Conventional Medicine: “The Tip of The Iceberg”

By Dr. Eric M. DeYoung, ND, OT/L

According to the World Health Organization; “The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance.” WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland says: “The main message from this report is that the health and well-being of people around the world depend critically on the performance of the health systems that serve them. Yet there is wide variation in performance, even among countries with similar levels of income and health expenditure. It is essential for decision- makers to understand the underlying reasons so that system performance, and hence the health of populations, can be improved.”

 Dr. Christopher Murray, Director of WHO’s Global Programme on Evidence for Health Policy says: “Although significant progress has been achieved in past decades, virtually all countries are underutilizing the resources that are available to them. This leads to large numbers of preventable deaths and disabilities; unnecessary suffering, injustice, inequality and denial of an individual’s basic rights to health.”

As an Doctor of Traditional Naturopathy and Occupational Therapist clients come to my practice when the conventional medicine model hasn’t improved their level of health, didn’t offer them solutions to their conditions or in some cases actually caused them more harm than good. These are unfortunate truths for many in the United States and even in other countries. Clients are intuitively seeking solutions for their state of health and ultimately not seeking medication or surgery as their only options. Far too often the conventional medical model teaches’ “Feel Better” as their motto towards “health and wellness”. Simply feeling better is the attempt at only touching the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The tip is only on the surface, the majority of the mass of one’s health is below the surface and beyond the symptoms. Conventional medicine, as a philosophy and business, attempts to treat the immediate symptoms which are absolutely necessary in an acute urgent situation where life and death are literally in the hands of the physician. “Feeling better” implies that you have achieved baseline health. When your symptoms are reduced, masked or suppressed you should “feel better”. However, the root cause for your symptoms occurring in the first place have not been dealt with and often clients have no direction or plan or even understanding as to why they had symptoms of ill health to begin with. The base of the iceberg has not been addressed leaving still a mass of ill health choices, behaviors and conditions unaddressed.

True wellness on the other hand, is based on the idea that one’s health is more complex and deserves greater education and service helping the client achieve independence from the medical model, seeking advice and clarity in their efforts for supporting health without medication management and empowering the client to assume responsibility for their health choices and not be dependent on a healthcare provider dictating and telling them what they must do for their health. For chronically ill clients with years of metabolic distress and unresolved pathology, our model must adapt to include true prevention and true wellness. A quick fix hasn’t worked and more pharmaceutical treatments hasn’t been the solution when as a society the United States consumes the most but is still 37th in the world.

In my professional opinion the basic difference between true wellness and the standard practice of symptom management lies in the practitioners’ knowledge and experience in nutrition based medicine. Having treated tens of thousands of clients with chronic medical diagnosis there are common denominators shared by the majority and that common connection is lack of knowledge and appreciation for true nutrition. This is appreciated in several medical articles and journal discussions.

“Nutrition plays a critical role in numerous pathophysiological conditions, including such prevalent diseases as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.Despite the recognition that physicians are often called upon to provide guidance in nutritional aspects of disease and disease prevention, nutrition has not been consistently emphasized in medical school curricula. Indeed, numerous reports suggest that nutrition education of physicians remains inadequate.A 1997-1998 analysis of data provided by the Clinical Administrative Data Service of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) found that only 33 accredited U.S. medical schools (26%) had a required nutrition course [An average of 18 ± 12 hours of nutrition was required, including material integrated into other types of courses.] . Other reports on the status of nutrition in medical education have presented a similar picture. Over the years, such reports have led to frequent calls for increased emphasis on, and reform of, nutrition education of physicians.(Survey of Nutrition Education in U.S. Medical Schools – An Instructor-Based Analysis; Frank M. Torti, Jr., Kelly M. Adams, MPH, RD, Lloyd J. Edwards, PhD, Karen C. Lindell, MS, RD, Steven H. Zeisel, MD, PhD).

 Nutrition is the critical link to true health and true wellness in this country and around the world. As a society we must engage in improving the quality of food choices made available to us in our grocery stores, our children’s’ cafeterias and in our local restaurants. We are over consuming empty calorie foods, Genetically Modified (GMO) foods, processed, overheated, packaged, container and fast foods which are filled with toxins, poisons, hormones, antibiotics, vaccines and other synthetic and harmful ingredients which affect your health, your child’s health and the health of developing fetus health. This complicates our health and amplifies our need for medical management.

“Recent research shows 45 percent of high-fructose corn syrup in commercial food products contains mercury, a known toxin, Dr. Anne Kelly (former faculty member in general pediatrics at the University of Minnesota) told a group of medical professionals in Peoria (2010). We have an estimated 10,000 new chemicals in the environment and no idea what the effect is on children,” she said. “With this multitude of chemicals, the reality is we don’t know what we’re dealing with.” In 2009, two U.S. studies found that nearly half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup contained mercury. On average, American adults consume about 12 teaspoons daily of high-fructose corn syrup, but teens and other high consumers take in up to 80 percent more than that. “Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be an additional source of mercury never before considered,” Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is just one of many examples of food contamination and environmental toxins. Ever heard the statement’ “you are what you eat”? There is a great deal of truth to this statement. Now if you eat a chicken you are not going to turn into a chicken. But what the chicken was raised on will be ingested by you when you eat it. As long as farmers are allowed to spray environmental toxins on the food they produce, they will be poisoning you and your family along with the insects they are trying to kill. These pesticides are in the actual flesh of the produce, carried by the winds far from the field where they were originally sprayed; they are in the soil, in the groundwater, in the fish that swim in the water and in the animals that eat the feed that were sprayed and consumed by your body.

Children are also more sensitive to environmental toxins than adults so the damage from environmental toxins often manifests sooner in babies and children. According to the National Cancer Institute, cancer incidence among children under the age of 15 increased 32% between 1950 and 1985. It has also been estimated by researchers that there is a large percentage of cancer occurrences caused by exposure to environmental toxins found in our food supply. It is overwhelming trying to capture all the news, research, updates, journal articles, marketing ads, etc. It is time that the people of the United States take a stand for true health and true wellness by educating yourself about health, nutrition, proper supplementation, healthy clean food and water and be empowered to discuss this with your physician. You might be the only real source of information and can partner with your healthcare provider in ensuring you go from “feeling better’ to being “well”.

That being said, we have an opportunity to make great changes in our healthcare delivery system, in the recommendations and choices available to clients and to properly educate our healthcare providers about true nutrition and wellness. As a consumer you too have choices to make. Instead of driving through the fast food line why not consider packing your lunch with food from your home garden, stopping for a sit down meal and choosing healthy/lite meals; or going to the grocery store and buying something fresh to eat. Instead of buying a soft drink consider filtered water or a veggie juice drink, a real fruit smoothie or some herbal tea. Next time you go out with your family to eat use the time to educate your children about healthy food choices. If you make meal times educational you are more likely to make healthier choices and you encourage your children to make good choices too. Choose side items where most of the fruits and vegetables are located, salads and soups and consider sharing entrees to control portions and conserve costs and reduce waste. By asking for filtered water when you are out to eat you can save about $2.50 by per drink not buying tea and soft drinks.

Be conscious about the foods you eat. Consider that everything you put in your body is supposed to give you proper fuel, energy, vitamins, minerals and healthy probiotics to support your immune system. Reduce your sugar content from simple sugars (not fruits) and increase your proteins from non-dairy/animal sources like beans, rice, quinoa, seeds and nuts. Rather than go sit on the couch after dinner or run right back to work go for a walk, take a bike ride, do some sit ups or push-ups. Consider joining a fitness or wellness center as a family, again, encouraging everyone to be responsible for their health habits. If you are constantly around negative unhealthy people, you might need to move away from them and resonate around healthier more positive people who will support a healthy lifestyle.

Whether we want to admit it or not, our health is our choice. We can make changes today regardless of what the medical reports suggests, regardless of the EPA report, regardless what your parents taught you. You have choice to guide you towards a healthier lifestyle. If you are always thinking about living a healthy lifestyle then you will always be considering healthy choices. It is not alright to blame your family history, your doctor, the pharmacy or the food industry. You can grow your own foods, buy organic produce, prepare your own meals and make healthier choices regardless of where you go to eat.

“Let food by thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Stated by Hippocrates centuries ago, we have gone far away from this concept in this country. I invite you to explore the health value of eating really healthy foods. Educate yourself and your family on the value of herbs, medicinal plants, organic produce and talk with your health care provider about alternative options for improving your health. Build a relationship with a local grocer, join a local co-op, learn to grow even a small garden at home and meet your local farmers at the Farmer’s Markets. Food should be used for health improvement and wellness management not just for socialization and falsely making yourself “feel better”. Remember, below the surface of the ocean lies a mass of health requiring your attention. Improving what you consume will continue to chip away at that iceberg. Read more about personal empowerment and personal inspiration in my book How to Live a Happy, Healthy, Wealthy & Safe Life!

Dr. Eric M. DeYoung, ND, OT/L is a licensed Occupational Therapist, trained as a Doctor of Traditional Naturopathy and is a Certified Holistic Health Practitioner with advanced training in Naturopathic Endocrinology through the California College of Natural Medicine.

He has taught adjunctively graduate and doctoral level students Introduction of Occupational Therapy, Applied Kinesiology, Anatomy & Physiology, Medical Terminology, Gross Anatomy, Ergonomics and Industrial Rehabilitation. He has authored the book How to Live a Happy, Healthy, Wealthy & Safe Life! which teaches chronically sick patients how to recover their health through Validation, Inspiration and Affirmation.

Dr. DeYoung’s career spans the entire life cycle from pediatrics to geriatrics having worked in hospitals, trauma centers, outpatient, inpatient, skilled nursing, long term acute care, industrial rehab and home health. He currently owns Occupational Kinetics (IBOR) providing occupational therapy at work to injured employees and the Center for Alternative Medicines, a fully integrative holistic medical center ( and most recently launched DeYoung Naturals ( an online holistic medicine store.

Dr. DeYoung’s treatment philosophy is rooted in the field of Functional Medicine which believes that the core clinical imbalances that underlie various disease conditions arise as environmental inputs such as diet, nutrients (including air and water), exercise and trauma processed by one’s body, mind and spirit through a unique set of genetic predispositions, attitudes and beliefs. As a Doctor of Naturopathy and Occupational Therapist, he believes that the connection between functional recovery and wellness is the link between the mind and the body. “Utilizing a holistic and integrative approach will allow all clients to achieve wholeness, empowerment and functional independence.”

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