When I was a kid, if I’d get sick my mom would take me to the doctor. The doctor would do an exam, tell us what’s wrong, and then tell us what to do. I always got better. It was easy. We didn’t question it.
Then I grew up and became a doctor. I thought it would be the same way. Patients would come in, I’d do an exam. I’d tell them what’s wrong and what to do about it. They’d go home happy.
That has simply not been the case. And it’s not that I don’t figure out what’s going on with my patients, or that I don’t know how to help them, or even that they don’t get well.
The problem. . .is Google.
Today, through the wonders of the Internet, we all have instant access to tons of valuable information. When I went to school, we had to purchase and actually read really expensive medical textbooks that were huge and technical in order to learn about ALL the different health conditions, means of diagnosis, and treatments. But now days, anyone can do a Google search and find just about anything they want.
That being said, the typical patient comes in well versed on what they have decided is their personal health issue. They have already read 24 different blog articles on it, gone to the health food store to buy the supplements that these blog authors have recommended, know what everyone in all the chat rooms has tried, what has worked and what hasn’t. Sounds great, right? Like it would make my job SOO much easier. . .getting paid to verify what the patient has already found out on their own.
The other benefit I see here in the Google age is that many patients have been able to do their own research, finding answers to their health problems that quite possibly would have taken years to reveal through our current medical system. This has been such a blessing for patient after patient who has struggled with difficult, progressive health issues. In many cases I do believe that their doctors would have never figured out what was wrong with them, sent them to the correct specialists, or ordered the proper tests and procedures, and they would have fallen through the cracks of the medical system. Yes, this really happens. Far too often. And it’s a darn good thing some of these patients took their health into their own hands, or they would have gone in circles for another 6 months or 6 years, all while their condition continued to progress and no one helped them. So what’s the problem?
Well, here’s what happens. The patient starts to have a set of symptoms. They thoroughly research their symptoms for hours on multiple websites and find a long list of things it can be. They decide on one or two that are most likely (and usually most scary). They flip out, thinking they MUST have cancer or autoimmune conditions or something horrible and irreversible. They “doom” themselves right off the bat.
[ Now keep in mind that these are the patients I see in practice because those coming to me are either only interested in natural therapies, or they have been down every route with the medical community and gotten nowhere. ]
Next, they start researching “natural cures.” They go to Sprouts or Whole Foods or whatever their local health food store may be to get some nutritional supplements that someone online recommended or had some luck with. Others go to Costco or Trader Joe’s to get “cheap” supplements, not realizing that there is a HUGE Difference in Supplement Quality. But typically, by the time they decide to seek professional help in my office, whatever they have tried, has also failed.
Anyone can write anything on the Internet, but it doesn’t make it true.
The Real Issue
First of all, most people do NOT have the “worst case scenario” they find through their late night dance with Google. In my 15 years of practice, I can only think of a handful of patients who truly had anything medically serious or imminently life-threatening going on with their health. Most cases are the result of some lifestyle issue that is affecting the body, that when corrected, the body returns to normal (or in many cases, exceeds their level of health prior to their symptoms showing up).
Second of all, even when they get their self-diagnosis correct, their self-prescribed supplement regimens are simply not the correct formulas to help their particular issues. Let’s use the issue of Adrenal Dysfunction (a big topic out there). Most people don’t realize that there are essentially 7 different states of adrenal function, meaning that when tested, your adrenal function will fall without one of seven different categories of either function or dysfunction. Yet when you go to the health food store, you find one type of formula, usually for adrenal fatigue. Well, if you have a hyper-functioning adrenal gland and you give yourself something to further stimulate your adrenal glad, you are going to make yourself miserable. And then you may even conclude that supplements don’t work.
A Better Way
Keep in mind that a diagnosis is made through a defined cluster of symptoms. When a person has x, y and z, all at the same time, and also possibly combined with evidence from lab or imaging tests, they are labeled with a particular diagnosis.
In the functional work that I do in practice, we don’t go by diagnoses. We look at what’s really going on with the patient on a full-body biochemical, cellular, and nutritional standpoint. Diagnoses can help guide us, and yes there is a place for that. But ultimately, in order to restore true function to the body, (and isn’t that really the goal?), we look at what needs to change on that cellular biochemical level and how to accomplish that.
If you are totally obsessed with Googling your symptoms, go for it. Learn all you can; knowledge is power. Bring in what you find, but don’t be attached to it because ultimately, we probably aren’t going to treat your symptoms or your diagnosis, but instead, treat your BODY by giving it the nutrition it needs to restore its own health. It’s a totally different model of health, one that is the future of true health care.