For all the debate in the U.S. about health care reform and health insurance it is misguided. We don’t have a health care system in the United States to reform. We have a sick care system.
Have you ever woke-up in the morning and felt amazing? Did you then go to the doctor to find out how you could continue to feel that way? This would be the scenario in a true health care system. You would go to the doctor to maintain and optimize health, not wait for sickness to take hold before initiating action.
Most people go to the doctor when they are sick. If they are male, they likely wait until they are really sick. The treatments they receive are focused on blocking the symptoms of their condition and do not address why they got sick in the first place or how they can restore health.
“Health” insurance does not cover regular trips to the doctor to promote health. They cover sickness visits. I had a patient whose “health” insurance refused payment on visits that were focused on weight loss and health. I asked them if she were to remain overweight and develop type 2 diabetes would they cover her visits then. They said, “Absolutely” – this is really sick insurance.
In the sick care model that most are accustomed, diseases are viewed as foreign entities that need to be destroyed. The reality is that diseases are just that, a state of not being at ease or dis-ease. Put another way they are like calluses. We develop calluses because our body is reacting to strains and stresses in order to protect itself. It is adaptive physiology. We are not attacked by calluses and they do not happen overnight. Diabetes, auto-immune diseases, heart attacks, and cancer are the same thing. They are the long-term result of our physiology reacting and adapting to stresses and strains over time.
Most chronic diseases like heart attacks and cancer take decades to form. The heart attack or tumor may not show up until age 60 but they have been building for years. The arterial plaques found in heart disease have been found in their early stages in childhood.
Many people struggle with the concept of health care. They assume what they are doing now is healthy because they do not have symptoms yet. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, 80% of chronic diseases are due to lifestyle choices not genetics. The foods we continually choose to eat, the relationships we form, the chemicals we are exposed to, and the stress we put on ourselves can be a strain on our physiology that accumulates over time leading to dis-eases like heart attacks, MS, diabetes, cancer, etc.
Assuming you are doing the right things and waiting for symptoms to develop before making changes is like waiting until the car is on fire before going to the mechanic. People often do this because they don’t want to spend money if they aren’t in discomfort. But we pay to change our oil every 3,000 miles. We do this because we understand investing a little bit of money upfront on maintenance prevents unnecessary expensive repairs down the road and our car will last longer and drive better. The same is true with health care and our bodies.
How do you know if you are making choices that are supporting health or leading to dis-ease? You can wait until symptoms develop, go to the sick care doctor, and then take something to block the symptoms of the condition, which is the sick care approach. Or you can go to a health care practitioner who can optimize your lifestyle choices to prevent developing dis-eases in the first place.
These are very different approaches. The questions the doctors ask, the labs they order, the ranges they look at, and the recommendations they make will be different. Sick care doctors wait for and manage sickness. They do not know how to prevent it. Health care doctors restore health and prevent dis-ease. Which model of medicine are you in and which model do you want to work in?
Dr. Lou Walters is a licensed naturopathic physician in the state of Montana practicing at The Source Wellness Center. Dr. Walters is certified in homeopathy and works with pediatrics and adults to restore and optimize health and prevent diseases. He focuses on treating the individual person not the disease name.