“Functional Medicine” for Autoimmune Disease. More Gaslighting About the Sustainability of Alternative Treatment.

This video proposing and explaining alternative treatment for autoimmune disease using so-called “functional medicine” was somewhat interesting and gave me a bit of perspective into my own illness including what situations I should avoid in the future if I have any hope of maintaining my new-found relative health.  From a so-called functional medicine perspective, which is explained in this introductory video, it seems as if my extremely toxic upbringing by a sadistic, misogynistic Western medical doctor and nurse, as if there is any other kind, probably contributed to my serious chronic illness where trauma and abuse probably rewires the mind and body in ways that are disease-producing and very difficult to overcome under the brutal conditions of capitalism and patriarchy.

For myself and my siblings, we do not even need to speculate about any possible “spiritual” or “emotional” trauma since we were all subjected to extreme medicalized physical abuse including major and minor surgeries and dubious long-term treatment with prescription medications that were not even prescribed for us and which my dad had procured from work.  From a functional medicine perspective, this kind of abuse is likely to be causative or partially causative of disease and should either be avoided in the first place or “worked on” after the fact to heal from the trauma and resultant disease.

Furthermore, in the video above, which is part one of a 9-part series (2-9 you have to pay to access) practitioners of so-called “functional medicine” repeat many times that the third leading cause of death for Americans, after cancer and heart disease, is “medical error” including medical mistakes and malpractice as well as so-called side-effects from medications; all of these are known as iatrogenic illness and injury which are injuries extraneous to the original disease and caused by examination and treatment itself.

In my own case, if my parents ever deign to step in and help me manage my current untenable situation in which I am seriously chronically ill and have “lost it all” in pursuit of alternative healing and relief of my pain and symptoms of Crohn’s disease with medical cannabis, their help will be conditional on my accepting even more of the same: extreme medicalized physical abuse where I am forced to accept harmful Western medical treatments which I have already tried for 2 entire years, which were not helping and which were only making me worse.

If they have their way, I will be forced to accept multiple invasive tests including colonoscopies which under conditions of coercion and financial coersion will be rather indistinguishable from rape, and where my dad is likely to take sexual pleasure in my pain and submission; and forced to ingest pills, injections and infusions that are known to not work, not work well, or not work for long in cases of Crohn’s disease and which cause serious iatrogenic illnesses and injuries up to and including increased pain, symptoms and disability and even death.  While incidence and prevalence of death from Crohn’s disease seem to be further down the list than iatrogenic illness and injury (and many Crohn’s deaths are probably included in medical errors since the cascade of medical interventions for Crohn’s in particular is both reliable and hideous) it seems that if I accept further Western medical treatment for my Crohn’s I will only be increasing my risk of serious injury and death rather than decreasing it.

And where my parents will be unethically inserting themselves into my treatment if not fully directing it (they would attempt to fully direct and control it, and me, and I do not know if they would be stopped) I would also be putting myself in a position of being further battered emotionally and physically by abusive family members, such abuse which under no circumstance would be expected to increase my health or decrease the pain and symptoms of my incurable, progressive disease.

This video made me even more resolute than I was before that I cannot let that happen to me, and that if I do I can only expect to become increasingly disabled and that my pain and symptoms — and my grossly diminished quality of life — will quickly become intolerable.  If I do accept this treatment, it will only be to avoid what I know is coming if I continue down my current alternative treatment path: looming homelessness and inability to continue any treatment at all where I can no longer afford lodging and treatment in a cannabis legal state.

But reminding me of the harmfulness of both personal trauma and conventional Western medicine is not the same thing as convincing me that so-called “functional medicine” is a good idea and this video did not convince me.  The practitioners in this film are Western medical doctors themselves — licensed MDs and chiropractors in particular — who became disillusioned with Western medicine and its ability to truly heal people of disease.  At best, as they see it, capitalistic patriarchal medicine puts a plaster over pain and symptoms so that people “feel better” now and are able to function more than they were before.  But in patients’ experience, in the case of chronic pain and inflammation generally, and with Crohn’s and autoimmune disease in particular, Western medicine is notoriously unable to do even that.  So from the beginning we see “disillusioned” Western medical doctors overstating what Western medicine is actually able to do even while they criticize it.

This does not seem to be a good place to start but from there it only gets worse: these doctors believe that performing extensive intakes with patients including “timelines” of past traumatic events, episodes of injury or disease, as well as eliciting details about patients’ lifestyles is likely to assist them in treating patients’ often serious and debilitating disease.  They ask questions about people’s “holistic” health and wellness including how well they sleep, eat, and exercise, how they are able to manage the stress of home and work, and about the supportiveness of their relationships, which seems right-minded and benevolent compared to the hurried and resentful 5 to 10 minute intakes performed by conventional doctors offering only toxic conventional treatments.  But these alternative practitioners are also assuming and implying that patients have meaningful control over their lives and so-called “lifestyles” and that significantly changing them over the long-term is even possible.  This assumption poses a significant barrier to successfully treating patients — and to patients getting relief from their pain and symptoms — because this assumption is not based in the reality of most people’s and especially most women’s lives.

Under capitalism and patriarchy, we know that people do not get enough sleep because many of them have to work not just one but 2 or 3 jobs just to survive, on top of the responsibilities of caretaking dependents and property, even if the resulting stress and lack of sleep ends up killing them.  Modern people in so-called developed countries have been completely removed from food production and distribution so that they do not always have access to food at all, let alone fresh or fresh, organic, non-GMO food that is healthful and does not produce illness and injury on its own.  Many people especially women have intolerable levels of stress both at home and at work where they hold low- or mid-level jobs with high levels of stress and low control, where high stress and low control are the objective markers of objectively dissatisfying careers that reliably lead to professional burnout and worse.  But there is often little or nothing they can do to leave these careers (or motherhood and wifehood) for relatively low-stress or in particular relatively high-control jobs which are almost always reserved for men.

And many women’s “relationships” have nothing to do with providing them with support or nurturing where instead, women in particular are only ever expected to provide those things to others.  Furthermore, women are often in coercive relationships which include violence and sexual violence and reproductive abuse, economic and emotional abuse, enforced social isolation and more.  For women, who are expected to provide emotional and physical caretaking not only for children but also for adults including partners, parents, in-laws and others, their relationships are simply not intended to provide them with emotional and other support and they often don’t.  But there is often little or nothing women can do to escape abusive or stressful relationships or to get into truly supportive relationships which, as in the case of “better” jobs as described above, frankly only or mostly exist for men.

So what practical good does it do to ask sick women questions about these things, and to waste an hour or more of a sick woman’s time on the intake alone, and to identify these variables as partially or even fully causative of their disease when there is little or nothing they can realistically do to change it?  How are women seeking so-called alternative treatment actually accessing real relief and healing of their pain and disease, and how are their expectations being managed when practitioners of so-called functional medicine are essentially lying to and gaslighting them as to what is even possible in the short-term let alone maintaining over time?  In my own case, I had researched alternative treatments available for Crohn’s disease for years and I only found two that were shown in peer-reviewed medical literature to be reasonably effective — long-term treatment with either enteral feeds or medical cannabis.  Both ended up being prohibitively expensive over time and while the enteral feeds didn’t even work, the cannabis has provided significant relief and healing of my most terrifying pain and symptoms.

In the end though, Crohn’s disease is both incurable and progressive no matter what treatment or medicine you take.  And in the case of treatment with medical cannabis, that often means cross-country travel and long-term lodging in a cannabis legal state where housing is in short supply and priced over-market and where access to cannabis itself is still significantly restricted, time-consuming and expensive.  No matter how much relief I have found with this alternative remedy, I realized too late that it was simply not possible to maintain my treatment with medical cannabis over time.  I don’t know why I thought it would be except for the implicit assumption of alternative practitioners and enthusiasts and where I had obviously adopted that assumption with absolutely no evidence that it was actually true.

And my treatment with medical cannabis has had one particularly gnarly side-effect I hadn’t anticipated: the utter disrespect and disapproval of my friends and family upon whom I never thought I would have to rely for help, but who I have now had to ask to help dig me out of my current situation which has become unmanageable.  In my search for alternative treatment and healing, I have “lost it all” due to 3 years of extensive out-of-pocket costs where I found profound and notable relief (about 50% reduction in my pain and symptoms) and where I no longer feel like I am imminently dying (or atheist-praying for death) but am still significantly disabled and unable to fully support myself and my continued treatment.  To whatever extent my traditional friends and family previously respected me as a person and an attorney, all of that has been lost where they choose to characterize me and my situation not as a seriously chronically ill person who has found success and healing, but as a socially deviant non-complier who is now “down and out” due to the medical cannabis itself and not due to the natural progression of an incurable progressive disease that was not responding to conventional care.

And I suspect their assessment would’ve been the same had I spent every dime I had on any alternative treatment including so-called functional medicine or any radical lifestyle change regardless of how effective it was.  Notably, in my case, I initially paid out-of-pocket for 2 entire years of conventional diagnostic tests and treatments that were only making me worse, but my friends and family nonetheless believe that my returning to conventional treatment will be both free and effective, thereby eliminating the problem of “me” and my serious incurable and progressive disease and the way it has predictably affected my life.  They need conventional medicine to be a panacea, but so do seekers of alternative healthcare including those seeking relief through functional medicine need a panacea, even when the costs and burdens of maintaining any long-term treatment are untenable and where most accepted treatments for Crohn’s and other confounding autoimmune diseases in particular don’t even work and often make patients even sicker and more disabled than they were before.  In the above video, it is impossible to tell what the treatments actually entail but I suspect that if they do not include medical cannabis, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and where chronic inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s more or less require it, I doubt whether functional medicine has much to offer Crohn’s patients like myself at all except further expense, wasted time and grief.

At base, it seems as if the main problem for many patients, myself included, is a fundamental lack of social and financial support for seriously chronically ill people, not just the problem of the disabling effects of disease itself although that would be bad enough.  There just is no solution to this problem of social and financial unsupport and there is not meant to be where under capitalism and patriarchy we all seem to be expected to liquidate our assets — and those of as many friends and family as are willing to help — in pursuit of alternative treatment and then return to being good conformers, compliers and consumers when our alternative treatments turn out to be unsustainable over time, and from that point consuming dangerous and toxic Western medical goods and services until we die.  This is the situation in which I currently find myself, and seeing yet another seductive video presentation about the alleged benefits of alternative treatment has made it all too clear to me that I am surely not alone in having been seduced, that my current situation was probably not to be avoided, and that the “alternative treatment dilemma” is indeed a true dilemma for which there is no solution for most people who cannot afford to go against the grain forever, regardless of the effectiveness of alternative treatments which frankly could not possibly be any more harmful or any less effective than conventional medical treatments but which are not subsidized the way conventional treatments are.

In the end, except for the most wealthy and supported among us, the cultural conversation encouraging “alternative treatment” for serious chronic illness seems like a cruel and expensive joke where seriously ill people are left even more vulnerable than we were before.  And where even our successes are taken from us, where we have spent years of our lives and all of our personal wealth in achieving something precious — some degree of improved health and relief of our pain and symptoms, a hard-won and unlikely success under the brutal conditions of capitalism and patriarchy — a success that we cannot reliably maintain and can only expect to lose.

 

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4 thoughts on ““Functional Medicine” for Autoimmune Disease. More Gaslighting About the Sustainability of Alternative Treatment.

  1. Alternatives like functional medicine are preferable to conventional medicine, but it somehow has to be monetized given the economic system. So the above video comes off like an infomercial, with the strange music and sounds of the video also the different interviews that don’t give much information about how this all works, just kind of hints at it. Then everything else is behind a paywall, probably pretty expensive.

    You are right about the gaslighting. There is no cure for a collapsing ecosystem and I suspect even the very wealthy will find that out eventually though they may be buffered for a while. The various space explorations by the very wealthy I suspect are to find a way out. But how horrible, and I can’t see how it would be doable.

    Another thing that alternatives like functional medicine often lead to is blaming ourselves for illness and other physical conditions. As you point out, if you need to change your lifestyle and breathe clean air, drink clean water, eat organic food, get enough exercise, how practical is that for most people who are working at real jobs. And then avoiding stress will be part of it, too. Not to mention expensive supplements and other treatments.

    Both conventional and alternative medicine systems are unsustainable. For example, if they’d just make cannabis legal in all states and legal to grow your own, one of the treatments would not be a problem. Communities of people would probably collaborate. Isn’t that what happened during most of human history? It’s certainly less harmful than alcohol, and people have been making spirits for eons, refining them. And who knows what indigenous communities did with plants like cannabis? Anyhow, it really sucks that they make this hard/impossible to get. Unconscionable.

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  2. Hi Bluejay, thank you for your comment! It does come off as an infomercial, and that’s basically what it is, if not to sell functional medicine itself then to get people to pay $95+ to unlock the super special secrets behind the paywall. As if whatever the secret is would be affordable or sustainable anyway, even if it works. I also Googled functional medicine specifically for Crohn’s and I found functional medicine practitioners saying BOTH that the immune system needs to be tamped down (albeit without using harmful Big Pharma to do it) while others say the immune system needs to be boosted, and that tamping it down actually makes it worse. In my experience, tamping it down with steroids did make it worse, or was it the side effects of the drugs, or was it the natural progression of a progressive disease? All I know is after 2 years and thousands of dollars out of pocket, I was getting worse and worse until I was circling the drain. I think cannabis helped not because it “boosts” necessarily but cannabis seems to put people where they need to be no matter where that is. That’s why it works so reliably for so many conditions, because it doesn’t really DO anything specific, it puts you back to homeostasis and your body does what it needs from a more healthy place.

    And in this post I didn’t even mention the systemic violence women face just living as females in patriarchy, and how stressful it is just to be alive and try to stay that way, let alone trying to keep pets and children alive in a necrophilic culture. How is THAT kind of stress supposed to be avoided or healed from when we can’t get away from it? The whole thing reeks. And yet I am strangely tempted to try it because I am so desperate for not only relief (I found that with MMJ) but so I might be eligible for benefits for seeing an actual doctor, although who knows if these guys are even qualified to document disability for the state. This is the shitshow sick people have to navigate and it is so stressful, so unending, and so cruel.

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  3. I should say that cannabis does DO 2 things very well, besides putting people back to homeostasis and that’s pain relief and anti-inflammatory. That’s why it’s been used for stomach ailments for thousands of years, and why it’s the only thing that works for Crohn’s.

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  4. Yes,I can see how seeing an alternative medicine doctor might be a key in qualifying for benefits. It might to be an MD licensed in the state where you want to live, just guessing. I’ve seen some Integrative/holistic practitioners. A mixed bag. Definitely the chiropractors not for anything but a sore back. I’ve had one really good one for back problems fixed after a couple of visits and said come back if it gave me any trouble. Also a bunch of $cammish/cultlike types claiming to fix all kinds of other problems through spinal adjustment. One even did “no touch” chiropractic to work with the energy field to fix your back, what a load of horse manure!

    My alternative/Integrative MD has been helpful, most recently with the ozone treatments. His office was upfront about the costs and length of treatment, so I know exactly how much to expect. I didn’t sign up for a series, just one at a time. What I didn’t like in the video was that it seemed like a very involved treatment, with lots of interviewing and maybe not too clear on the costs.

    I think the main organization certifying(?) is the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine for MDs and others who use this approach. I just mean for documenting disability for you. If the alternative MD’s office takes insurance, that is a sign that they will probably be upfront about what it will cost you per visit. Sometimes they supervise nurse practitioners who would be cheaper and might be able to do paperwork, etc.

    Also, yes, the stress faced by women is constant. No escaping it.

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