Be Your Own Medicine

I recently saw a slogan that encapsulated what’s wrong with the U.S. healthcare system: Be Your Own Medicine. To Be Your Own Medicine is the essence of prevention, and a way of taking full ownership of one’s health, body, mind, diet, fitness and daily habits.

Alas, being your own medicine strips the $3.5 trillion healthcare system of profit, power and control, so the last thing the healthcare cartels want is for us to be our own medicine, as that would reduce our reliance on highly profitable pharmaceuticals, tests, procedures and high-cost facilities.

Note the slogan isn’t “take your own medicine” or “make your own medicine”–it’s be your own medicine, which suggests that health is a way of being, not just a way of consuming, though what we consume is integral to being your own medicine.

Our materialist-consumerist culture focuses almost exclusively on data, so “health” is quickly reduced to FitBit readings, test results and an obsessive monitoring of calories and diets, to the general exclusion of the mind-body as an integral system.

The importance of what we put in our mouths is expressed by the old Chinese saying: disease comes in through the mouth, i.e. what we consume. But what we consume is not limited to food (or what is sold as “food”): it also includes what our minds consume in the way of “news”, entertainment, knowledge, etc., and what inputs we experience as stress.

There is also what we might call a spiritual component that includes beliefs but also purpose, meaning and positive social roles. People who have lost (or been stripped of) positive social roles, goals and purpose are prone to a Devil’s brew of psychological and physical ailments that cannot be understood or treated as separate from being.

Yet this is precisely what the U.S. healthcare system does: separate conditions into specialties that can each be treated by medications or procedures. What cannot be “fixed” by medications or procedures–for example, a loss of purpose and positive social roles–are ignored: these realities simply do not exist in the U.S. healthcare system.

Any physician or nurse who attempts to understand and co-treat (with the patient themselves) a patient’s entire state of being will encounter multiple layers of institutional resistance or even active hostility.

There’s no time or money to address the state of patients’ being; treatment is defined by tests, data and diagnoses that then trigger “standards of care” that rely heavily on medications, for a number of systemic reasons: drugs satisfy the patients’ demands for the system to “do something” that “fixes” their condition instantly; it enables overworked physicians and providers a ready treatment that can be defended in the courts as current standard-of-care, and it enables every cartel in a system of cartels to reap huge revenues and profits.

What would a healthcare system based on prevention and be your own medicine look like? Such a system would still be called upon to treat diseases such as brain tumors, genetic conditions, traumatic injuries, etc., but the front line of the system would be designed to help individuals be their own medicine, not just in the context of provider-patient but within the day-to-day contexts of households, communities and enterprises.

The idea that actions have consequences is not alien to us, yet our healthcare system is based on giving lip-service to the causal consequences of what we put in our mouths, what we do with our bodies and minds, and what we consume in the material, spiritual and psychological worlds.

Treatment of atomized individuals in a setting of atomized symptoms and treatments is by any measure the opposite of a system that encourages and enables everyone to be their own medicine.

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