by Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Part 3 of 3
The notion of retreating to become well isn’t only a Native American idea. Prior to pharmaceutical therapies, bed rest was one of the most commonly prescribed treatments by both conventional and traditional practitioners. In Japan, “quiet” therapies, involving isolating patients completely for days or weeks are a regular practice. Patients are left alone in a room for seven days without television, radio, or social interaction. They are permitted only basic necessities like food and bathroom privileges. After one week they are gradually introduced back into society by engaging in menial tasks. The third and fourth weeks are times of intensive spiritual and emotional therapy. This isolation allows patients to have not only time for serious rest, but also the opportunity for serious introspection and life review. These practices have their roots in Shinto philosophy and were developed by the Japanese physician, Morita. These practices teach patients that their emotions don’t have to rule their lives or seriously affect their health since they are fleeting experiences of the mind.
True traditional medicine takes into account the body, mind and spirit. Native American Healing techniques and Japanese “quiet” therapies offer strong paradigms for treatment of the mind and spirit. Functional Medicine, a contemporary integrative approach founded by John Bland, is a science-based health care system that assesses and treats the underlying causes of illness through individually-tailored therapies. Three basic tenets are involved in Functional Medicine: 1) Biochemical Individuality, 2) Health as Positive Vitality, 3) Function as Homeodynamics.
Biochemical Individuality is the concept that each individual has a unique set of characteristics. Unlike conventional medicine, Functional Medicine contends that individuals respond differently to environmental toxins, medications and foods. Each person has his/her own unique biochemical patterns including how information is processed between cells and body systems, and metabolism of nutrients.
Health as Positive Vitality offers an innovative approach for practitioners to interact with patients. Instead of focusing on the illness, practitioners are encouraged to take “wellness” histories to discover what patients were doing when they were healthy and what they have done in the past that has made them feel their “best.”
Function as Homeodynamics examines how homeostasis works in the body. Conventional belief contends that homeostasis is a system of interconnected components which function to keep physical and chemical components like temperature or blood sugar relatively constant. The Homeodynamics theory of Functional Medicine believes that instead of homeostasis a similar system exists that functions to maintain not physio-chemical constancy, but biochemical individuality. A Functional Medical Assessment would include laboratory studies that examine immunofunction, metabolism and the level of environmental toxins in the body.
While these approaches in no way replace conventional therapies, they add new dimensions to therapies that afford patients the opportunity to explore their wellness. Most importantly, they provide the time and individualized attention that is sorely lacking in our current system.