Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Treating Signs & Symptoms

An interesting piece in New Scientist about Darwinian medicine, defined as follows,
  • It means we look at humans as being well-adapted, so we don't just jump to the conclusion that signs and symptoms of illness need to be targeted. We don't always think of them as the enemy. There are lots of subtle things that we do differently from conventional medicine.
Paediatrician Paul Turke gives an example which is all but identical to my own approach to healing and health,
  • One example is when a child twists an ankle playing soccer. Everyone rushes to offer ice and ibuprofen. As the father of a soccer player, I've seen this happen many times, and it didn't take me long to earn the label "cruel and unusual", by insisting that my son needed neither. As a Darwinian paediatrician, I think the pain and inflammation that made my son cry and his ankle swell are an evolutionary response to injury, which suggests that they are part of the solution rather than the problem. They exist to promote healing.
I know the feeling of being considered 'cruel and unusual' in this respect.  Alternatively I use a placebo of the 'magic sponge' on my kids' injuries, or an NLP-derived technique where I get the kids to recite the behaviour of habit they want to get rid of, and get them to tap parts of the body.  This was used quite recently in a successfully attempt to get Captain Kid to stop biting her nails.

Back to the Darwinian medicine.  If you've not already done so, you do well to get your hands on a copy of Nesse and Williams' 'Why We Get Sick'.  It is though provoking and will open your eyes to this habit we have of targeting 'signs and symptoms of illness', signs and symptoms which in and of themselves may well be evolved to promote healing.

That's not to say that we should eschew modern medicine.  There are grey areas.  Darwinianism mandates that 'nasties' have evolved with us, with which we are in competition.  I'm currently reading the excellent Quiet Killers which explores some nasty bugs, bacteria and illnesses that have partnered humanity since the dawn of time, and which periodically become extremely virulent.  They make war look tame!

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