Dr. Bruce Hoffman joins Pandora Peoples on WOMR and WFMR radio to discuss the origins of The Hoffman Centre and the benefits of the integrative approach to functional medicine. Dr. Bruce Hoffman utilizes the ayurvedic model through a program he developed called, The Seven Stages of Health & Transformation™ that brings to light the hidden causes of what may be making you sick, and what you can do to heal yourself.
A recent study has concluded that SSRIs, when treating for major depressive disorder, are not that much better than placebo. Depression as a symptom and as a formal diagnosis, is too simple a label to attribute to a person who feels and experiences life without joy or pleasure and who may have real physiological changes that render his/her life unpleasant, if not unbearable. By attributing a diagnosis to a person such as “depression,” the patient and the diagnosis become frozen in time and separated from all possible antecedents, mediators and triggers. All further enquiry into the timeline of causation comes to an end and the patient (and the doctor) now objectify and identify with the diagnosis, as if some foreign entity, called “depression” just mysteriously fell out of the sky. Add to this scenario the fact that ones entire medical school training is not aimed to enquire as to upstream causation. In the truest N2D2 tradition of medicine (name of disease, name of drug), we are trained to thread together a constellation of symptoms, arrive at a diagnosis and prescribe a treatment1; all under the 15 minute timeline and the approximately $40.00 fee that the Canadian health care system provides for a consultation. It does not take much to deduce that this is a hopelessly inadequate scenario and not one to foist onto ones worst enemy.
Depression, as a diagnosis, has a litany of possible antecedents (ancestral and genetic predispositions and inheritances), triggers (events that trigger the manifestation of the constellation of symptoms that coalesce to form a diagnosis) and mediators (lifestyle events and behaviours – diet, sleep, food, stress, exercise – that continue to contribute to the diagnosis). From ancestral trauma (that we now know to be epigenetically inherited), to early conception and birth trauma, to adverse childhood experiences and complex trauma, to head injuries, to genetic weaknesses in detoxification and methylation (creating scenarios of over and undermethylation) nutritional and hormonal inadequacies, to toxic insults such as mercury, lead, copper toxicity, mold, Lyme disease and co-infections, to sleep apnoea, to relationship struggles, workplace difficulties, transition from first half of life ego demands to second half of life soul demands; the list is long and complex.
Unless doctors/healers of the future are trained in a new paradigm (Functional Medicine is putting up a valiant effort to educate future health care providers in this methodology), have sufficient life experience and have spent a large portion of their learning years investigating and researching the multiple layers and levels of complexity (7 Stages to Health and Transformation) that may contribute to the origins and continuations of symptom or disease processes, you, as a health care consumer, will always be at the mercy of their experience (or inexperience) along this continuum. That is why it is imperative that all patients, as much as they can muster the lifeforce to do so, become advocates of their own health and treatment protocols. Patient self-advocacy, combined with a serious intent to do what it takes to get well, is always at the root of successful health outcomes. Or, if faced with a depressive illness or episode, we can hand over all power to the physician/healer we have consulted, take an antidepressant and hope for the best. Your choice.
In our last post, we discussed how most diagnoses don’t just fall innocently out the sky at some point in life’s trajectory and how easy it is, once a diagnosis has been made, for patients to objectify the diagnosis as something separate from themselves, the choices they have made and the life they have lived. This process of objectification of illness has been disparagingly called N2D2 medicine; the name of disease = name of the drug. Dr. Sydney Baker has termed it “name it, blame it. tame it” medicine.
This trend in modern medicine has a further interesting effect on the relationship between the doctor and the patient. By avoiding cause and effect inquiry, it limits the patient’s involvement in their own care and projects the power to heal onto some outer authority. The doctor is seen as all healthy; the patient is often seen as all sick. The patient frequently identifies with their diagnosis in order to derive some form of identity and meaning from this one-sided relationship. It is a means of barter and exchange within the allopathic system.
The implication is that when this transaction occurs, and the patient assumes the illness as an immutable, fixed, objective entity of sorts, the patient’s “inner physician” completely shuts down. Their desire for self-enquiry and self-advocacy for bringing all that it takes for themselves to heal their illness, closes off as the responsibility gets shifted onto the outer authority figure, whether it be a doctor, naturopath, psychologist or some other member of the healing profession.
This occurrence is particularly tragic because it has been my observation that it is the physician within the patient that needs to be activated to result in a true transformation. The inner physician’s healing action is as great as that of the physical doctor/healer appearing on the external scene. Similarly, if the inner healer is not activated by the conscious act of intention by the patient, the possibility of a true healing experience is somewhat dissipated. If nothing shifts in the internal dialogue and the mental field of the patient, if the patient is not fully engaged in cause and effect inquiry and totally committed to changing previous outcomes, then the possibility of something shifting at the level of the physiology is somewhat muted and no true, lasting transformation occurs.
For example, an herb is somewhat inert unless the individual consciously links the physical substance to their intentional mental field, engages their mind in a solution-focused way, and then in some mysterious alchemical process, activates its healing potential. This process is incredibly important to the doctor/healer and patient transaction. It has been much maligned in the traditional research as exerting the so-called “placebo effect,” but if the mind-body connection is real (and the evidence is too overwhelming to ignore), then why do we not factor this into the healing equation and give credit where credit is due? If, as a patient, one is not mentally engaged and in agreement with the outlined therapeutic interventions, it is highly likely that the healing effect will be significantly compromised.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “One of the greatest tragedies of modern medicine is that it’s just way too effective.” Put quite simply, traditional medicine works. Dr David Simon gives the following example: Let’s say that before you go to bed at night, you drink a half a quart of vodka with a cheeseburger and wake up at 3 a.m. with heartburn and pain. If you reach over for your Rolaids and within ten minutes, your heartburn is gone, what does that teach you? The lesson learned is to take your Rolaids before you go to bed at night! By taking the drug and suppressing the symptom, it completely separates you from that experience. It provides a short-term solution, but it does very little to link cause and effect in the creation of illness. And it does practically nothing to encourage personal responsibility in the process.
This attitude perpetuates the paradox of immediate sensual gratification versus that of eternal youth. Individuals do not want to feel symptoms they are experiencing; hence they suppress them, yet they also wish to live a healthy life in the absence of disease. Very little thought goes into the link between the two—how each act one performs has the potential to either assist the body in its healing process or hasten its trajectory to entropic disease states.
In an integral model, we are most concerned about how the patients have lived their lives up until this point in time. We want to investigate how the choices they have made, in all facets over the full span of their lifetime—from their food choices to their exercise regimes, to their familial and social relationships, to their work environment, to their spiritual practices—have influenced their symptom manifestation. It is also essential that people be familiar with the content of their thought processes and their internal dialogue, and how their perceptions of reality in the world are affecting them. We will see that all of these factors play a determining role in the kind of health or disease they will experience.
In modern allopathic medicine, individuals have been completely identified by their tissue diagnosis and the stage of disease, which leads to complete objectification of the individual and an absolutely material definition of health. It’s either this diagnosis or that diagnosis; that’s it. The patient is entirely divorced from the rest of their contextual interrelationships and stripped from a cause and effect relationship. Mark Wolynn, author of “It Didn’t Start With You” says: “diagnosis shuts down self-enquiry.” People are instantly transformed into cancer or a diabetes patient and deprived of their multiple interconnecting experiences. This contributes to the unconscious collusion between doctor and patient, based as it is on a faulty assumption that the disease process is entirely physically or biologically based.