The first step in Osteopathy is the belief in our own bodies. The next step is to advance that belief to an intelligent understanding. You will learn that the body is a self-creative, self-developing, self-sustaining, self-repairing, self-recuperating, self-propelling, self-adjusting, and does all these things on its own power.
— A.T. Still, DO
He showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans and recorded their word associations. “Guilt” was the top response. If that strikes you as unexceptional, consider the response of French eaters to the same prompt: “celebration.”
― Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto
I believe in a world where living in a healthy manner is not a burden or a chore. It is the most natural state of existence for us, as demonstrated by the above A.T. Still quote. I get excited about helping anyone to live the most healthy existence possible. I believe if each person within the ecosystem of a family and community is healthy, that will promote the health of the family, community, and world at large. What is good for me, is good for my family, which is good for my community, which is good for my world.
I am an Osteopathic Physician, which means I prefer to fight illness by removing any hindrances to help the body work normally, and letting the body heal itself. There is an equation we like to use to explain this model:
Host + Disease = Illness
If we think of illness this way, there are two ways people can get sick. They can have reduced defenses (more of a HOST component) which allows the disease to create illness. Or the disease can be very virulent, overcoming host defenses even if the host is doing well (more of a DISEASE component). Here is an example: someone coughs on a subway. Some people get the illness, some people do not. Why is that? If we focus on the HOST reasons why, we could say someone already had a weakened immune system from another illness, so she got sick. Someone else has a tendency toward getting sinusitis because of the structure of his sinuses, so he might get sick. If we focus on the DISEASE reasons why, we could focus on the dose of virus. Say one person was closer to the original person who coughed, thus obtained a larger dose of the virus, thus had a greater obstacle in avoiding illness. Maybe this strain of virus has some mutation which makes it better able to permeate cell walls and replicate, thus normal host defenses are not enough.
This form of thinking of health and illness was originated by A.T. Still, MD, DO. In Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine, “A corollary to Still’s revelation was that the physician does not cure disease. In his view, it was the job of the physician to correct structural disturbances so the body works normally, just as a mechanic adjusts his machine.” Today, we call these structural disturbances “somatic dysfunction.” Still said, “The most any Physician can do is render operative the forces within the body itself.” I believe that we all were created with the tools to heal ourselves… we may just need help finding and using them!
I work through this lens of optimizing patient function first, but there are many times when fighting disease requires more than optimizing patient function alone. I myself am an example of this. I have to take a medication every day to survive: insulin. There are times when healthy diet and exercise won’t cut it in managing an illness. At those times I try to work with patients to manage their illness with medications or surgery which have the least ill effects on their system. I do both. I think the reason I don’t have any complications from my longstanding illness is because of lifestyle choices, but I couldn’t survive without taking medication.
The areas I focus on to optimize patient well-being are nutrition, activity level, good structural function of the body, stress management, and connection to the community.