Alternative medicine changed my life. After successfully reversing chronic, debilitating auto-immune disease, I believed my experience with alternative medicine would convince my sister to follow the same route to health. Her battles with Lupus and heart disease left her disabled and living with pain, fatigue, and limitations every day of her life. She missed her formerly active lifestyle. She truly wanted to get well, but her values, her belief system, would not allow her to embrace alternative medicine. A former ICU and CCU nurse, she placed her faith in conventional treatment. She died.
A few months ago my eldest brother was diagnosed with lung cancer. I didn’t even try to argue the merits of alternative treatment. I knew better. He immediately began chemotherapy. Within weeks, he was dead. The treatment killed him before cancer had the chance.
I have not taken an antibiotic or any other prescription medication for more than 15 years (other than Novocain at the dentist). It’s not that I’ve never been sick—I continued to battle ear infections, sinus infections, even pneumonia. But I never resort to antibiotics. Instead I choose to use supplements and herbs, to aid my immune system, to allow my body to heal itself. As a result, I’ve suffered substantially fewer and significantly milder infections each year.
My friends, my family, my co-workers have all been aware that I embrace alternative medicine. Occasionally, they’ll even try one of my suggested remedies. But no matter how well it works, they tend to forget the easy, natural cure when the same symptoms strike a year later. And no matter how many times we’ve discussed my philosophies and success with alternative treatments, when I tell them I am sick, they tell me I need antibiotics. My success with alternative medicine has had little influence on anyone I know other than my children and my best friend, who now has one foot in alternative treatment and one foot in conventional treatment.
When I hear people talking about a health problem, especially chronic or potentially fatal conditions or diseases, I want to share information. I want to help. But unless that person is already open to alternative treatment, expounding my views is a waste of breath. The truth is, we all tend to stay in our comfort zones and maintain our world views. People who believe conventional medicine is science and alternative medicine is quackery tune out reports of 200,000 or more deaths each year from prescription drug complications (not overdoses, not the wrong drug, not illegal drugs—properly prescribed drugs), but their ears perk right up when they hear a news report that says a natural remedy caused one or two deaths. Facts don’t matter when our prevailing culture tells us conventional medicine is good and alternative medicine is bad.
The first time I encountered this blind indifference to the truth was soon after my eldest son was diagnosed with severe ADHD. I had read about treating ADHD through diet. When I mentioned the possibility of diet management to the diagnosing physician, he patiently and thoroughly explained that diet management didn’t work, sharing details about a study that had statistically proven it.
Undeterred and refusing to place my preschooler on Ritalin, I tried the dietary restrictions. Within weeks, there was not only an astounding change in my child’s behavior, there was a measurable change in his ability—concrete, fully measurable change. My child, whose artistic ability had been limited to drawing smiley faces and pictures of the sun (far below his age level), drew detailed pictures such as a bird in a cage with talons and feathers and a rocket ship blasting off, complete with flames, pictures that far exceeded his age level.
The only change in his world had been the removal of all food colorings, flavorings, and preservatives from his diet. In other words, he had eaten no processed foods.
The doctor did not want to discuss our success. He did not want to see my proof. Nor did he want to hear about my son’s astounding change in behavior. Success in treating ADHD through diet was completely at odds with his world view, even on a case-by-case basis.
In recent years, our society has grown to accept a few truths about health and diet. Now that the medical establishment tells us so, we believe a high fat diet rich in fried foods will lead to heart disease. Most of us also believe there is a link to type II diabetes. We accept the medically recommended changes in diet to manage those diseases, as long as we include prescribed pharmaceuticals. But most of us, even those of us who believe a healthy diet could have prevented these diseases in the first place, have a hard time imagining a healthy diet could offer a cure. The belief that food has the power to heal, or that food can give the body what it needs to heal itself, is so foreign to today’s modern medical approach it is rejected out of hand.
On Facebook, Michael (Editor and Chief of OLM), posted his belief that we are responsible for our health, that getting healthy is easier than most of us think. “It’s getting over the brainwashing that’s tough,” he said. “Most people could rid themselves of most any disease from cancer to diabetes in a few months or even weeks.”
Michael’s post really offended a few people who vehemently reacted to the idea that a cancer “victim’s” lifestyle choices may have led to the disease. While it is acceptable to assume lifestyle choices lead to heart disease, it is not as acceptable to reach the same conclusion in regards to cancer, unless, of course, we blame the pack-a-day smoker for contracting lung cancer.
The statement that we could actually cure cancer also set off a firestorm. ”If you know between diet and how to cure cancer, why isn’t it on the front page of the newspaper? Why isn’t it on the news?”
Max Gerson’s therapy has been curing cancer for 80 years. So, I ask you, why isn’t it on the news? Why aren’t we hearing about the miracle cures? Why don’t we hear the personal testimonies from people who were told their cancer was incurable or inoperable, who went on to recover through nutritionally based therapy? Why aren’t we hearing from the women who chose nutrition-based therapy over a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation, who are cancer free 20 years later? Or the men with testicular cancer? Or the cases of melanoma?
Yes, cancer is big business in this country. Yes, pharmaceutical companies run conventional medicine. But it’s more than that. Truly caring physicians believe that not one case of cancer has ever been cured by Gerson’s therapy or any other alternative treatment. Even when presented with first person accounts from a patient who fully recovered through alternative therapy, many otherwise intelligent, thoughtful physicians will find some means to disregard the obvious truth that lies outside of their value system. “They never had cancer in the first place,” they say. Or they decide the prior chemotherapy or radiation deemed a failure, had worked after all.
Why is the success of alternative medicine so blatantly ignored or dismissed? Perhaps it is a case of what Yale University calls cultural cognition. According to this theory, astute, intelligent people are prone to disregard facts that do not align with their cultural values. Information that does not support the prevailing value system is not believed, regardless of its validity or persuasiveness. If cultural cognition is the culprit, what values of conventional medicine are in conflict with alternative medicine?
Looking back at the cultural history of disease and treatment, we realize humankind saw disease as something outside of the body—ill fate, a curse of the gods. The patient wasn’t responsible for his or her health. The patient was the victim. In many ways, conventional medicine perpetuates this thinking. We get sick. We take drugs and we get well. Alternative medicine does not support this way of thinking or living. Alternative medicine forces us to take responsibility for our health by recognizing that we create or destroy it.
In order to be healthy, we must eat nutrient dense, live foods. We must exercise and get good quality sleep. We need to laugh, to play. We must minimize chemical exposure and detoxify the body.
Far too many of us place a higher value on convenience. We live fast lives. We eat fast foods. We buy them at the drive through. We pop a package into the microwave or we open a can. We live on chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and hamburgers. We don’t get near enough sleep so we down high caffeine energy drinks and coffee just to make it through the day.
We dye our hair. We lather up our skin with chemicals, and spray more chemicals into our armpits and onto our hair. We use more chemicals to clean our homes and to sweeten the air. And when our bodies give out, we blame our genetics rather than consider the possibility that our lifestyle could be at fault. When we seek out treatment, will we choose the fix that requires a complete overhaul of the lifestyle we have chosen? No. Not a chance. We choose the treatment that aligns with our values. We choose to be the victim. We choose to place our lives in the hands of our doctors. We choose what is easy, even when our lives are literally at stake.
As a society, our only hope to change this aberrational, mainstream perception of health and disease is through education and example. The more people are faced with the truth, the more they read, hear, and see the miracle of natural healing, the more they will open their minds to the possibility that our bodies are miraculous and that health begins and flourishes through a diet rich in organic, nutrient dense foods.