The Detriment of Modern Medicine
Today it’s so common that we are not diagnosed and treated as a holistic whole, but rather as a functioning sum of many separately examined parts. This modern philosophy in medicine is detrimental to our health, and we are often diagnosed and prescribed drugs that bring out harmful side effects, leading to a perpetual cycle of diagnosing newly arisen symptoms. This is the downward spiral of prescription dependency.
It’s scary to think that our medical professionals might be missing what may be the most important part of physical and mental assessment, which is truly searching for the underlying cause of the symptoms. When I was a senior in high school, I started to not feel like myself. I thought it was depression and anxiety symptoms, which I had never dealt with before. I was always pretty happy and optimistic, and I got through most situations without feeling anxious. But I started to struggle with attention in school, and no longer performed as well as I usually had.
I addressed this situation with my pediatrician, and we came to the conclusion that it was ADD we had to work through. I believed that the stimulants would help me focus, not worry so much about how I’m feeling, and just focus on school. I hadn’t read any literature on the side effects of ADD medication, nor did my doctor give me much information besides to watch out for my eating habits.
Nobody really spoke much about mental health or how to manage it at my high school, and I didn’t want to be stigmatized as the kid with any mental conditions, because that would make me inferior at an already competitive private school. I felt like I deviated from the normal high school student, which consequently made me feel very low, and I trusted my pediatrician and this new solution to my insecurity. I now know that it stems from students not addressing their struggles. It seemed most students were confident and successful in all areas of their life, especially at the small school I went to. Most succeeded in some combination of athletically, artistically, academically, socially, etc. So why was I letting some personal issue get in the way of my full potential? I think that’s a common misperception, too. What we see externally is not at all reflective of everyone’s personal struggle. In highly competitive environments, there’s an even larger emphasis placed on not showing weakness. I hope that in the future, high schools put much more emphasis on personal care and mental health.
The stimulants eventually gave me crippling anxiety, which is apparently common, yet I didn’t know the at the time. More likely than not, this “disorder” is misdiagnosed and the medication can change our brain chemistry. School work became easier, as I could focus on the subject at hand and do so confidently and successfully. But the crash was horrible, so my doctor eventually increased my dosage to get through the night.
I became extremely obsessive about certain things and very anxious to the point where my mom was not sure she would be able to send me away for school the following year, she later told me. My pediatrician suggested adding an antidepressant to ease the negative side effects from the other drug, but I could not get myself to take that. I know I would’ve felt even more upset knowing I have to rely on a drug to make me happy. I knew that there was something I could do besides cover the new issue with another drug to do the work for me, and I remembered the holistic doctor my mom goes to.
They drew my blood and after he checked my levels he told me that I had intolerances and allergies, and I needed to change my diet immediately. Diet had not really been on my radar, besides the utter confusion I had when it came to understanding what is actually healthy. When I addressed my uncomfortable state to my conventional pediatrician, she did not even mention food and how healing changing my diet can be. I cut out dairy because of my newfound allergy and gluten because of how harsh it is on our digestion and gut. I also lessened my soy intake because it causes thyroid problems and other vitamin deficiencies. He prescribed thyroid medication and other supplements.
When I brought up my anxiety and lack of focus, he immediately tested my eyes and told me I needed to see an eye specialist. Within the first 10 minutes of sitting in his office, he knew that I had an eye problem causing my anxiety and inability to focus. Eventually, I got glasses, fixed the problem, and weaned off my medication.
My mind and body felt connected again. I felt less foggy and realized that adding a new chemical or drug to my body would push it further away from the homeostasis I was trying to restore. I had a new healthy sense of control that allowed ebb and flow, rather than perfectionism. He gave me supplements to clear my deficiencies, and I stopped eating foods I was allergic or intolerant too. Once our gut is healed, our mind can start functioning better as well, being that the gut produces many of the same hormones, and in even more quantities than the brain, that affect how we feel. One of those hormones is serotonin, or the happy mood transmitter. realized how much of a connection there was between our gut and brain, that I had no idea about before. The modern diet leads to so many common problems that are more commonly addressed with medication rather than diet change.
I was ecstatic and grateful for the real solution to the root problem, but infuriated with how most medical practitioners resolve health issues with a quick fix. I was enraged that the professionals I trusted relied on drugs as a solution and disregarded food, supplements, and natural answers for the underlying problems. Most conventional medical practitioners bandaid the issue, which leads to prescription dependency. People are becoming sicker and sicker from growing symptoms of drugs, and this in turn expands the pharmaceutical industry that the doctors are selling. I knew that food could heal our mind and body and it pained me that this concept was undermined by large food industries, big pharma, and our medical professionals.
In a post for Harvard Medical School, Dr. Eva Selhub discusses how the food we eat affects our brain more than we know. Our hormones and gut flora are very easily affected by what we intake. Consequently, anxiety, stress, and depression levels increase with an unhealthy diet. A very standard diet during college may consist of take out, dining hall food, alcohol, excess sugar, saturated fats and processed foods. Therefore, with an already stress-induced busy lifestyle, cheap and fast is definitely the conventional way, but the implications of this lifestyle are harmful.
Of course, there are so many cases in which medication plays a crucial role for mental and physical illness. In my particular situation, my pediatrician tried solving my issues with little internal examination. I believe this is a growing problem, therefore resulting in over prescription of drugs for people that may need to change their lifestyle habits instead. There are severe mental and physical illnesses such as schizophrenia, extreme bipolar 1, and psychotic depression, for example, that require medication to achieve a balanced state.
As frustrating as it is to not have one concrete solution, many of our problems can be alleviated by consciously taking charge and changing our diet, or even questioning what our doctors may be telling us, because one drug is not the answer for everyone. The relationship between our external and internal environment is very powerful, but there is a disconnection between the two in the medical field. Ultimately, anything that our body didn’t lack in the first place is just being used as a band-aid, not a solution to the underlying problem.