Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Health insurance? Or disease and accident insurance?

A couple of months ago, Dr. Jonathan V. Wright featured a couple of articles in his newsletter that spoke to some of the issues that I've been slowly discovering through experience and sorting through in my mind.

In his lead article, Wright suggests we need to take a different approach to health insurance.

[W]hat's generally called "health insurance" really isn't about being healthy at all. It's about being able to pay for doctors, hospitals, and patent medicines--all of which are very expensive--just in case we get sick, or are in an accident. A more accurate term for this kind of insurance is "disease and accident insurance."

Real health insurance helps insure that we stay healthy! Real health insurance isn't cheap, but it's a lot less expensive than "disease and accident insurance." Real health insurance includes an excellent diet, appropriate exercise, a positive mental attitude, getting enough sleep, and avoidance of toxins, including tobacco and other addictive substances, and no more than a little alcohol.

But the most commonly consumed toxins--herbicides, pesticides, other agricultural and food chemicals, as well as artificial flavorings and preservatives--are somehow regarded as too costly to avoid.
Wright continues with a powerful argument for (doing what Sarita and I have begun to do in the last several months) avoiding conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables and eating organic instead. (See The Organic Center's report about the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods (19.5MB PDF) or, at least, the Executive Summary (1.8MB PDF).)

Are organics expensive? Oh, yes! But are they as expensive as the kinds of issues that the SAD (Standard American Diet) is creating in so many of us, the problems associated with obesity and inflammation and heart disease and diabetes? I don't think so.

On the other hand, as numerous people have pointed out, the federal government of these United States subsidizes the lousy foods (with our tax money) and then makes us pay full boat for the good stuff. (More about that subject in a later post.)

Wright concludes his article with the words,

While it's very important for optimal health to avoid as many herbicides, pesticides, and other agricultural chemicals, it's also now well established that organically grown foods have not only higher levels of many important nutrients, but a wider, more diverse set of nutrients than conventionally grown foods.

Now that's really "health insurance"! Why not buy it for your family?
A couple of pages later, Wright then quotes a letter he received from a doctor (MD) who has been moving more and more toward a "natural" or "naturopathic" approach to medicine.

He wrote to Wright with the following story about "what I see in practice much too often."

I thought, "Good grief! This is my experience!"

"Dear Dr. Wright," he began,

Sometimes it is a curse to have generous health insurance.

Last week, I saw a 55-year-old woman who is very, very sick due to insurance-covered treatment with patent medicines.

Ten years ago she had her gallbladder removed. She never was told about needing to take bile salts with oily meals from then on so she'd absorb lipid-soluble vitamins and other nutrients. [I have to ask my daughter, who just had her gallbladder removed, whether she has been told any such thing. --JAH]

Eight years ago she was said to have "gastro-esophageal reflux disease" (GERD) and has taken a proton pump inhibitor ever since to suppress her stomach acid. Nobody ever told her that stomach acid helps break minerals from their matrix (for absorption), helps break down proteins into amino acids, and keeps the stomach free of intestinal bacteria. [Yeah. No one mentioned that when my doctor casually prescribed Famotidine for my gastric reflux. Oh, yes! It gave me almost immediate relief from a number of problems for which I had not realized I could enjoy relief. Wonderful! . . . Until I started reading about the downsides of this approach to acid reflux. --JAH]

Seven years ago she was diagnosed with adult onset diabetes mellitus (AODM), hypertension, and hyperlipidemia and was put onto an insulin pump (her condition was too brittle for anything else), a statin to lower cholesterol, and strong anti-hypertensive drugs. She started to get muscle aches, cramps, and very poor endurance. Nobody told her that statins interfere with the body's ability to make Co-Enzyme Q10, nor did they put her on a healthy daily dose of Co-Enzyme Q10. [Gee! Is this surprising? I had the same experience. "You've got elevated cholesterol. Let's put you on a statin." --Now that particular doctor also put me on CoQ10, but he never explained that the two were related, nor that it might be possible to lower overall cholesterol and rebalance it through non-pharmaceutical means. --JAH]

Five years ago she started to get peripheral neuropathy (pain with numbness) and skin lesions, which she was told were of unknown cause. ("You have dry skin. Here, rub on this emollient cream.") More drugs for neuropathic pain.

Three years ago she was diagnosed with monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance ("MGUS"; overproduction of gamma-globulin from a single line of blood cells). Old Human tactic: if you don't know what it is, put a name on it to make it less scary.

Two years ago she was diagnosed with severe anxiety, so she was given Xanax and other psychotropics. . . .

Naturally, with all of this, her liver enzymes are up, and so is her creatinine (indicating early kidney failure)!

She is postmenopausal, but never has been tested, never been put on bio-identical hormone replacement. She can't sleep, of course, so there goes another patent medicine into the mix. . . .
Incredibly, the list of ailments and failed (and failing) pharmaceutical "fixes" continues!

Wright says this is a good description of "what 'great insurance coverage' can do to good health. It's a tragic description of how 'health insurance' can do exactly the opposite, actually insuring a more rapid progression of illness, as well as allowing disease to proceed because patent medicines never, ever address causes, but just cover up symptoms for a variable period of time."

How do you get off the conveyor belt of declining health? Wright suggests eating healthy foods and pursuing naturopathically oriented doctors like those you'll find through the American College for Advancement in Medicine, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, or the International College of Integrative Medicine. Of course, it wouldn't hurt to read a well-researched and heavily referenced newsletter like the one Wright publishes.
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