The practice of medicine took an interesting turn in the United States roughly a century ago. The net result of that turn is that the majority of interventions are suppressive in nature. This is particularly true in the field of pediatric care.
Symptoms and illness are not always a bad thing. In fact, more often than not they are evidence that the body is doing what it has been programmed to do. Whether that design came as a result of eons of evolutionary magic or at the hand of Providence or perhaps a little of both, the complex systems which constrain to homeostasis are a marvel to behold.
The immune and nervous systems play a particularly important role in maintaining the balance we know as health. Childhood, from a health perspective, is the time in which a future adult’s body grows accustomed to the xenobiotics present in the natural and man-made environment. The immune and nervous systems develop, grow and mature through exposure and many of the symptoms confused with illness are nothing more than the body working with the tools at its disposal to cleanse itself (nasal discharge, fever, etc.) and restore balance.
You may have heard a grandparent encourage to you let your children play in the dirt and not to worry too much about washing their hands afterward and there is plenty of scientific evidence which shows that such an approach does in fact promote health. But wait! Before you click off of my blog and wash your hands with anti-bacterial hand soap, read on. It gets better.
Your body is a remarkable collection of cells, but possibly more importantly, an impressive assemblage of microorganisms, including bacteria, fungi and archaea. You may have thought of your body as being primarily cellular, but microbiologists will tell you that there are at least ten times as many bacteria than cells in your body.
It is estimated that there are 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria living in the human gut and approximately the same number living on human skin. This microbiota performs millions of functions in your body, including supporting your immune and nervous systems in their tireless and life-promoting work.
So here’s the rub. We now live in a society where parents are trained to run to the doctor, to the drug stores as soon as symptoms appear in their children. Since the industrial revolution we’ve seen downtime as the nemesis of productive living and as a result we’ve grown to favor hard-hitting, fast-acting suppressive interventions over letting the body restore balance through its inherent and intelligent design.
Unfortunately, bypassing the body’s systems for dealing with imbalances can produce unwanted side-effects. Give a child acetaminophin to reduce a fever, and the body, which was using the fever to burn off xenobiotic that it could not handle using less drastic measures, has to resort to another strategy to handle the invader. Plan B is never as elegant, efficient or safe as Plan A, and it is precisely on this basis that acute illness is transformed, over time, into chronic disease. The body in its almost infinite wisdom effectively buries the problem, as bees coat contaminants in the hive that they are unable to remove with propolis. Unfortunately, to do so is always a compromise that invariably leads to health complications later on.
Many of the symptoms that we’ve have come to see as “bad” are really just evidence that the body is healthy and functioning as it should. Health does not mean the absence of symptoms, especially given the fact that we live in an increasingly toxic world. Don’t get me wrong, modern medicine has its place, but I have to wonder if we as a society have let it evolve into a system that favors disease management over health care.
My company, Energetix Corporation, is doing a lot of interesting work in relation to non-suppressive pediatrics and adult care. If you’d like to learn more, please call us for a referral to a health care practitioner near you who is trained in this type of approach.