s clear it does, or “There’s no evidence” even when there is, “I don’t know anything about that” to which you should say “Why not?—that’s your job: health.”
- It’s too much trouble—My colleagues will often complain that they don’t have enough time to educate patients or answer their questions, or that the healthcare insurance industry forces them to practice a certain way. Those complaints are partially true, but they are also copouts. If a doctor really believes that a nutritional solution would help, he/she should say so, then create a handout detailing the answers. Or identify and refer you to a dietitian or, even better, a nutritionist who actually knows something about diet to help guide you. In other words, if there were real interest in helping you regain health, it can be achieved, even in this deeply-flawed healthcare environment. But the majority don’t even try, satisfied with advising you to take the next drug, accept the next procedure, see the next specialist, since health is not on the agenda in education and training in medical school, internship, residency, or fellowship. I took care of many physicians and other professionals in my many years of clinical practice and observed that, when it came to their personal health or the health of their family, they were eager to learn about bowel flora, vitamin D, genuinely healthy eating, lipoprotein testing, the T3 thyroid hormone, etc. but had no interest in delivering such insights to patients because it involved having to learn, educate, and talk and did not involve a quick prescription or procedure.
It’s a sad and perverse situation: the presumed and self-proclaimed experts in health are really just practitioners in the frontline of healthcare revenue generation. The healthcare system is a viciously revenue-hungry industry ready and willing to ignore issues relevant to health and steer you towards revenue-generating products and procedures. No doubt: There are times and situations in which such things are necessary, even life-saving. But they remain the sole focus of the majority of mainstream doctors.
This is an awfully dark and depressing conversation, I know, when you realize that you can no longer trust most doctors or hospitals who are eager to exploit and seize as much as they can from your healthcare insurance. But, buried in this terrible situation is something wonderful: the information, knowledge, insights, and tools that empower you in health without the doctor or hospital have achieved a critical mass, amounting to a mountain of health information and tools that empower you in health. Think of it: We now understand how to use a glucose meter to reverse type 2 diabetes and accelerate weight loss, how to use breath hydrogen gas measurement with the smartphone-enabled AIRE device to identify and manage SIBO, how to know whether intestinal fungal overgrowth is present and how to use natural methods to eradicate, how to navigate thyroid testing to achieve optimal thyroid status, how to make a yogurt that boosts oxytocin and thereby reverse many of the phenomena of aging—huge, empowering strategies that you can put to work on your own at little to no cost and achieve results SUPERIOR to what your doctor could achieve.
Insights into health will not come from a visit to your primary care physician, or your endocrinologist, or a hospital admission. They come from your own efforts, a realization that YOU are the champion of your own health, and tools that facilitate your success. This is why I wrote the Undoctored book, support people on this Undoctored journey via the Undoctored Inner Circle website, and formed the Health Tsunami Foundation to better fund research supporting these efforts. (Much more to come on this last issue in coming months.)