His­tory Lessons

How Amer­ica’s nat­u­ral healing move­ment sur­vived near de­struc­tion and paved the road to true health

Better Nutrition - - CONTENTS - By Vera Tweed

A look back at Amer­ica’s nat­u­ral health move­ment, from it s near de­struc­tion in the mid- 20th cen­tur y to it s bright fu­ture of to­mor­row.

More than 86 per­cent of our health­care dol­lars are spent on manag­ing chronic con­di­tions, rather than ad­dress­ing and re­solv­ing their root causes. Nat­u­ral medicine, which is de­signed to iden­tify and re­solve un­der­ly­ing causes and re­store good health, has been grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in the last few decades, but still makes up a tiny frac­tion of health pro­fes­sion­als in the U. S. There are about 6,000 natur­o­pathic doc­tors ( NDs) in 23 states and ter­ri­to­ries that li­cense them, but close to 900,000 MDs through­out the coun­try.

There’s grow­ing recog­ni­tion of the value of nat­u­ral healing, with NDs on staff in at least 28 med­i­cal cen­ters of ex­cel­lence, in­clud­ing univer­sity hos­pi­tals and spe­cialty treat­ment cen­ters. But in­surance cov­er­age for prac­ti­tion­ers who aren’t con­ven­tional med­i­cal doc­tors is still limited, at best.

How MDs Gained Dom­i­nance

To­day’s health­care land­scape be­gan to take shape at the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tury, when two dis­tinct schools of thought emerged: The al­lo­pathic strat­egy to kill dis­ease with drugs and surgery, and a va­ri­ety of healing dis­ci­plines de­signed to help your body heal it­self. Ul­ti­mately, ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing and po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ing be­stowed dom­i­nance upon MDs and treat­ment with drugs.

In the early 1900s, when about 60 per­cent of physi­cians were al­lo­pathic and reg­u­la­tion of drugs was vir­tu­ally nonex­is­tent, the the­ory that germs cause dis­ease was es­tab­lished in med­i­cal schools. At the same time, new lead­er­ship in the Amer­i­can Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion in­vented a “seal of ap­proval” for drugs. To re­ceive the seal, man­u­fac­tur­ers sim­ply needed to ad­ver­tise a drug in the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pub­li­ca­tions, with­out any proof of safety or effi cacy. AMA in­come sky­rock­eted.

Well- funded po­lit­i­cal lob­by­ing and more fi nan­cial sup­port from phil­an­thropic or­ga­ni­za­tions created a sit­u­a­tion where the AMA con­trolled med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion, li­cens­ing of MDs, and grant­ing of hos­pi­tal priv­i­leges. The sys­tem forced most MDs to join the or­ga­ni­za­tion and its mem­ber­ship boomed. By 1950, to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing in AMA jour­nals was a ma­jor source of fund­ing, while ar­ti­cles in its jour­nals touted the health benefi ts of smok­ing, and to­bacco ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns fea­tured doc­tors pro­mot­ing cig­a­rettes.

The AMA made it a pri­or­ity to knock out com­pe­ti­tion from other types of heal­ers. Me­dia cam­paigns la­beled health pro­fes­sion­als who were not al­lo­pathic as “quacks,” ac­cused them of fraud, and made it diffi cult for them to ob­tain and main­tain li­censes to prac­tice. It was an all- out bat­tle.

Be­tween 1937 and 1987, courts found the AMA guilty of vi­o­lat­ing an­titrust laws against con­spir­acy and re­straint of trade in sev­eral sep­a­rate le­gal cases. As a re­sult, AMA infl uence waned, but al­lo­pathic medicine had es­tab­lished it­self as the author­ity on healing. Al­though the AMA con­tin­ues to be a lead­ing pub­lisher of med­i­cal jour­nals and a ma­jor lob­by­ing group, only 30 per­cent of doc­tors are now mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

Nat­u­ral Medicine Be­comes an En­dan­gered Prac­tice

As al­lo­pathic medicine was es­tab­lish­ing its mo­nop­oly, var­i­ous types of nat­u­ral heal­ers be­came col­lec­tively known as “drug­less heal­ers.” Start­ing in 1902, “natur­opa­thy” emerged as a dis­ci­pline that aimed to in­clude all forms of nat­u­ral healing.

Then, as now, it was based on a core prin­ci­ple that there is a vi­tal force with the power to heal within each hu­man be­ing, and the prac­ti­tioner’s role is to re­store health by aid­ing that force. Natur­opaths work to heal the whole per­son. The phi­los­o­phy is rad­i­cally diff er­ent from the dis­ease- fo­cused al­lo­pathic strat­egy and, his­tory shows, it was viewed by the med­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment as a com­pet­i­tive threat.

“By the late 1940s and early 1950s, the med­i­cal lobby grew to be the most pow­er­ful,” says Ge­orge Cody, JD, who pro­vided much le­gal sup­port to natur­opaths in Wash­ing­ton state for 25 years and helped shape its li­cens­ing laws.

“Con­ven­tional medicine tar­geted natur­opaths and chi­ro­prac­tors for erad­i­ca­tion,” says Cody. By the 1960s, there were only about 500 natur­opaths in the coun­try, and by the 1970s, he says, “They were pretty much gone.” But there were some hold­outs.

Re­birth Be­gins

Joe Piz­zorno, ND, was one of those hold­outs, and be­came one of the world’s lead­ing au­thor­i­ties on nat­u­ral medicine. His has au­thored or co- au­thored more than a dozen books, in­clud­ing the lead­ing nat­u­ral medicine text­book; served on ad­vi­sory com­mit­tees of two U. S. pres­i­dents; helped shep­herd natur­o­pathic li­cens­ing laws and the leg­is­la­tion that gives Amer­i­cans free­dom to choose and use di­etary sup­ple­ments; and was the found­ing editor- in- chief of In­te­gra­tive Medicine: A Clin­i­cian’s Jour­nal.

In 1975, when he started a natur­o­pathic prac­tice in Seat­tle, Piz­zorno’s alma mater was the only re­main­ing school of natur­opa­thy in the United States, and it was strug­gling. “It was al­most as if the pro­fes­sion died but didn’t quite get buried,” he re­calls. “I knew it had a lot to of­fer and re­al­ized it had to come up to mod­ern stan­dards of ed­u­ca­tion and re­search.”

He coined the phrase “science- based nat­u­ral medicine,” and em­barked on a mis­sion to turn that vi­sion into re­al­ity. In 1978, Piz­zorno and three col­leagues founded Bastyr Univer­sity, and he was its pres­i­dent for the next 22 years. Bastyr be­came a bas­tion of nat­u­ral health arts and sciences and has been in­stru­men­tal in putting nat­u­ral medicine on to­day’s health­care map in a ma­jor way. ( See “High­lights of Bastyr His­tory,” p. 36.)

To­day, there are seven ac­cred­ited schools of natur­o­pathic medicine in the U. S. Natur­opaths pro­vide pri­mary care and spe­cialty care in on­col­ogy, gas­troen­terol­ogy, en­docrinol­ogy, car­di­ol­ogy, and other fields, and their num­bers are grow­ing.

For­ward Into the Fu­ture

“The fu­ture of medicine is in­te­gra­tive,” says Lee Grif­fith, ND, one of the three sur­viv­ing co­founders of Bastyr. But he points out that in­te­gra­tive medicine is gen­er­ally ori­ented to­ward treat­ing health con­di­tions, and while natur­opa­thy plays an im­por­tant role in treat­ment, it can do more. “Natur­opaths like to think in terms of long- term, pre­ven­tive care sce­nar­ios,” he says, which in­clude nu­tri­tion, ex­er­cise, avoid­ing tox­ins, and un­der­stand­ing the im­por­tance of a pos­i­tive men­tal out­look. “If you think life sucks,” he says, “then it is more likely to suck than if you didn’t think that.”

Sheila Quinn, Bastyr’s found­ing med­i­cal ad­min­is­tra­tor, agrees. “Most peo­ple my age are tak­ing any­where be­tween four and eight pre­scrip­tions ev­ery day, and I find that very wor­ri­some,” she says. Us­ing nat­u­ral medicine, at age 73, she’s healthy with­out pre­scrip­tion drugs. Her ad­vice: “If you want to take ac­tive steps to­ward be­ing health­ier, you need to have a health­care prac­ti­tioner who’s your part­ner in that ef­fort, who has the train­ing and the knowl­edge to guide you.” Oth­er­wise, she cau­tions, “you can feel very lost and alone.”

Piz­zorno sees re­cent ad­vance­ments in medicine as the be­gin­nings of a revo­lu­tion­ary, in­di­vid­u­al­ized type of healing. “Now that we have ge­nomics, we can look at peo­ple’s chem­istry and rec­og­nize where they have a unique need,” he says. As an ex­am­ple, his wife, whose fam­ily has a his­tory of os­teo­poro­sis in women, de­vel­oped os­teope­nia ( the pre­cur­sor to os­teo­poro­sis) in her 40s, de­spite an ex­cep­tion­ally healthy life­style. It was a mys­tery, un­til ge­netic tests re­vealed the prob­lem. And then, nat­u­ral medicine solved it. “She has a vi­ta­min D re­cep­tor- site deficit,” says Piz­zorno, “which means she does not ab­sorb vi­ta­min D very well.” Two years of very- high- dose vi­ta­min D sup­ple­men­ta­tion, along with sup­port­ing nu­tri­ents, re­stored healthy lev­els, and now, years af­ter menopause, her bones are com­pletely healthy.

The next fron­tier? Har­ness­ing ge­netic test­ing to rou­tinely per­son­al­ize nat­u­ral medicine. And Piz­zorno is at the fore­front, de­vel­op­ing a prac­ti­cal sys­tem to tai­lor sup­ple­men­ta­tion to an in­di­vid­ual’s ge­netic needs.

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