CAM EducationDiabetes MellitusDiet-NutritionExerciseMetabolic SyndromeStress

A problem endemic to clinical medicine: treating the symptoms, not the cause

Here’s a series of quotes from the October (Volume 12, 2006) editorial in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine that I think contrasts the points of view between alternative and mainstream medicine today. Is the alternative perspective too esoteric to be of practical value? Or is the mainstream approach (for chronic diabetes for example) destined to come up short? Or is the answer somewhere in the middle?

Gerald Reaven, the physician who first coined the term “Syndrome X,” later called “metabolic syndrome,” believes that while the name is useful in research, the concept has no clinical utility. “it distracts from the more important task of identifying and treating each risk factor separately and aggressively — control the blood pressure, the lipid profile, the inflammation, the coagulopathy, and the glucose metabolism.”

From an alternative medicine perspective, by “understanding that illness has purpose and that disease is generally rooted in the body’s attempt to correct underlying imbalances or dysfunction, we can seek to not alter, block, or interfere with normal metabolic processes, but to learn how to enhance, facilitate, and promote normal function. Symptoms are clues to deeper molecular, metabolic, and psycho-spiritual problems. They are welcome signposts guiding us to the imbalances, dysfunction and causes of illness. Symptoms are not enemies to be silenced, but friends that can orient us in the maze of metabolic accommodations resulting from the collision of genes, environment, and lifestyle we call disease.”

“Disease is not a natural consequence of life to be accepted, but a reflection of the loss of the natural and evolutionary conditions necessary for self-regulation and healing. It is the body’s best attempt to restore balance given a difficult set of circumstances. Learning to restore our capacity for self-regulation and metabolic equilibrium is the hope of the next generation of medical scientists and practitioners.”

The author of this editorial, Dr. Mark Hyman proposes, “that diabetes is a clinical model for a problem that is endemic to clinical medicine … treating the symptoms, not the cause … and that understanding how to improve the biological terrain; optimize nutrient status; improve gene expression through specific nutrients and phytonutrients; and regulate immunity and metabolism via lifestyle interventions such as diet, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep collectively can have a much greater impact than any pharmacologic treatment.”

10/9/06 22:53 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.