Tom Ballard, ND's blog


“Why?” Medicine: Is your doctor asking questions?

No, this is not an article on “Why medicine?” I’m asking why “why?” isn’t asked by more doctors.

Example: Your blood pressure is high. Your MD doesn’t ask “why?” but writes a prescription for a drug that lowers blood pressure. Often the drug works. You’re content with the treatment because you know high blood pressure is bad. Every year you see your doc, assured your pressure is doing well on the medication, and the prescription is refilled. Happy ending?

Maybe not.

This same scenario also applies to dozens of other conditions – high cholesterol, high glucose, even a rash on your little toe. Something is wrong and a prescription for a drug that reverses that condition is jotted on a pad. You might call this “anti-medicine” – anti-hypertension, anti-cholesterol, anti-blood sugar, anti-inflammation (for the poor little toe).

The missing “Why?”

The above examples of anti-medicine all have something in common – your doctor never asked “Why?” Never said, “Let’s find out why your blood pressure (cholesterol, glucose, etc) is high and treat the underlying condition.”

What a concept – “why?”

Even your car mechanic asks “why isn’t this engine running?” before ripping your car engine apart. And, come to think of it, the smart mechanic doesn’t even resort to pouring petrochemical additives into your car’s engine until “why?” has been answered. MDs are smart people, why can’t they ask “why?” before advising a petrochemical drug?

Lack of asking “why?” might make you presume your 21st Century doctor believes that acts of God, foul vapors, or too much blood cause disease, just like his/her 19th Century ancestor. Benjamin Rush, MD (a signer or the Declaration of Independence) had an excuse for bleeding George Washington to death; he had no tools for asking why George had a fever. Medical wisdom of the day said that excess blood caused fevers so treatment was to bleed the patient. Ben followed the prescription of the day and George died prematurely.

In the 21st Century we know that microorganisms, bacteria and viruses, trigger fevers. When you show up in an emergency department with a fever, the physician will ask “why?” and do appropriate testing. The reason for your fever will determine the prescription – surgery for a ruptured appendix, antibiotics for meningitis, and fluids for a virus.

So, why isn’t your doctor asking “why?” about your blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose?

“Why?” Example

Your blood pressure is found to be high. Your doctor asks “why?”, does appropriate testing and finds you’re low in magnesium. You eat magnesium-rich foods or take a supplement and your blood pressure returns to normal. You actually feel better because the low magnesium was not only raising your blood pressure, but preventing you from relaxing into a good night’s sleep.

Magnesium is a natural relaxant for muscles and an important co-factor in many enzyme systems of the body. Most diets are deficient in it. Magnesium is the original, natural, calcium channel blocker (a drug that lowers blood pressure), utilized before drugs that mimic its action were developed. It also costs pennies and is not patented, so therefore is not taught in MD medical schools.

If “why?” is not asked then underlying reasons for disease are not found. Overlooking something as basic as, in this example, a magnesium deficiency, not only misses the opportunity for a non-toxic treatment, but predisposes you to other diseases associated with low magnesium – stroke, muscle cramps, high blood sugar, insomnia, and anxiety. And you’re unnecessarily risking drug side-effects.

Even natural practitioners do it

Just so MDs don’t feel singled out; the same lack of “why?” often applies to naturopathic doctors (NDs) and other natural healers. Yes, the herb valerian might help you sleep, but why aren’t you sleeping? If a practitioner of any stripe is prescribing something, even a natural something, without asking “why?”, then they’re doing you a disservice.

At your doctor’s, don’t settle for a circular answer: “Your blood pressure is high because there’s too much pressure in your blood vessels.” “Your blood sugar is high because your body isn’t utilizing sugar properly.” “Your toe is red because it’s inflamed.” Keep asking “why?” until the circle is broken and the answer is deeper, more fundamental.

How do you inspire your practitioner to ask “why?”? I believe it starts with you asking “why?” After all, if someone isn’t asking “why?”, then why medicine?

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[…] biggso wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptNo, this is not an article on “Why medicine?” I’m asking why “why?” isn’t asked by more doctors. Example: Your blood pressure is high. Your MD doesn’t ask “why?” but writes a prescription for a drug that lowers blood pressure. Often the drug works. You’re content with the treatment because you know high blood pressure is bad. Every year you see your doc, assured your pressure is doing well on the medication, and the prescription is refilled. Happy ending? Maybe not. This same scenario also applies to dozens of other conditions – high cholesterol, high glucose, even a rash on your little toe. Something is wrong and a prescription for a drug that reverses that condition is jotted on a pad. You might call this “anti-medicine” – anti-hypertension, anti-cholesterol, anti-blood sugar, anti-inflammation (for the poor little toe). […]

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