by Dr. Bill Rawls
Posted 6/16/17

And how to take ownership of your recovery

I don’t think anyone would argue that the medical system is in distress — costs are through the roof, patients are dissatisfied with care, and providers are chronically unhappy with their work situation.

But why is our medical system so dysfunctional and who is responsible?

Doctors, hospitals, medical insurers, government, and pharmaceutical companies should all share in the blame — but are the recipients of healthcare, you and I, also part of the problem?

Are we expecting things that the system isn’t designed to deliver?

Where the Medical System Excels

The medical system has always specialized in acute intervention. From using leeches and mercury in the 17th century to drugs and surgery today, heroic life-saving therapies are its specialty.

When heroic solutions are applied to acute life-threatening situations, miraculous things can happen. If you were to develop a terrible illness, such as acute pneumonia, a heart attack, or broken leg, you would be in good hands in almost any medical facility in the country.

These kinds of heroic life-saving interventions are what attract people into the medical profession in the first place. Seeing people recover from acute distress almost instantaneously is very satisfying.

Chronic illness, however, has never been a primary focus.

There is good reason for this.

Acute intervention for acute illness works because the healing systems of the body are still intact, only temporarily disrupted. When the acute insult is removed or corrected, the healing systems of the body quickly rebound and the patient recovers rapidly.

Treating chronic illness is fundamentally different. Chronic illness is not the result of one big insult causing acute disruption, but instead, lots of little things adding up over a long period of time to chronically compromise the healing systems of the body.

Without intact healing systems, heroic measures have marginal value.

The Medical System and Chronic Illness

It wasn’t until the latter half of the 20th century that the medical system even considered addressing chronic illness at all. Before that time it was just accepted that some people were “sickly” and most people got more “sickly” as they got older. People didn’t come to the doctor’s office unless they were acutely ill.

After great successes with antibiotics and vaccines in the early 20th century, however, the medical system turned its attention toward taking on chronic illness. In fact, there was great optimism at that time that all diseases would be stamped out by the end of the century.

That optimism was flawed because they applied tools that worked well for acute illness to treating chronic illness.

Drugs and surgery work acutely. When acute interventions are applied to chronic illness, the best outcome that can be expected is a state of “managed illness.” Restoration of wellness is not a practical goal.

Drugs only block symptoms and slow the progression of illness, but do not address underlying causes of illness. The effects wear off as soon as the drug is discontinued and the illness recurs.

A state of “managed illness” works particularly well for pharmaceutical companies, because if no one ever gets well, patients will need to be on drugs perpetually. Typically, new drugs are needed when old drugs no longer work and drugs are often required to block the side effects of other drugs — drugs on top of drugs has become a normal standard.

The end result is a dysfunctional and expensive medical system that doesn’t serve the needs of the people who depend on it.

A Solution that Fits the Problem

Treating chronic illness with heroic therapies is obviously a flawed and expensive concept — so what is the right answer?

All things that happen in our physical universe are the result of cause; acute and chronic illness, alike. It’s just that the causes of acute illness are straightforward and specific — if someone breaks a leg or develops an acute pneumonia, the causes are obvious.

The causes of chronic illness are less obvious and add up insidiously to compromise the healing systems of the body. Because these factors are so connected to life in general, we tend to be complacent about them. Even so, these factors can be defined and minimized.

There are seven primary factors that disrupt healing systems in the body:

  • Processed Food – Artificially derived food sources derived from grain
  • Environmental – An abundance of toxins and manmade toxicants in the environment
  • Stressors – Perpetual state of “fight or flight” dealing with modern stress
  • Inactivity – Modern life is abnormally sedentary
  • EMF (electromagnetic field) – Artificial energy sources from electronic devices and microwave towers
  • Free Radicals – Excess of free radicals unopposed by dietary antioxidants
  • Unbalanced microbiome – Good bacteria in your body dying off and allowing harmful ones to flourish

Wellness is only possible when healing systems of the body are functioning optimally. It doesn’t take a scientific study to figure out that reducing these stress factors will allow the healing systems of the body to flourish.

A “restorative approach” to chronic illness systematically reduces the factors that disrupt healing functions. This allows wellness to occur.

The primary components of restorative therapy include:

  • Healthful diet
  • Ongoing practical detoxification
  • Learning how not to let stress get the best of you
  • Active lifestyle
  • Supportive herbal therapy

Herbs are a perfect fit for restorative therapy because plants have to deal with the same stress factors that we do. In response, plants produce a sophisticated spectrum of biochemical substances to protect the plant against free radicals, microbes of every variety, physical stress, radiation, and maybe even a little emotional stress (it’s hard being a plant).

The plants known as medicinal herbs have been selected by humans over thousands of trial and error. Their biochemistry meshes particularly well with ours. Not surprisingly, the potential for side effects is extremely low — lower than any drug ever made.

Medicinal plants are the most potent force of promoting healing on the planet. It is unlikely that anything will ever come out of a pharmaceutical lab that comes close.

A Holistic Approach

A holistic approach to overcoming chronic illness is comprised of three components: heroic therapies, symptomatic therapies, and restorative therapies. Each component is important, but their relative importance must be kept in perspective.

In the process of getting well, the medical system is most valuable for ruling out acute life-threatening conditions, providing heroic therapies when indicated, and providing supportive care for acutely ill patients. Stabilizing an unstable situation with heroic therapies allows healing to progress.

The medical system is also important for acute symptom relief. Healing takes time and early on, symptom relief can be an important part of the recovery process. As healing progresses, symptomatic therapies become less necessary.

To restore wellness, however, natural healing capacity of the body must be restored. This all important part of the equation is mostly done outside of the medical system. It’s a matter of embracing therapies that enhance wellness, and taking ownership of your recovery.

Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.

You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.