National Health Service or National Disease Service?

I have been a naturopath for forty years. In this time, but especially at the start, I was curious as to the difference between the medical approach to health and the naturopathic approach. I’ve also been asked the question over the years, “What is the difference between being a doctor and being a naturopath?”

I started my studies in naturopathy following fifteen years of science and chemistry, from school, through two universities and a decade of jobs. Science was my foundation.

Imbued with this academic background and respect for the scientific method, I thought to myself, “Doctors have it made. They have all the medical science and all they need to learn is which nutrient, herb or remedy to use in each situation, in place of their drugs.”  I now know that this way of thinking was naïve, that is not the way it works. There is a fundamental difference, an entire difference of philosophy, between the two.

The medical approach is largely aimed at the disease, at understanding the disease and at eliminating the overt signs and symptoms of a disease. If all signs of disease or ill health have been eliminated, the general assumption is made that the individual is fully healthy. Achieving this state of health is generally accomplished with the use of drugs. These are almost always substances that are foreign to the body, and almost always have toxic effects, although they are benignly called ‘side’ effects.  It is assumed and hoped that the side effects are less of a problem than the symptoms and signs of the disease themselves.

By contrast, naturopaths, plus nutritional and other related therapists, focus on the individual rather than the disease. They work on the premise that the body generally has an excellent self-healing mechanism provided it is given all the substances (nutrients) that it needs and not burdened with toxins or the adverse effect of a poor lifestyle. Therefore, naturopaths endeavor to find out what is lacking from the individual’s diet and lifestyle, or what toxins or unwanted substances or influences are present in the individual’s diet and lifestyle, that may be contributing to the problem. They then aim to correct this. The beneficial result may be achieved largely by providing nutrients and related substances that are lacking and removing toxins and harmful substances that are present.

Over the years this led me to think that the NHS is wrongly named. Doctors and the National Health Service focus on the presence of problems and disease rather than on the absence of health. They ask, research, explore and learn ever more about diseases and the disease process. They subdivide disease, naming subtle differences. They should more logically be called the National Disease Service.

Naturopaths do learn to understand the various diseases, it’s true, but they pay far more attention to the individual, on what is required to restore normal, good health, to restore homoeostasis, even, in many cases, allowing the body to heal itself, with whatever compatible help the naturopath can offer.

Naturopaths do learn to understand the various diseases, it’s true, but they pay far more attention to the individual and what is required to restore homeostasis and therefore good health, rather than just focusing on the absence of disease symptoms. In many cases, the body is allowed to heal itself, with whatever help the naturopath can offer. When faced with arthritis, a naturopath is more likely to consider the missing nutrients, and the dietary errors that are contributing to the problem, and then focus on correcting them.

Doctors focus on disease and its eradication, paying relatively little attention to the individual.

Hence, the National Disease Service

Naturopaths focus on the individual and the restoration of their optimum health, less on the disease:

Hence, the National Health Service

Ah well.  It is not a perfect world.

This remains true when we consider cancer.

The medical disease-based system is focused on the destruction and removal of the tumour, even if it causes a lot of unpleasant collateral damage.

Naturopaths focus on the restoration of fundamental good health and the avoidance of harm.

We can take this a step further.  The two main causes of cancer, according to the medical model, are bad genes and bad luck. This remains true even though we now know that the genetic mutation theory of cancer is not correct.

The naturopathic view is based on the Metabolic theory of cancer as elucidated, originally by Dr Otto Warburg and carried forward by others since. He suggested that the cause lies in a lack of oxygen and poor mitochondrial function and that these errors were triggered largely by a combination of the presence of toxins, a lack of beneficial nutrients and stress, mainly emotional stress and it’s consequences.

Never underestimate the restoration of normal health from the ground up. Beware of patching up or hiding the errors, and triggering the potential for future problems.