Alternative Therapies Are Not Anti-Science

My mom recently sent me this article by Simcha Fisher, a well-known and articulate Catholic woman who blogs over at National Catholic Register. While I don’t usually go all “Catholic” on here, it is a nutrition blog after all, I thought this would be a good avenue to address her article and some of the fallacies that were in it. So, here goes.

First and foremost, it sounds by the voice of the article that you (Simcha) have never had an adverse diagnosis for a child (in the case of my parents) or a sibling (in my case) where the doctors tell you that they have no idea what is going on and how to treat them. There is nothing more terrifying than watching a family member waste away, unsure of what to do and being told by the Western medical community that they’ve exhausted their options and having three doctors who are in disagreement with each other over treatment options but all of them damaging to your loved one. This was my reality. I found myself questioning my degree, a Bachelors of Science in Arts and Letters with a concentration in human anatomy and physiology. I found myself questioning the very essence of our nature. Our bodies were created perfect… so why are we so diseased? Surely, this can’t all be the result of Original Sin. And, most importantly, I questioned the western medical and scientific community.

Thankfully, my mother is a woman who has her wits about her and is a stubborn Irish/German/Native American Catholic woman. She didn’t waste any time looking into every single alternative form of healing – within the guidelines of the Catholic Church. Long story short, countless hours of research spent reading medical studies published in various medical journals resulted in our turning to a naturopath who was able to help my sister and my mom delved into the research world of the nature of nutrient absorption and we were able to start getting food in her body that she didn’t instantly reject – no thanks to the conventional doctors, who had put her on two same-class antibiotics and a steroid. The adverse side effects of that combination are still haunting her to this day and it is only through diligent attention that she is able to hold the effects at bay. She suffered from extensive mitochondrial damage in addition to cartilage damage. And we followed the doctors because they are the professional and went to school for this. Never mind that multiple studies, including the drugs’ own websites, state clearly that this is never to be done (we found this out later when we were researching what was now wrong with her). Western medicine failed us. They left us stranded and in the dark.

I was told that my biomarkers were such that I was headed down the same health road at a high-speed rate. At the time, I was planning my wedding. The last thing I wanted to hear was that something was wrong with me and that I had a risk of dying as well. No. Thank. You. I had a new life that I wanted to live and I wanted to be around for as long as possible to live it. So I started looking at alternative therapies as well. Both she and I found our respite with diet and proper nutrition. 

Fast forward a few years and this past spring that same sister gave us all a run for our money… again.

I found myself in an ER room with her, her vitals unstable, slipping in and out of mental clarity, the doctor telling us by no means to let her fall asleep and then a last minute transfer to a Neuro-ICU. It was quickly followed by an emergency brain surgery that couldn’t be postponed 10 minutes until my parents arrived. Once again, I was terrified. I begged our neurosurgeon to let my parents be caught up to speed so they could approve the surgery. I was told that she didn’t have the 10 minutes needed to do that, that the pressure on her brain was too great. I found myself bargaining with God. I was terrified and desperate. She’s my best friend and wasn’t allowed to leave me – I can’t imagine my journey on this Earth without her. I approved the surgery (the easiest and hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life) and our very talented neurosurgeon and team of Western medicine-saved professionals saved my sister’s life. I will be eternally grateful to that gifted surgeon and his team – they were our guardian angels.

Most people who are like me have similar stories – it doesn’t matter what your religion, or lack there-of, is. It takes a lot for one to leave what one has grown up with and go against the beaten path. It’s not something that’s done casually or without calculating the risks. Usually we are forced to look elsewhere because somehow western science has failed us on a very basic level. My story is no different.

There are many things that western medicine excels at. Our capability for surgery is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. The fact that you can perform surgery on a little part of the brain no wider than a straw from McDonald’s, leave a hole in the head… wait. There was no hole. It was a tiny crack in the skull, and a teeny tiny scar, is just phenomenal. Science is so cool that way. But, like all human-made things, it has its limits. And that is where other healing traditions come into view. The world is such a beautiful and vast place and the contributions of different cultures are many. To throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, and only look at one tradition is myopic and not very Catholic.

So, Simcha, your overarching generalization that those of us in the alternative health community are all crazies is unfounded. We eat food that our ancestors ate precisely for that reason. They ate it and their overall health was better. I’m not talking about disease from lack of sanitation. I’m talking about degenerative diseases. Looking around at our modern society, it is more than abundantly clear that many of us suffer from some sort of degenerative disease that was virtually unheard of 100 years ago. Diabetes, heart disease, infertility, thyroid disease, asthma, allergies – all of these diseases have had an uptick in society over the past century. And all we get from western medicine is a band-aid. A “Go home and take this drug. Here are the side effects but never mind those. Oh, and you’ll have this disease for the rest of your life so you’ll just have to learn to live with it.”

From a Catholic world view, I know that we were meant to live for so much more, but we’ve lost ourselves. We’re not meant to live a sick and unproductive life. We’re not meant to be miserable in this world. It’s not in the Divine plan. The question that an astute person should ask themselves, not out of fear, but out of an innate drive to heal themselves is “What are we doing wrong?” Obviously something because health care needs are on the rise and, according to various government offices, there appears to be no end in sight.

My own personal healing journey, combined with my background in science, has led me to nutritional therapy. A wonderful program that looks at each human as a bio-individual with individual nutritional needs and an approach that we’re not “one size fits all”. I love it. It’s in keeping with Catholic teaching that we’re all created in His image and we’re all unique – there is no one else quite like us.

Nutrition is approached with a foundational platform, what you put in your mouth affects your overall health. So, if you put those chemicals that you can’t pronounce into your mouth, rather than the nutrient-dense and properly prepared whole foods that our ancestors ate for a millennium, what do you become? Our bodies are not engineered to eat man-made chemicals. We are engineered to eat simple foods that give us sustaining energy to get through our day. When we sway from that path, we become less-effective machines, wasting energy, gathering toxins and running inefficiently. This isn’t “woo-woo” quack science. This is basic science. If you give an organism what it needs, the body is going to do its part in maintaining a well-run system. Sure, every once in a while you need a tune-up (think a detox). But we know this from a spiritual sense as well. Lent is our spiritual tune-up. A nutritional detox is a physical tune-up. It makes logical sense when we see ourselves in light of being embodied spirits – both aspects of self must be well cared for.

Those of us in the alternative healing community are following the scientific method. St. Albertus Magnus, the founder of the scientific method, believed that the Bible contained the fullness of Revelation but that man could discover HOW things worked through observation, question and record. What modern science is doing now is ignoring the observation and question part. And society is just going with what is being told us – this includes the doctors, who are trained practitioners and are not scientists or researchers.  So, when a healthy teenage girl with NO history health complications suddenly dies after receiving a Gardasil vaccine what are we to do? Believe that there is no causal effect?  Or observe, question and record?

Those of us in the nutrition and alternative medical community are looking at the cause and effect aspect of medicine. If something can “treat” an ailment but there are worse “effects” than the original in question, how can we hope to help that individual find complete healing? The short answer is: We can’t. And we continue to become a society that is more and more addicted to pharmaceuticals to fix ailments that weren’t there to begin with. From a Catholic social teaching and ethical standpoint, it’s not just and it’s not sustainable.

So, yes. I am going to pursue treatment via nutritional means. This has become something I’m so passionate about, I even want to help others with their needs and finding healing through food.  As such, I am pursuing a degree in holistic nutrition, adding to the base of knowledge that I originally received at a 4 year university. We live in a world where things don’t need to be cured or managed by a pill. And with the exorbitant costs of health care, this isn’t practical for many. Food is practical. We all need to eat.  And what we eat becomes the foundation for our general health and longevity.