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Healthcare and Wisdom from the Ages: The Best of Both Worlds: Back to Articles
by Lauren Feder, M.D.

Common Sense: The Result of Integrating Logic, Faith and Intuition
Increase your options, enhance your family’s health

In the pediatric world, whether our viewpoint is conventional and/or holistic, we all share the same aim: to have healthy and happy children who are given the potential to blossom to their fullest.  Although we live in one of the most developed countries in the world, diseases still exist. Specifically, many parents are concerned about the rise in chronic illnesses such as autism, allergies and eczema in our children.  

Most medical models focus primarily on the health of the physical body, including treatments aimed at alleviating various aches and ailments. However, no comprehensive understanding of health can exclude the intangible realm of one’s spirit and inner wisdom.   Despite the advancements in medicine, there is little emphasis on a holistic model which integrates use of age old traditional remedies with contemporary standard medicine.

Standard Medicine

The current model of standard medicine emphasizes the scientific method based on facts compiled from double blind studies, clinical trials, and exams such as CAT scans, MRI and blood tests.  The focus is on health and disease primarily of the physical body, but also includes that which can be explained scientifically about afflictions of the mind and emotions.   Not uncommon, medical science is fickle, and changes with new discoveries about diet, exercise, to latest trends in medication.

Being raised in a medical household, I did not consider other options in healthcare until I consulted with a holistic practitioner during my medical training. Astounded that I was able to discontinue my thyroid medication after two surgeries, my professional journey began to take a different course.  Eventually I was led to study homeopathy and holistic health, both of which have expanded my medical perspective.

Traditions from Other Cultures: Ethnic Medicine

From a multi-cultural family, I have always been interested in medicine from around the world and the unique attitudes towards health and well-being.  I cherish the many treasures I have garnered from the families in my medical practice who come from various cultures, religions and spiritual viewpoints. 

In the past, the world of medicine was different than it is today.  Life was more simple too.  Without the modern conveniences of electricity, running water, and autos, our ancestors depended on the environment and lived in rhythm with the seasons and moon phases. Most people resided in smaller communities with grandparents, parents and children living together under the same roof, which meant there was more human contact as well as support especially during the childbearing years. The young respected the elders, and heeded their advice. 

People were more religious and spiritual, as death was commonplace amongst the young. Having a closer relationship to God brought consolation in times of difficulty. Explanations of causes of Illness and health conditions differ widely with various cultures. For example, cases of influenza were attributed to the ‘influence’ of the stars. To treat illness, use of home remedies, folk medicine even prayer were passed down from the generations. 

Intuition and Gut Feelings

Our ancestors also placed more reliance on their gut feelings for guidance.  Also known as intuition, faith, inner voice, etc…these feelings cannot be substantiated by the rational mind nor are they based on scientific research. From generation to generation, family members passed down practical tips and use of home remedies from birth to various ailments.

With regards to childrearing in recent decades, the family unit is shifting and moving away from familiar traditions. As a result, many new families find themselves feeling isolated and lacking confidence in making sound choices. From antibiotics to vaccinations, it is not uncommon for me to hear about people who made quick decisions out of obligation to the doctor despite the fact that it went against their ‘gut feeling,’   Living in a mixed cultural society such as the United States, many families are interested in reviving some tried-and-true parenting customs from around the world.  Movements such as Attachment Parenting embrace a more intuitive way of raising children, which also includes a more natural approach to healthcare when possible.

Best of Both Worlds

Although the ways of our ancestors have been passed down for generations, neither the present or the past models are perfect.  One hundred years ago, 10% of children in the United States died before reaching their first birthday. (1) Fortunately, mortality rates have fallen substantially with the advent of modern medicine and improvement in environmental factors.  However, according to the Center for Disease Control, conditions such as autism are now escalating to 1 in 110 (2)  Many parents are wondering how they can have the healthiest children possible.

Standard medicine has saved many lives. However, success has led to excess.  Although our current medical model has made great strides, it lacks depth in its one-dimensional approach with its over-emphasis on ‘the science.’ Pope John Paul II wrote, “The scientific and technological progress, which contemporary man is continually expanding in his dominion over nature, not only offers the hope of creating a new and better humanity, but also causes ever greater anxiety…”   As researchers produce the newest generation of medications to outsmart Mother Nature, our anxieties are increasing as we end up complicating our health by such conditions as MRSA infections (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) and antibiotic resistance, (3)

Ultimately, I am a fan of using the best of ‘both worlds.’ As a physician and mother, I credit the wonderful guidance I have received from the wisdom from the ages: past to present, medical to non-medical, standard medicine to holistic.   At the crossroads, lies common sense; the sense common to all.

References
1. Meckel RA. Save the babies: American public health reform and the prevention of infant mortality, 1850-1929. Baltimore, Maryland: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm4838a2.htm
2. What We've Learned about Autism Spectrum. CDC.
http://www.cdc.gov/Features/CountingAutism/
3. Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA Infections
http://www.cdc.gov/mrsa/

 
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