Monday, June 25, 2012

Pottenger's "Superior Man in Medicine" is Probably You

By Christian Wernstedt

[From the Vital Objectives blog]

In terms of therapeutic doctrine, mainstream medicine has traveled backward since the first half of the 1900s. Pioneers of physiology would roll in their graves if they saw what's going on today.

Physiologist Francis Pottenger ("Symptoms of Visceral Disease", 1919) wrote:

"Though I have devoted myself to the study of diseases of the chest—a so-called -'specialty' —for more than twenty years, experience has led me to see that such a thing as a medical specialty in the accepted sense of the term, can not exist. Diseases can not be divided into those of this and that organ; for the human body is a unit. One part can not be diseased without affecting other parts. No organ can be understood except in its relationship to other organs and to the body as a whole."

Pottenger's view should be trivial to observers of the human body, but modern medical textbooks have become sales catalogs for ultra-compartmentalized pharmaceutical treatments. No wonder, modern medicine has become reduced to emergency intervention or cargo-cult type "prevention" such as cholesterol-supression.

The general public is as mistaken  – just look at how people seek treatments for "the thyroid" or for acne or for headaches or for virtually any issue without realizing that in most cases (outside broken legs) any problem manifest as symptoms or malfunction in a specific organ or tissue is actually rooted in a body-wide problem. (Check out my acne chart for an example of how something that may look like a skin issue is an issue related to just about everything else in the body.)

Pottenger had a grander vision:

"The superior man in the medicine of the future will not be the great laboratory worker, or the man who is known for his studies in metabolism or the expert gastro- enterologist, or neurologist, or surgeon or he who stands preeminently above his confreres in his knowledge of diseases of the heart and arterial system or of the lungs, but the man who recognizes the fact that the truths derived from all of these sources of study and investigation must be interpreted as belonging to the human patient as a whole—in other words the internist who appreciates the unity of medicine. The distinguished specialist will be one who regards his field of study in its intimate relationships to the body as a whole."

Sadly, almost a hundred years later, we are still waiting for Pottenger's vision to become widely accepted.

However, the situation today is worse than only about compartmentalization and anti-physilogic divisions of the body.

Medieval style guild mentality and refusal to integrate new discoveries or observations that don't fit current dogmas are rampant. Specialists in medicine typically have to be kicked and dragged to look at the actual science in their own fields.

Hence we hear hilarious statements such as "gut flora has nothing to do with IBS" or "gluten is only a problem in celiac disease" or "obesity is only about calories in and calories out".

Continuing education for specialists seems to be mostly about skiing and golfing, but even so, relevant scientific papers are only mouse clicks away on the Internet.

The result of this situation is that patients, as well as anyone who is interested in avoiding becoming a patient, have to educate themselves about basic physiology and as well as proper therapeutic principles so that they themselves can be the "superior man in medicine" and take charge of their own health.

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