By now, we all know that the Huffington Post represents the zombification of medical news—interesting ideas are taken, eviscerated of any real meaning, their innards replaced with pablum, and the reanimated creature set loose on the world.
Reanimation of the undead is, it would seem, a rather addictive behavior, because HuffPo just keeps at it. Another one of their fake experts is “Dr” John Neustadt. The scare quotes indicate that John is not a doctor in any recognized sense: he’s a “naturopathic doctor”, representing a fringe, vitalistic health cult. But that fact isn’t made clear. He’s presented as “Dr” so that we might assume that he is the real deal.
Anyway, Mr. Neustadt is apparently a proponent of “functional medicine”, another medical cult whose purpose is vague, but probably involves taking your money. Wally Sampson has begun an analysis of this curious set of beliefs but let’s look at some of Neustadt’s specific claims.
Neustadt claims that we have a problem with medical education in this country, an assertion I can get behind. The high cost of medical education, combined with the system we use to reimburse doctors actively discourages bright, young students from pursuing primary care. But that’s not the same problem he sees.
The current system teaches disease management and symptom suppression, which is insufficient to meet our healthcare needs. A reformed system needs a new paradigm that stresses health promotion and treatments that attempt to correct the underlying causes of disease.
Anytime someone uses the “P” word, my bullshit detector perks up. What would this new paradigm be? Does he even know what a paradigm is? Usually, paradigm is not defined as, “a new idea that I just pulled out of my ass.” Is he really so uneducated that he thinks that primary care physicians (PCPs) don’t stress “health promotion”, or that we don’t try to correct “underlying causes of disease”? What does that even mean? Some diseases are more or less amenable to this type of thinking. Genetic diseases such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell disease cannot have their “underlying cause” corrected, or at least not in any way that Mr. Neustadt would accept. The underlying cause of sickle cell disease can be “corrected” with a bone marrow transplant, but this difficult and dangerous procedure is not usually used. Many diseases, such as type II diabetes, are a product of genetics and environment, and while some of these factors can be modified, others cannot.
While no one can dispute that these professionals [PCPs] work exceedingly hard, they are hampered by two major failings of conventional medical education philosophy: 1) it focuses on suppressing symptoms with drugs, which are considered the primary and only legitimate treatment modality; and 2) it doesn’t teach how to treat the underlying causes of disease
Huh? That Mr. Neustadt believes this is a marker of his own ignorance rather than a failing of our medical education system. “Suppressing symptoms with drugs” is not necessarily a bad thing. Let’s take a few examples. Kidney stones hurt—a lot. Should we treat this pain? Does he believe that after we have identified a patient as being prone to kidney stones we don’t go after the cause? Low back pain hurts. We treat the pain with drugs, when necessary, but we also teach proper back care. This is pretty basic stuff. What about coronary heart disease? Our knowledge of its underlying causes has revolutionized primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of heart attacks. Failing to understand these basic ideas disqualifies Neustadt from having an opinion that won’t get him laughed out of the room.
Once again, HuffPo and it’s merry band of fake experts is using their own ignorance to spread false ideas about health and disease. They should be ashamed.
But of course, they have no shame.