Have you heard the one about the rheumatologist, the ear-nose & throat specialist & the functional medicine doctor?

life is everywhereYesterday Matthew & I went to appointments with three different doctors in two different towns regarding treatment for his autoimmune conditions & unexplained nausea.

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:

  1. What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?
  2. What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?
  3. 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.”

Functional Medicine Matrix

Functional Medicine Matrix

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.

24 thoughts on “Have you heard the one about the rheumatologist, the ear-nose & throat specialist & the functional medicine doctor?

  1. “In those days people believed that nightshades should be avoided. There’s no scientific evidence for that.” Aaah-hahahahahahahahahahahahaha- *breathes* -hahahahahahahaa!
    Thank you for asking these questions and bringing the answers back to us. It’s very illuminating, if somewhat painful. I’m glad you found the functional medicine doctor. I can’t believe the rheumatologist of all people has no idea about autoimmune disease. It just… boggles my mind.

  2. Petra, I love that you transcribed their answers. When the ENT said hogwash and then backpedaled to say diet works for some people, I’m guessing he was responding to the looks on your faces. Or do you both have excellent poker faces? I do not!

    • Actually, we were trying to be undercover. Just a naïve patient & his wife, asking innocent questions of a medical professional. Like you, I found it interesting that the ENT seemed to contradict himself. Surely it can’t be hogwash, even if it only works for some people? A contradiction like that might just be an indicator of a nice, big crack in the paradigm…

  3. Thank you for your blog. It has caught my attention over the months and I have read every post as they come in my inbox. I am a 36 year old mom, who has struggled with my health for years. I too study options and read constantly, as I believe there has to be a better life for me and others plagued with health problems. I have diagnosed Sjogren’s, Lupus, Schleroderma, Connective-tissue disease, endometriosis, and asthma. I have just completed Dr. Wahls’ book. I also did the AIP diet last year, but my symptoms continued to worsen. I am going to start the Wahls Paleo Plus diet in September. Your food ideas have really helped me formulate a plan for me. Thank you. After 6 months on the diet, if I see real improvement, I’ll take your advice and start a blog following my journey. Just a thought on your husband’s case – I recently had an old friend visit that has Ménière’s disease. I know that has been suspected with your husband, but then found that was not an issue; however, my friend was so nauseated she could not function. A few years ago, she removed sodium from here diet and the improvement had been unreal. She has to be careful when over exercising, because of the lack of salt in her diet, but for her situation with Ménière’s disease, it has made all the difference. Just a thought.

    • Thank you for taking the time to share your experience, Michelle. It is so discouraging and isolating to be researching and experimenting in an attempt to heal, and to not experience improvements. Thank you also for the suggestion about sodium. Matthew did try eliminating salt for a while (as we eat no processed food that was relatively easy to do), but he did not experience any change. It’s hard, sometimes, to know how long to persevere with these experiments. Maybe he should try it again for longer. I’d love to know how things progress for you as you continue to work with food in your healing process. Take care.

  4. Petra – I love that shot of the resilient wee daisy pushing its way up through the concrete.

    Because I am now mainly dealing with a functional doctor and naturopath, I (sometimes) forget just how narrow the western medical approach can be. You have just reminded me. Alarming.

    I am halfway through ‘An Epidemic of Absence: a New Way of Understanding Allergies and Autoimmune Diseases’ by Moises Velasquez-Manoff. It is scary-fascinating. From there, I plan to move onto Martin Blaser’s ‘Missing Microbes: How the Overuse of Antibiotics Is Fueling Our Modern Plagues’. Have you read this one yet?

  5. Enlightening responses from the medical profession. Scary that some are in charge of other people’s health. The Functional Medical Doctor seems to be the only one being helpful.
    I would have thought diet absolutely has an effect on our bodies. It is the chemicals in our environment that we have no control over that do us the most harm.
    I am reading Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson, at the moment and can barely get through it. Hard to believe it was written 50 years ago.

  6. Thank you for expressing whys avoid western medicine if at all possible. To think that one thing doesn’t affect the whole body is ignorant. Our body is a system. It works together and breaks down together.

  7. I’ve had great success with chiropractic kinesiology for over 20 years. I had a lower back/bulging disc, hypothyroid that turned into Hahshimoto’s disease, and depression with anxiety. Traditional Western medicine had me on at least 3 different major prescriptions at one time. Once I finally sought alternative treatment, removing gluten was the first key, and now I go to my chiropractic kinesiologist for everything from an ear ache to acne to stress overload. The diet is the center of everything.

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