Saturday, April 9, 2016

Social Response to Lyme...and things like it

Do new diseases emerge?

Fibromyalgia, chronic Candida, variations on Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc. These are all examples of modern disease about which there is controversy. Doctors don't agree on the existence of these conditions, much less on their treatment. The scientific literature hasn't categorized these things very well. The accepted diseases all fit into a category of "known" because they fit the existing model of disease.

In fact, even these labels themselves reflect that way of thinking, that is, that "diseases" fit into a way of thinking about diseases (regardless of what patients think or feel).

We are all very indoctrinated into thinking of disease as discreet things that can be neatly categorized with a label. In regular medicine, those labels all fit into a few categories.

  1. A pathology. This means that there are tissues changes that always fit a certain pattern. Cancer is a good example. A pathologist examines the tissue changes found in the tumor, and voilá you have an actual disease!
  2. A change in physiology. This means the chemical processes are changed. A good example is adult-onset diabetes. Ultimately, a tissue pathology will probably be found. The chemical features of such a disease are usually well-described (in diabetes? an inability to properly process sugars).
  3. A germ-caused disease. This is when a germ--a virus or bacteria or whatever--causes changes (sickness, really) that follows a set of known patterns. Good examples today include influenza, Ebola virus infection, and so on. ("Chronic Candida infection doesn't fit this category. Neither does late-stage Lyme).
  4. A gene disease. This is when there's a known gene defect that leads to physiological changes or changes in tissues. An example would be Down syndrome,and other well-known genetic conditions.
Pretty much everything in the International Classification of Diseases, 10th Edition, fits into one of those categories. The causes vary. Trauma can cause tissue damage, for example. Category 1. Get the idea?

Interestingly, mental health diseases aren't really known to fit any such category. Even today, most mental health problems like depression or anxiety are mysteries. 

What about these diseases about which doctors don't agree?

Sufferers of such "dis-eases" often also suffer the disbelief of doctors in mainstream medicine. To be fair, most physicians are materialists. This is the model they know. It is a good model for many things. It has its limits.

So in step the specialists--mainstream and alternative--to try to sort things out and bring relief. There's a belief by many that these are "first world problems". That is, they are only problems because we have the appropriate conditions for them to emerge (wealth, ease, too much food, etc.). But that's a short-sighted way of looking at things. There's also a belief that these problems can respond to regular medicine, imaginatively-reinvented. In some cases I have observed that to be true. These things are being researched, in some cases, and may become part of the canon of medicine.

Probiotics during antibiotic treatment. Well researched, and consensus-approved, it nevertheless remains an underutilized preventative. So, even when something's accepted, it may take years to become a real part of every doctor's world view.

Then, there are the skeptics. I'm not sure what skeptics stand to gain from treating these maladies like some sort of aberration, or psychiatric cases, or malingering. If people feel sick they feel sick. The question is why.

Society also tends to take cues from the doctors and the skeptics. As such, some with "chronic Lyme" may be viewed as crazy or just lazy.

This is why so many people who claim to suffer from such diseases seek alternatives. And because of the we are all taught to characterize "disease" these folks label themselves! For the classical homeopath, these labels aren't very important, except maybe to gauge what the expected trajectory will be, and perhaps to give the patient a bill with an acceptable label so that insurance might reimburse the person. For the homeopath, it's more important to know the pattern of symptoms, regardless of the cause.

So in summary, society's response to chronic Lyme (or any of these other emergent diseases) isn't to wonder if nature is evolving (it is), rather it's to fall back to commonplace, materialistic explanations, and when those don't fit, to label the person as "anxious" or "crazy" or "attention-seeking." It is logical to imagine that as our world, evolves, so does disease. In that sense it seems rather arrogant for doctors to not be at least curious about what their patients present with.

But, if you don't have a way to view the problem, then won't have the tools to fix it. That leaves doctors stuck, and being stuck really makes doctors uncomfortable.

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