I have recently explored in some articles why medicine is caught up in a paradigm shift (see my recent posts, starting with A Brief History of Healthcare Inflation), from sick care to health care, of which it is only barely aware at the moment. On a practical clinical level it manifests in the shift towards true preventive medicine in the form of Lifestyle Medicine, at the metaphysical level it is about shifting from a purely physicalist, Newtonian view of the body to a more modern view, based on quantum physics, as was documented in the book The Quantum Doctor by Amit Goswami. Here I explore how the argument is coming together based on five very different, but in many ways complementary analyses of the landscape.
Definition of Paradigm Shift
To define paradigm shift in a sentence, it is a transition in our cognitive framework that typically starts when some empirical findings contradict the accepted model. Paradigm shift begins in earnest when we start seeing a pattern to those exceptions that can be mostly explained the same way. Examples of paradigm shifts include the discovery that the earth was round, not flat, and the discovery that the earth revolved around the sun and not the other way around. History shows why paradigm shifts can be difficult and painful, and psychologically, we should recognize the forces at work that want to maintain the old paradigm because the impending shift threatens the world we think we know. The transition from allopathic medicine towards lifestyle medicine, is the transition from extremely profitable sick care to preventive healthcare by opening the aperture and including nutrition in clinical practice – which is different from what allopaths call ‘preventive’ medicine. There are of course acute situations where medical intervention is necessary, or at least helpful, but they are far fewer than is commonly understood.
Modern Medicine Definition
For the sake of good order, by modern medicine I mean allopathic medicine, which became dominant on the strength of the germ theory of disease in the first half of the 20th century, and culminated in the fifties and sixties, as infectious diseases were mostly conquered, at least for the time being. The AMA exploited that success into the false pretense that allopathic medicine was the only scientific medicine.
After that time, it slowly lost itself in irrelevance because the predominant healthcare issues became the chronic, degenerative illnesses of which people in the industrialized world die today. The pills and procedures of allopathy have proven powerless in this regard, which is why an allopathic physician will tell you there is no cure for type 2 diabetes (T2D), but a doctor who is trained in lifestyle medicine will know that T2D can in most cases be reversed with diet in anywhere from 3 weeks to 3 months. Or a conventional cardiologist sells you on medical interventions based on the appearance of symptoms or even precursors of CVD (CardioVascular Disease) – but a plant based cardiologist puts you on a Whole Food Plant-Based diet and an exercise regimen, and says what CVD? As in these results, posted on Twitter by Dr. Danielle Belardo:
I started plant-based preventative cardiology clinic as a PGY-4, thanks to the support of my PD+APD. In— Danielle Belardo, MD (@TheVeggieMD) July 24, 2019
less than 2 yrs I’ve helped >150 patients transition to a whole food plant based diet, & help reverse their risk factors for CVD. This pt is no exception ❤️ #preventionfirst pic.twitter.com/QLKS8xQ1w6
The picture could not be clearer, the traditional cardiologist and the Lifestyle Medicine Cardiologist are worlds apart, in different universes, or, to use the term we are using here, they operate in different paradigms.
Five Different Angles, One Problem
- The discovery of why a paradigm is faulty always starts with an awareness that it fails in certain specific instances, and this is what has just been described in depth in a new book, titled Medical Nihilism, by philosopher of science Jacob Stengenga. This is an extraordinary book that highlights with scalpel-like precision where medical research tends to become delusional, and his conclusion is that we have to be much more skeptical of medical advice, in particular, about the safety and effectiveness of procedures and, in particular, pharmaceuticals.
The author clearly identifies the areas where modern medicine was very successful ( producing “magic bullets”), typically such things as fit the mold on which it grew, namely the germ theory of disease. He also identifies the areas in which it fails, which are typically the modern degenerative, chronic diseases and other areas like psychiatry, where it tends to under perform and over-treat, because it overestimates its own effectiveness and underestimates risk. In short, allopathy has its well defined niche (paradigm) inside of which it works wonders, outside of which it under-performs. The book is committed to the typical medical view that health is the absence of disease and it does not reach outside the disease fighting paradigm, but documents very well why we are apt to be fooling ourselves within that paradigm.
The author does not address the issue of the paradigm shift, but it seems very clear, for Lifestyle Medicine is about opening the aperture and including nutrition and prevention in medicine in a major way, which already opens the door to realizing that the purely physicalist view of the body is insufficient and in psychiatry this becomes absolutely acute. In conjunction with the other analyses referenced here, this limitation becomes quite obvious.
What the book does address is the systemic reasons why it is easy to recognize the clear winners, but self-deception sets in in particular in the more marginal cases, where there is a bias to overestimating the benefits and underestimating the risks. I would argue that the psychodynamics of this self-delusion are exactly about the unconscious need to defend the paradigm, because it is not working. The book stays within the existing paradigm of medicine however. It just argues we should do a better job. The next book looks at the failings of the existing medical paradigm from the point of view of clinical experience.
- As a doctor, Dr. Seamus O’Mahony, in his book Can Medicine Be Cured? describes his own lifetime experience and his sense that medicine culminated in the 50’s and 60’s, and has been sliding backwards ever since. He clarifies from his vantage point how the high point sort of was that notion of conquering most infectious diseases, which was the zenith of what the germ theory of disease could do, but after that, medicine sort of hobbled along without direction, trading on its old glory but never really advancing in spite of the pretense of progress. The very personal account from his own clinical experience will get your attention. In the context of the other issues raised here, it becomes quite powerful verification that allopathic medicine is a niche form of medicine that is currently over-extended.
- From a different angle, quantum physicist Amit Goswami, in The Quantum Doctor, highlights the insufficiency of the medical paradigm by explaining how our universe is one of downward causation, and not at all the Newtonian type of world where medicine seems to still be stuck a hundred years later. While I do not agree with the emphasis on Ayurveda in the book, the fundamental point of the need to update medicine in the age of quantum mechanics is overwhelmingly clear, and again, it makes sense in connection with all the other issues discussed here. I tend to use slightly different terminology about the mind than this book does, but conceptually I am in strong agreement. This book is very helpful for your understanding of the shift we are experiencing in medicine today. In the universe of downward causation, the body is in the mind, the body, the physical experience is an effect of a choice in the mind. In the physicalist universe the mind is an epi-phenomenon of the body, which makes no sense. In the quantum universe, the physical experience is the effect of a choice by individual consciousness from the hologram of quantum possibilities. On the clinical level, what I put in my mouth is a decision. Since this is about the sustenance of my body, and its ability to fight disease, every bite makes me either sicker or healthier. The theoretical framework, the new nutrional/medical framework comes from the work of T. Colin Campbell.
- The China Study and Whole by T. Colin Campbell, PhD., are the new nutritional paradigm, which is now slowly being integrated into a new tradition of preventive medicine, generally referred to as Lifestyle Medicine. Campbell, is a professor emeritus from Cornell, but now runs his own institute, the T. Colin Campbell Institute for Nutrition Studies. He ends up demonstrating how our reductionist reasoning in terms of assessing dietary supplements and drugs should always be controlled for diet, which is one way of exposing the fact that the medical paradigm needs work – specifically with controls who are long-time adherents of a whole foods, plant-based diet. The new paradigm is holistic, not reductionist, and we can expand that that to imply that we have to shift to the perspective of downward causation, and drop the physicalist/reductionist framework of ‘modern medicine.’ People on a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet of course will have none of the systemic, chronic diseases where medicine has trouble being relevant, exactly because these diseases don’t follow the mold, as they are diet related, and not due to some unitary external agent.
- To complete this story, one might consult Dr. Dean Ornish’s Undo it!, which is written as a personal guide to making the transition to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet. The books lays out clearly what Ornish calls the unified theory of disease, which simply boils down to this: the chronic illnesses on which our society spends 80-90% of healthcare dollars are all systemic in nature and rooted in bad nutrition – too much animal protein, refined and processed foods, fat, sugar, salt. Invariably the whole list, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, MS, RA, Lupus and other autoimmune diseases, IBD, Alzheimers and many others are all largely preventable and even partially or wholly reversible by the adoption of a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet and a healthy lifestyle.
In short, where the germ theory of disease, which was the focus of the first half for the 20th century, deals with a singular cause that can be identified and treated, the new lifestyle diseases of the industrial world are all systemic in nature, and if you start from the physicalist perspective, and disease fighting, they look like a wide range of different diseases, for their singular cause lies outside the aperture of the medical ‘disease fighting’ paradigm. When we change to the new paradigm and include nutrition and shift the focus to maintaining maximal health, before fighting specific conditions (symptoms), then everything changes, for the cause is one: diet. Diet and nutrition just happen to be excluded from medical education, until very recently, and it is only just beginning to be included here and there.
- Lastly, for those who have need to delve deeper into the metaphoric/virtual nature of our experienced reality, one could start with Einstein’s famous statement that we are non-local beings having a local experience, in a more rigorous and modern form, Bernardo Kastrup puts it all together in his work, and he sees it as his task to get the scientific world to shift to the quantum model of reality, and away from the Newtonian model of the physical world. A hundred years later, that should not bee to much to ask. Kastrup’s newest book at this writing, is The Idea of the World, and it is highly recommended reading for those who have need to put it all together.
Holistic, Quantum, or Lifestyle Medicine
At the beginning of the modern holistic healing tradition, the figure of Edgar Cayce looms large, the material that was recorded of him was predominantly about health and healing. This tradition is rooted in the New Age Trinity of Mind, Body, Spirit, which is strongly associated with the popular concept of holistic medicine and holistic healing. However, I would argue that it is not holistic in the true sense, because of the very fact that it is not clear about the relationship between mind, body, and spirit and de facto treats this as a sort of a New Age holy trinity, without any metaphysically coherent concept of what makes holism holistic.
Another important and influential thinker in this area was Mary Baker Eddy, who was very Biblically inspired in her concept of Christian Science, which focused on the mind as the locus of healing, but stumbled by denying the practical need of addressing the physical conditions. Apparently she came mack on her rigid stand in this area later in life, but in a way that was “too late,” as all kinds of suffering has followed from people taking her insights literally. However, as long as we are realistic about the need for physical ministrations, when indicated and useful, her approach is still an important one for emphasizing the role of the mind, which is in-line with the realizations from quantum physics about this being a universe of downward causation. In other words, at least she got the sequence of cause and effect right and that is an important principle.
Interestingly, the Whole Foods, Plant-Based lifestyle brings it together in a new and different way, but largely misses out on the psycho/spiritual dimension again, which I am attempting to supply here. What needs to be understood is that it is the patient who decides what they put in their mouth. The mind of the patient is the locus of the healing, the diet/nutrition is merely the tool for implementing that decision. On the practical level, #WFPB nutrition is “holistic” in the sense that it specifies whole foods over processed foods or supplements, which it considers inferior.
The Whole Foods, Plant-Based Lifestyle
Here is a presentation that brings it all together in a very enjoyable way and creates an easy understanding of the revolutionary nature of Lifestyle Medicine in creating the transition from ‘modern medicine’ and sick care, towards true healthcare.
The upshot of it all is that modern medicine is no longer modern, it rests on a limited model and tries in vain to be relevant outside the area where it is effective. The answer is that allopathy should accept its limitations, as part of this paradigm shift from fighting disease as modern medicine tries to do, towards maximizing and maintaining health, which is what Lifestyle Medicine and the Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet are all about.