Paradigms and Diet

This module was not quite where I expected to go, but as a Sociology major, I’m glad it was covered.

What the heck is a paradigm?

So, a paradigm is a model or structure for approaching new information, a way of thinking, our subconscious thoughts like how we view health and disease. Do we see it as localized or coming from the whole body?

We learned or relearned the scientific method and how it relates to how paradigms form. We start with observations, hypothesis, test it and report findings. That makes sense. But then industry gets involved, education, and media so that the current paradigm becomes a fixed truth and we forget other possibilities. We should rather be on a never-ending search for truth. There was mentioned that media is focused currrently on genetic causes of disease and I can see this. If we say it’s genetic, then we are helpless victims and it lets us off the hook a bit in terms of responsibility for things like our diet.

Change is Hard

Here, like anywhere, change is difficult. It’s slow and there’s resistance. The instructors talk about examples like handwashing in maternity wards and how people had a hard time believing that “invisible” organisms cause diseases. There’s also controversy that comes from religious institutions (think about evolution, climate change and even the debate over whether the earth rotates around the sun or the sun rotates around the earth).

Reductionism versus Wholism

Reductionism is studying how one thing (nutrient or a single body part) works in isolation. For instance the local theory of disease focuses on one cause. A more “wholistic” approach would see the whole body as a system or how multiple nutrients affect the outcome of the whole body system.

Because of our knowledge about a single body part, we can learn more about how it works within the whole system. But currently researchers lean toward focusing on having very focused studies because funding doesn’t go to wholistic “fishing expeditions”.

This relates to the infamous story about 6 blind men trying to explain what an elephant is. Easy describes a single body part: a leg, a tusk, the trunk, the tail, an ear, or the belly). But imagine this analogy but with each blind man is a doctor responsible for the elephant’s health. Each blind man would focus on only one body part and none would notice the other 5 areas (or the rest of the elephant!). They, as doctors, could never deal with the root causes that precede symptoms. Any treatments would only deal with symptoms, not prevention. This reactive sort of treatment means doctors treat each symptom as if it’s the entire problem. And since the real causes are ignored, symptomless return.

This about the last time you went to the doctor with a complaint about a symptom or group of symptoms. Did your doctor take the time to figure out the real cause? Or did he or she prescribe a medicine?

When I was dealing with my gallbladder, it took an act of Congress to get the GI to order a test for my gallbladder (It took from July until September just to get an appointment!) I had medication for my GERD and some mouthwash. When that didn’t help, the GI did an endoscopy. When that didn’t show whatever he was searching for, he seemed at a loss. Even though he saw a hernia, he said that wasn’t causing my issues.

I was a pest and finally at the end of October, he ordered the test for my gallbladder. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t advocated for myself. And at the follow-up appointment in December, I mentioned that I’d gone for food allergy testing and he seemed angry that I’d done that. To me I felt like my gallbladder was only part of the puzzle and I felt like I was causing myself misery from what I was eating. I was also still having trouble with my esophagus and I asked him if he thought it was from something I was eating (I considered sugar at the time). I felt like he looked at me like I sprouted a second head.

He was not up for discussing diet and even wrote in my file (visible to me online) that I “felt like” I had lost weight. At the time, I’d lost closer to 30 pounds, not an insignificant amount of weight. You’d think that someone having the issues I was, he’d be on me about losing weight, about my diet, and about avoiding the foods I was allergic to, because the digestive system isn’t just my gallbladder.

Rabbit holes and soap boxes, this class 😉