We need urgent research to try and scientifically authenticate many of those inexpensive methods in other systems of medicine to put together a future system incorporating the best in all the systems together
“The establishment defends itself by complicating everything to the point of incomprehensibilit”—Fred Hoyle
It was in the year 1733 that Charles Scharschmidt, a brilliant young professor of medicine in Vienna, wrote the first textbook of medicine. While writing about diseases with constriction of the vascular bed and agitation of the mind he had the best prescription for those days which looks contemporary even to this day. Change of mode of living, tranquillity of the mind and drugs rarely, if needed at all, were the three points in his textbook. Listening to the debate on the 23 March 2010 morning where president Obama gave his last dose of wisdom to the people of America as also to his colleagues in all political parties about his “so called” healthcare reforms, I was a bit confused as he was talking only about disease care reforms and not about healthcare reforms.
America is suffering from over-medication and over intervention of all sorts resulting in the abuse of the disease care facilities which cost the nation trillions of dollars; most of which could be well spent if only the powers that be understood the difference between healthcare and disease care. The euboxic medicine practised in the US, where all the computer boxes in the patient case record will have to be perfect, lest someone should sue the doctor in the unlikely event of patients’ death or disability, makes medical care prohibitively expensive. Market forces dictate the management and not science. The whole population of the USA needs urgent healthcare but a microscopic minority really needs disease care. This truth is being kept well wrapped up in pseudo-scientific jargon, myths, half truths and disease mongering efforts to earn billions from the gullible patients or their care givers. It is much cheaper to keep the well healthy rather than let them get diseases and then target the disease. This is the rule in the USA as also in other places like India where American medicine is being encouraged.
The above difference is simple enough to be understood by the lay public. However, today the common man on the street thinks that he needs doctors and hospitals to remain healthy and that there is a pill for every ill. What is to be brought to the knowledge of the population is that if they lived a healthy lifestyle, which will be described below, they could expect to live well and healthy till they die. No one should try to be here forever as s/he will never succeed.
It is only in the unlikely event of the body’s inbuilt immune guard getting overwhelmed do symptoms of diseases make their appearance. It is only then that the medical profession could help by: “curing rarely, comforting mostly, but consoling always”, as was enunciated by the father of western modern medicine, Hippocrates. There are no silent killers. All killers announce their intentions loudly in human physiology. Studies have time and again affirmed that treating diseases in their “so called” asymptomatic stage only would harm the patient since nature has built the immune guard with elaborate repair mechanisms to remodel every deviation for the normal, which is the asymptomatic stage of illnesses. Any interference at that stage from outside, that too with chemical drugs, can only harm the former and might result in disaster.
No one can help another to adopt a healthy lifestyle. One has to be the change and no amount of preaching will help. One has to take charge of one’s health and wellness. The methods are simple and could be adopted by anyone in any walk of life howsoever busy one might be! Human body is a nonlinear, dynamic device, continuously run by food and oxygen with the help of the electromagnetic energy from the sun. Some physiologists believe that the body water, which forms around 80-85% of the body, needs to be stimulated (burnt) to release energy.
Human beings are not just their bodies; they have their all-pervading mind and their spirit. All three of them need to be kept healthy for total health and wellness. Usually it is not what one eats that kills her/him; it is what eats one (one’s negative thoughts) that kills. The best bet to keep good health is to have a healthy mind which boils down to practising universal compassion. To get into that state of mind (consciousness) yoga and breathing techniques would help a lot. Yoga has very little to do with any religion and could be practised by all. To be healthy one has to change (be the change) but can’t expect the world to change overnight. Therefore one could expect others to hurt us sometime or the other. There again the best antidote for hurt is to cultivate the greatest asset of forgiveness. “If you can fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds worth of distance run… this earth shall belong to you my son, and… more, you shall be a man,” wrote Rudyard Kipling years ago in his celebrated poem, IF. This is the best health advice that I have been able to find in the western literature.
Eating in moderation, the foods that please one, without too much change in the food quality from its natural state would go a long way to help the immune system to keep the repair mechanism in excellent shape. Worrying about the micro-contents of food is of lesser importance as long as one does not pick and choose foods, thanks to the modern food fads and corporate advertisements. Preserved foods are a curse. Let the food be as fresh as is possible. Small frequent feeds keep the metabolism on even keel. Large meals at long intervals are not conducive to body physiology. Each region, ethnic group and race has had its own food habits that kept mankind going in 50,000 generations. These food habits evolved over thousands of years, thanks to our ancestors’ observational research. Modern nutrition does not have a strong foundation and the reductionist cohort studies being fed to the gullible masses lack the backing of good science. That is exactly the reason why we get conflicting advices now and then! If Mediterranean diet is good for them in their habitat, it does not mean that it will be good for another race in another continent. Meal times should be happy times and family get-togethers at meal times are the best bet to get benefit from foods. The two enemies of human health are tobacco and alcohol, both of which must be kept at a distance.
Regular exercise, moderate in quantity, the best being a daily walk for an hour, would be the ideal tonic for the immune guard. Very heavy exercise might not be good for the system. The key word in every human endeavour should be moderation in everything one does. Extremes are always dangerous. Swimming is another excellent exercise but is not universally applicable and could be expensive to the majority. There is no substitute for hard work as another good immune booster. If the hard work involves physical exertion additional regular exercise is not needed. The only qualification is that one should love one’s work to get the benefit. Hating one’s work and working under duress could destroy health.
Spirituality has very little to do with religion. Spirituality for good health is just sharing and caring! Sharing provokes the immune system and hating others depresses the same. A small child smiles 400-500 times in a day. If we take a lesson from that, the world would be a better place to live. A natural smile releases so many healthy bio-positive endorphins from the brain.
If one were to follow the above-mentioned simple daily routine, the wellness concept, the chance of falling ill are negligible like following traffic rules on highways reducing fatal accidents. That said, I must hasten to add that even those that follow the health rules enumerated above might get illnesses as diseases are only accidents. Medical science or any other science will never be able to answer the million dollar question as to why a person gets sick at a given time although we have elaborate details to frighten the gullible people as to how they get ill, in our disease mongering, medical (health) scare system. A Nobel laureate physiologist had affirmed to that truth way back in 1899, when Charles Sherrington, wrote, “positive sciences will never be able to answer the question why, but they will be able to say how or how much!”
If we were to implement this method we would reduce the medical care budget of every country. All the same, an efficient and authentic medical care system is a must under the following circumstances which covers about 5% of the population at a given time. Emergencies, disaster management, corrective surgeries, judicious authenticated vaccinations, birthing emergencies, congenital problems, and acute life threatening situations need medical help.
The need of the hour is to change our medical education system to incorporate the new philosophy of health promotion which is never taught these days. The student must be taught that the human body could correct most of its problems without outside interventions but we must create the right environment for that to be useful. Too much intervention might put off the body’s immune system. Doctors are trained primarily to keep the public healthy (public health) which is not our present stress. Young doctors should be impressed that they should leave the well alone and they should never try to treat the disease but try and understand the patient better before intervening, and they should see that their interventions do not make the patient worse than his/her original disease! While a good doctor treats the illness; a great doctor treats the patient.
The need of the hour is for thought leaders in the field to understand that there are a host of medical care systems in the world, outwit our reductionist modern medicine, that have stood the test of time over thousands of years before the advent of modern medicine. But for them human kind would have been extinct like the dinosaurs long, long ago. Modern medical system, developed in the last few centuries’, in its present avatar of hi-tech stuff is only less than a few decades old. One has to take into account the recent audits in many countries on the impact of modern medicine on human morbidity and mortality. The data is there for all to see and take corrective measures lest we should be left out in the race. Every medical student must be told that while patients could (and did) survive without modern medical doctors; we cannot survive without patients.
We need urgent research to try and scientifically authenticate many of those inexpensive methods in other systems of medicine to put together a future system incorporating the best in all the systems together—call the new system Meta Medicine (after modern medicine) if you like—to help patients and also the world governments to contain the ever mounting costs of medical care which would make people like president Obama to get sound sleep while his people remain healthy and when they fall ill they are well cared for without spending too much of the taxpayers’ money which should satisfy both sides of the divide. The effort of trying to put together Meta medicine is already on.
In this deafening cry for better hi-tech medicine let us not forget that the womb of all ills, ranging from common cold to cancer, is poverty. The latter is a double-edged weapon in that while diseases are more common in the poorer sections, diseases further make the sufferer poorer when the bread winner gets sick the family starves and becomes poorer. The poor people with very little protein in their system suffer from a very serious illness which I call as Nutritional Immune Deficiency Syndrome, NIDS, which is many times more dangerous than the fashionable label of AIDS! It was a thinking family doctor in the poor coal mining community of Wales, Tudor Edward Harts, who wrote decades ago: “the poor pay for their poverty with their lives.” This one lines tells it all and should be taught to our doctors and politicians alike.
“Truth is ever to be found in the simplicity and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things”—Isaac Newton
(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society’s Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former vice-chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected])