You really can't improve on nature

Originally published in the Kingston Whig-Standard. In 1903, Thomas Edison wrote these now-famous words; "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will instruct his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."

He was a smart guy but, boy, did he get it wrong. Globally, the pharmaceuticals market takes in $300 billion per year and sales are only going up. In our culture, we expect to go on long-term medications as we age. We expect that, as science advances, a specific pill will be discovered to treat each problem we encounter.

Concurrent with the success of pharmaceuticals, a movement has been growing. It is made up of health-care practitioners spanning every field and of patients who demand the very best care. These people have recognized the power of using nutrition, physical activity and a wide array of natural therapies to treat and prevent illness. I call this natural medicine.

As a naturopathic doctor, I am fortunate to be active in this movement and to witness my patients taking part in it. One of those patients is Veronica. Let me tell you about her.

Veronica came in to see me because she was feeling tired for no reason. Life was good, she was on a break from work. She had no other symptoms that might have given me a clue about the cause of her fatigue. I asked her a lot of questions and then we moved on to a physical exam, which also yielded nothing of interest.

"While I have this gown on, I'd like you to look at this," she said, and proceeded to show me a rash she had had for as long as she could remember. Her previous doctors had been unsure what the rash was and treatments had not had much effect on it. Veronica had been forced to get used to having a large, red, itchy patch on her back. She had given up hope that it would ever get better, and mentioned it to me merely so that I would have a complete picture of her health.

I was not sure what the rash was either - a lot of skin conditions look very similar. I sent Veronica for a comprehensive panel of screening blood tests. They all came back normal; there was no clear cause for her fatigue. (One might imagine that doctors spend their days coming up with accurate diagnoses and prescribing precise treatments. Actually, real people are much more complicated than textbooks.)

On a hunch, I asked Veronica to undertake what naturopaths call an elimination or hypoallergenic diet. It's not an easy thing to do - you have to avoid a lot of different foods - but she did it meticulously. Her fatigue diminished and, surprising both of us, her rash cleared up. All that remained was a darker colouring where her skin had been inflamed for so long. She was thrilled.

Here's the really interesting part: as Veronica started re-introducing foods she had been avoiding, the rash flared up; it became a very sensitive litmus test for whether or not a particular food was safe for her to eat.

I like this story, and thanks to Veronica for letting me share it, because it illustrates a few things; simply changing what you eat can have a major health impact; all the different systems in our body are interconnected; and, most importantly, do not give up hope - if what you are doing is not working, try something else.

This column is dedicated to bringing you the best of natural health information, to help you get healthy and stay healthy. It is about the care of human frame.

Maybe Edison did have it right, but his prediction is still in the process of coming true. In the same paragraph as the quote that opened this article, Edison also wrote, "There have never been so many able, active minds at work on the problems of diseases as now, and all their discoveries are tending to the simple truth - that you can't improve on nature."

Andrea Hilborn