We figured if we had to spend a ridiculously hot day catching ferries, driving & waiting we might as well do some research.
Before we left we came up with three questions for Matthew to ask each doctor. I armed myself with a notebook & pen so I could transcribe their responses.
These were our questions:
- What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?
- What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?
- Given that I have a history of negative side effects from medications, what would be the best course of treatment going forward?
At each visit, we waited until the end of the consultation before we broke out our questions.
The responses were illuminating:
What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?
Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “There’s something perverse going on in your immune system & it turns on itself. Why does it come? We don’t know. It could be a genetic predisposition or viral. The ear is immunologically active.”
Rheumatologist: “I don’t know. I’d win the Nobel prize if I did.”
Functional Medicine Doctor: “I wouldn’t say it’s well understood at all. The question is what sets the immune system up to act abnormally. What triggers it. Genomic analysis is important. As people go through life there’s triggering events, exposure to gluten when there is a genetic predisposition to intolerance, parasitic infection, exposure to metals or chemicals, significant emotional trauma. The process that keeps the abnormal immune response moving forward, I think, is largely related to diet, sleep and stress.”
What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?
Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “I think it is hogwash. But it works for some people. It is something we advocate based on how we understand the pathenogenisis. It might work for some people.”
Rheumatologist: “There have been a lot of studies on dietary manipulation and autoimmune. They’ve done elimination diets between control and subject groups and there is no difference. It’s like in medieval times when people worshiped the sun and then the sun rose and they thought they’d caused it. In those days people believed that nightshades should be avoided. There’s no scientific evidence for that. A falsehood is being perpetuated on the [inter]net all the time. You have to go to the websites that are scientific and have reliable information.”
Functional Medicine Doctor: “That’s Hippocrates’ theory.” [He pulled out a handout depicting the Functional Medicine Matrix and described it to us] “These are the foundational principles: nutrition is right in the centre.”
Given that I have a history of negative side effects from medications, what would be the best course of treatment going forward?
Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “If we concentrate on an ear thing, I’ve told you what we can do in terms of ear things. It would be safe to infuse your ear with prednisone, but just to try it just because you can doesn’t make sense.”
Rheumatologist: “Every drug has its own bad side effects. At times the treatment may be worse than the disease. At times the disease may be worse than the treatment. It’s a trade-off.”
Functional Medicine Doctor: “What we’ve just talked about for the last 45 minutes. Try and look at the system. No matter what your background, if you try to do something beneficial at one part of the system, it will affect the whole system.”
The Ear Nose & Throat Specialist and the Rheumatologist (who we saw first) had no advice, tips, ideas, leads, tests, treatment suggestions, research reports or referrals for Matthew during each of those brief appointments, even though he has been on disability leave from work since January 1st due to debilitating nausea which is only getting worse and has been to a string of other specialists who have also turned up nothing and offered nothing. If we hadn’t learned about Functional Medicine (on the internet from other Autoimmune Protocol bloggers), Matthew would have now exhausted all options available through the Western Medical System. His livelihood and life would be completely on hold, maybe forever, without a single medical ally willing to stick with him to find a solution.
Comparatively, Dr Cline, the Functional Medicine Doctor (who is also an MD) had two treatment recommendations based on the results of the stool test he ordered last visit: a powerful probiotic that Matthew could order online or purchase from the onsite store, and CBD (non-psychoactive cannabis) to disrupt nausea and pain, which he could order online. He gave Matthew a requisition for blood tests; gave me one research report and promised to e-mail more; and offered to loan us (at no charge) a kit to test the electricity in our house, with instructions for how to deal with any problems we might find. Then he asked Matthew to come back in a month when the results of his genomic analysis would be available.
Dr Terry Wahls’, also a Functional Medicine Doctor & an MD, wrote an article titled ‘what your neurologist & rheumatologist won’t tell you‘ which supports the findings of the mini-study we conducted yesterday. Dr Wahls’ recent paper on treatment for autoimmune multiple sclerosis using a paleo diet & complementary non-pharmaceutical therapies also, interestingly, reported no serious side effects.