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Our bodies are so complex, and amazing that when you think about it, it’s a miracle that they ever work at all. However, things do go wrong, and disease rears its ugly head. Chronic disease is a major problem worldwide, with millions of people suffering from conditions such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease and many other disorders. Chronic disease takes a tremendous toll on those individuals involved, on their families, on our health care system, on our workforce, and on society as a whole. But what causes these chronic diseases?
This question is at the heart of Functional Medicine, which I call it “why medicine,” because in functional medicine we are always peeling back the layers of the onion to get to the underlying root cause of the problem. During my many years of clinical practice I developed a list of the fundamental root causes of disease that I used to help me solve the diagnostic riddle of complex patients, and to come up with an effective treatment plan.
A very real example of this was a super nice lady in her 50’s who presented to me complaining of terrible diffuse neuropathies. These were profoundly affecting her quality of life. She had seen three excellent neurologist. They made the proper diagnosis, and they put her on drugs, which did not help. She told me clearly from the first appointment, that I was her last hope.
If you’ll take a minute to Google the “causes of neuropathy” you might see an article from Mayo Clinic which clearly states that exposure to heavy metal toxins, such as lead and mercury, can cause neuropathy. Again, this does not come from some alternative quack medicine journal, it comes from Mayo Clinic, which is one of the top medical institutions in the world. However, it puzzles me that NONE of the excellent neurologists who evaluated this patient, thought about or tested for heavy metals. When she came to me I got out my list of causes of disease- the same list that I am sharing with you today. I went down the list of causes one by one, asking the question “Could this root cause be contributing to the patient’s neuropathies.” When I got to toxins, the light bulb went off. We tested for toxins and sure enough, she was loaded with lead. We then did IV chelation therapy, and got the lead out. It worked like magic- the neuropathies went away completely. That has been about ten years ago, and they have never come back. The patient was very happy and so was I.
Quite frankly, I am mystified as to why there is such a disconnect in “regular medicine.” Doctors seem to practice at a very superficial “symptom/pill” level. They come up with a diagnosis, and then, instead of probing the cause of the problem, they immediately turn to the question “What drug can I put this patient on, or what surgery does she need?” In the above case of neuropathies, perhaps it is because there is no block-buster drug for heavy metal chelation. If there was a pot of money at the end of the process for the drug companies or the doctors, then maybe they would look harder. I’m just sayin.’ Forgive my cynicism, but it seems to me like the drug companies and the all-mighty dollar are steering the health care ship these days.
So, without further adieu, I present to you my list of the causes of disease:
-Iatrogenic- problems caused by complications of medical treatment.
-Genetics and Epigenetics
-Alterations in the Microbiome.
-Trauma (physical, psychological, emotional, sexual)
-Allergies and Sensitivities
However, I eventually realized that many of these “causes of disease” are related to one another. For instance mitochondrial dysfunction, may be due to oxidative stress, which may in turn be due to poor nutrition, etc. So, taking this into account, I boiled my list down to its very basics- the Four Fundamental Causes of Disease. Which are:
-The Exposome- which means what our bodies are exposed to, such as toxins, food and socioeconomic factors just to name a few.
Where these 4 factors intersect is where disease emerges. It’s really profound if you take a minute to think about it. It’s an entirely new, different and exciting approach to health and disease than what we have been taught in the past.
Again, let me emphasize that this list is not just a thought exercise. This is actually a practical tool, which can be used clinically to figure out what is going on with a real live patient. This functional medicine way of thinking and practicing medicine, has the potential to help people who have fallen through the cracks of modern medicine. They are suffering, and cannot find answers elsewhere.
So I hope that you find this interesting and helpful in some way, maybe to figure out your own situation, and to get better, or to help you avoid disease in the future, and live a long happy life.
Take care and be well. jm
For more detailed informatin about Dr. McMinn's Root Causes of Diesase, check out Wellness Connection MD podcast #42.