A Holistic Approach to Recovery by Richard L. Plagenhoef, M.D. and Carol Adler
In the 1960's, when I attended medical school, holistic medicine did not exist. Doctors instructed us to treat symptoms, or signs of illness, such as headaches and sore throats, by prescribing drugs. They taught us that surgery could "correct" heart, liver, kidney and other physical body defects. Eventually, surgeons developed highly skilled methods for transplanting faulty organs, such as the heart, kidneys and liver. Most orthodox physicians still believe that drugs and surgery are the best methods for treating disease and dysfunction.
I felt these solutions were often unsatisfactory. It didn't seem to make sense to treat the signals of distress rather than the distress itself. How could we expect a person to become well if we were treting only complaints and not the reason for complaints? A drug for making a headache go away did not magically make the reason for the headache also disappear. If any chronic causative factors were present, it seemed logical to expect the headache to eventually return after the effects of the medicine had worn off.
Why did many persons remain in a state of pain and discomfort, even after years of excellent medical care? Why couldn't we become permanently healthy?
I also asked another serious medical question: Why was such a large percentage of the country's population suffering from one or more addictions? Everywhere, I saw people damaging their health by drinking and eating too much. Doctors suspected a connection between cigarette smoking and lung cancer. Few paid attention. Hospital emergency wards were filled with evidence of self-abuse. Around the clock, ambulances delivered victims of drunk driving, drug-related crimes and attempted suicides.
Addictions were destroying our lives and injuring innocent persons. They were trapping us in behavior patterns that were crude, cruel and self-defeating. As a doctor, I needed to know why this country was creating even more illness, disease and dysfunction than already existed. I had to know why we seemed to have no permanent answers for addiction recovery.
A doctor must be a good detective. I was determined to uncover all the possible reasons for addictive behavior. However, I realized that any mission was no longer within the boundaries of modern medicine. American-trained doctors rarely ask why a person became ill. As a rule, they expend little effort in understanding mental, emotional and lifestyle causative factors of a patient's illness. Unless a person chooses to be treated by a psychiatrist, modern medicine most often does not address mental health-related questions.
Although modern medicine grew more sophisticated and technical, it did not change its basic approach to healing. It still continued to treat predominantly signs and symptoms rather than causative factors in dis-eases. Specialized medicine, such as cardiology, obstetrics ad gynecology, oncology, pathology and endocrinology, only seemed to narrow down the range of symptoms it felt qualified to address. I realized that possibly family medical practice would be the only way an American doctor could research new theories and pioneer new healing techniques.
Family medicine is, in many ways, a return to earlier methods of treating patients. At one time, doctors were personal friends who were often considered members of the family. When a person was ill, doctors paid house calls.
Family doctors are concerned about the patient's family life. They are aware that a person can reflect the stress of loved ones. Stress leads to cardiovascular dis-ease, ulcers and breakdown of the immune system. Breakdown of the immune system leads to immune illness and also sets the stage for addictive behavior.
Stress is one of the basic causes of dis-ease, dysfunction and addiction syndromes. When family doctors examine their patients, they ask questions about family environment. It seems natural and logical to consider possible connections between symptoms of illness, stress or lack of control, and a person's lifestyle. For example, if a husband is suffering from heart disease and he is overworking in order to support a large family, the family doctor will see a possible connection between emotional and physical stress, and the heart problem. The family doctor will be considering causes or reasons for the effects, or symptoms--in this case, heart dis-ease.
I chose to practice family medicine because I believe we must treat the whole person. By considering all factors that may have led to stress and breakdown of the immune system, I realized I had a better chance of helping my patients recover their health.
Orthodox or traditional medicine often did not consider addiction syndromes to be health related. Perhaps, I concluded, the method for addiction release was the same method for health recovery. If I could examine all the reasons for addiction behavior, possibly I could root out all those causal factors. I would be pushing aside the "smoke screen" to view the total picture, the total person, behind that screen. Rather than treat symptoms, such as inability to stop smoking or eating, I would treat causes, such as poor eating habits, an unhappy home life, or a stressful job.
If I could discover causal factors that were keeping a person in an addicted state, it seemed reasonable to belive that changing those factors might cure the patient. It seemed logical that treatment could produce permanent adddiction release. What better reason to practice medicine?
This book is a testimony to my success. May it be the key that will open the door for all those who are struggling to free themselves from life-threatening addictions.
Richard Plagenhoef, M.D.
There is a chapter on Food Addiction: The Illusion of Truth which I will post later. All the addictions have a chapter so you may want a copy of the book if you are interested in how the author treats those as well.
This is why diets don't work. We have been treating the symptoms of a deeper problem with a diet. The weight isn't the problem; it is the symptom.
I am looking forward to reading more of this book.