I’m making it my January 2017 mission to inspire you to start (or continue!) rebuilding your body, from the inside out, to maximize your health performance. Our health is our greatest commodity, and maintaining wellness is much easier than fighting the battle against pain, disease, and suffering. Allow me to use “The Fire Department vs. The Contractors” by James Chestnut as an analogy for conveying an important, commonly overlooked point about health and wellness.
I want you to be clear on how the “sickness & treatment paradigm” (i.e., drugs and surgery) can save a life in a crisis, but is inappropriate for wellness and prevention and vice versa. I also want to elucidate the differences between these approaches so that you can determine when one, the other, or both are appropriate.
For this analogy, your mind and body are your house, medical doctors are the fire department, and lifestyle/wellness practitioners are the contractors – the house maintenance and renovation experts. Now, imagine your house is on fire. It is an emergency. Who should you call, the fire department or the renovation and maintenance experts?
Because you’re savvy, I know you answered with the fire department. Now, what will the fire department do when they get to your burning house? Well, it depends on what tools they’re working with. What tools does the fire department have? The tools that they have developed are congruent with their goal to put out fires (treat disease risk factors and symptoms). They have axes and fire hoses (drugs and surgery). What will they use these for? They will use the axes to break out all your windows, chop down your door, and hack through your walls. They will use the hoses to soak all the walls and furnishings of your home.
What is the result? If you are lucky, if they get there in time and do not make any big mistakes, they will save the life of your house. For this you should be eternally grateful. Now, what is left after they put out the fire? A huge mess to clean up. In fact, your house is now in far worse shape than it was before the fire ever started. Think about it, what would happen if you did not have a fire but decided to use axes and fire hoses on your house. Would this not do damage to your house? Absolutely, it would! Now, apply that thinking to drugs and surgery for a second. What happens if you give a healthy person drugs and surgery? Do drugs and surgery not leave a mess, do they not damage the cells of the body and make your “house” less healthy? Again: Absolutely!
So now what will you do? Who will you call to restore your house back to health, back to the state it was in before the fire (or perhaps even better shape if your house was not well maintained at the time of the fire)? Would it be logical to call the fire department again? Do you think more axes and fire houses could ever restore your house to proper function? No, that is an absurd notion. Not as absurd as if the fire department claimed that they could do this, or that nobody else could help you, but nonetheless still very absurd.
Instead, who should you call? The restoration and maintenance experts! People with the tools and knowledge regarding what materials are needed to restore your house to working order. What tools would such experts need to have? Hammers, nails, paint, wood, wiring, and any other material that the blueprint of the house indicated were required. The tools available for restoration and maintenance are all congruent with their goal to restore and maintain the function of your house; they are the ingredients that your house needs for healthy functioning.
Now imagine if the fire department convinced everyone, including themselves, to judge the worth of the restoration and maintenance experts according to the ability to put out fires or their legal ability to use axes and fire hoses. Obviously, the restoration and maintenance experts would look pretty incompetent trying to put out fire with paint brushes and hammers. On the other hand, what if the worth of the fire department was assessed by how well they could restore and maintain a house. They would look as incompetent at this as the restoration and maintenance workers would at putting out a fire. Could you imagine the fire department showing up with axes and fire hoses and claiming they could improve the health and function of the house?
So, who is the better expert, who is more valid, who are ‘real house doctors’ and who are the ‘quack’ house doctors? Both are valid experts and real doctors. Further, neither are quacks if you assess them within their own paradigms, their own areas of expertise. The trick is to use these experts and their interventions at the appropriate times. The fire department should be the last resort – only when there is a fire. The goal is to never need the fire department. Conversely, the restoration and maintenance experts should be the last resort for a fire and the first and only resort for getting and keeping your house well. The goal should be to always use restoration and maintenance regularly or – even better – to get them to teach you how to take care of your own house.
The take home point is we need both medical doctors and wellness doctors on our healthcare teams. If we depend solely on medical doctors, they will focus strictly on alleviating symptoms and presuppose that you are well if you do not exhibit symptoms. That assumption is dangerous. Keep in mind that the top two killers are the “silent killers” – heart disease and cancer. At the same time, if we depend solely on wellness doctors we will miss the few occasions where a medical doctor’s opinion and treatment is warranted. Ideally, you’ll see your wellness doctor significantly more than the medical doctor, which indicates that the advice of your wellness doctor (that you consistently apply to your lifestyle!) is working to maximize your wellbeing.
See you soon so I can help you stay or get well!