The allopathic medical system has failed me – as a patient, mother, and physician. Like many physician peers, I entered the health care world with grand visions of healing others. I quickly learned during my clinical rotations in medical school that healing (in the truest sense of the word) was less likely but that helping was still possible. So I rolled up my sleeves and entered pediatric residency, where I learned how to make sick kids healthy and keep the healthy ones from getting sick.
Or so I thought.
After training, I started working as a pediatrician in outpatient practice doing the same work albeit on a less acute level. To keep children healthy, I performed many check-ups, gave vaccines, and offered parents advice on various topics with the knowledge gleaned from my years of education. Sure, I also “healed” lots of children by prescribing antibiotics and other medications for their medical diagnoses. In doing so, I came to think of children with frequent ear infections, reflux, asthma, allergies, eczema, constipation, and a whole host of other complaints as “healthy with a touch of [insert symptom here].”
My perspective began to change when my son was diagnosed with idiopathic ketotic hypoglycemia. Yep, idiopathic because we really don’t know why, but “oh, don’t worry, kids tend to grow out of this by the time they are teens.” This diagnosis came during his third hospitalization at only three years old – twice before due to respiratory issues and this time due to altered mental status from the hypoglycemic event in an otherwise “healthy” child, who also has severe eczema and behavioral issues. Because I was suspicious his other diagnoses were not separate and unrelated. Because I would not accept idiopathic as an answer, and because the traditional medical system wasn’t able to provide one, I looked elsewhere.
This led to me diving head-first into integrative and functional medicine. In doing so, I found that my son’s multiple medical issues, not just the hypoglycemia, directly resulted from mycotoxin exposure. All of his symptoms fit so nicely. You see, mycotoxins damage the respiratory tract, are immunotoxic, and can cause both allergic symptoms (i.e., skin issues) and autoimmunity of the neurologic system (i.e., behavioral issues). When I discovered the interior of his wall was covered in mold, it was like the perfect present with a bow around it fell into my lap. What was once multiple chronic medical issues was now one treatable root cause.
My question is this: When did it become acceptable that we consider eczema, asthma, or gut issues, common childhood conditions? Until we as physicians acknowledge that these are indeed chronic conditions, that they are not normal, and that they indicate an underlying health problem, we will keep treating the symptoms and, in doing so, continue to disrupt the ecosystem of our bodies.
I’ve realized that the allopathic medical system keeps us in a vicious failure cycle due to the above fallacy. As a patient and mother of a patient, I’ve been given medications to ultimately treat symptoms. I’ve done the same as a physician and, thus, not truly healed my patients. This is what I was taught, and let’s be honest, all I had time to offer families as treatment in the current churn and burn health care system. This is a disservice to us all, patients and physicians alike.
Please don’t misunderstand me – I am incredibly grateful for modern medicine and the power of extremely talented physicians who have treated me, my family, and countless others. I wholly recognize that many people would not be here today without the advances we’ve made in medicine. My point is that we need to re-examine what we consider success and what we consider health.
When I was speaking with a friend about my recent discoveries and interest in integrative medicine, she jokingly said, “Welcome to the dark side.”
So here I find myself, perceived in the dark, yet feeling more cloaked in light than ever before in my career. If the dark side is one where physicians question blanket uniform recommendations, truly consider the needs of the patient sitting in front of them and their uniquely individual circumstances, and seek to find a unifying root cause of disease symptoms, then count me in. Or, I suppose, out.
Kortney West is a pediatrician.