You know your family doctor, your dentist, your skin doctor, but did you ever meet the doctor within you?
Well, to find out what I´m referring to we need to travel back 2,500 years…to the time of the Greek physician, Hippocrates, a doctor who is so revered, because he finally freed medicine from the shackles of magic, superstition, and the supernatural. He saw medicine as a rational science and for this, he is still widely accepted as the “Father of Western Medicine”. Proof of that is the Hippocratic Oath which many medical schools require potential doctors to take, at one point during their studies. Although there are now new versions of this oath, the core of the documents are similar in that they deal with the treatment of patients, the respect for confidentiality and the passing of medical knowledge to the future generations of doctors.
Unfortunately most graduating students never learn, unless they study on their own, that Hippocrates was a holistic doctor in that he treated the whole patient and not just the disease. He saw the physician as the servant and facilitator of Nature. All medical treatment was aimed at enabling the natural resistance of the organism to withstand and overcome the disease and to bring about the recovery, health and harmony to the afflicted person.
In his own words: “Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in it´s work. The natural healing force within each of us is the greatest force in getting well.”
That´s one powerful statement!
I thought: “I have a doctor in me?, where? what is he talking about?”
Then I pondered on these questions some more and it dawned on me that maybe the inner doctor he´s referring to is our own immune system, that wonderful gift of nature that we receive from our mother, as we pass through the birth canal. It works arduously, 24/7, to protect us and bring physical harmony to our bodies. Whether we´re awake or sleeping, it´s fighting our battles against external and internal invaders (viruses, infections, toxins, etc.). And, according to Hippocrates, all it´s asking us to do is help it and not hinder it, while it does it´s work, so that we can experience wellbeing.
It began to make sense to me!
How can we help the doctor within do it´s work?
Well, then he goes on to say: “Food should be our medicine and medicine our food”.
Could it be that simple? Was Hippocrates on the right track? Has modern medicine, with it´s overwhelming dependence on chemical drugs and invasive procedures to cure disease, lost it´s way. The growing mountain of evidence is showing that this indeed may be the case…as we head down a dark dead end street, where chronic diseases and premature death prevail?
T. Colin Campbell, Phd and author of the NYT bestseller “The China Study”, calls the paradigm under which modern medicine operates, reductionism, where science looks for truth only in the smallest details, while entirely ignoring the big picture. The popular expression “can´t see the forest for the trees” makes the point well, except that there´s much more at stake here than just trees and forests.
I remember the old Indian fable about the six blind men attempting to describe an elephant. One feels the trunk and describes the elephant as a snake. Another feels the tusk and describes a spear, a third says the leg is a tree trunk, and so on. All of the explanations have merit, but each individual´s conclusion doesn´t describe the whole, which in this case is the elephant. Once we see the elephant then the separate findings make sense.
With regards to nutrition, reductionism has played a crucial part in the development of
pharmaceutical drugs, with the accompanying side effects, and vitamin and mineral supplements to cure diseases…both multi-billion dollar industries. As a result, it becomes more and more difficult for us to accept real food as medicine.
Although considered the Father of Western Medicine, because of his holistic approach to health, one can see striking similarities between the system used by Hippocrates and Oriental medicine, where both consider the whole person and not just the disease.
Hopefully, one day doctors will accept and integrate the wisdom of Hippocrates into their practice. Then maybe we´ll begin to see a reversal of the current trend towards an increase in chronic diseases and premature death.
Until that day happens, maybe now is a good time to start taking charge of our own health.
How to do that? Check out my next post!