For years, medical experts believed that SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) reduced depressive symptoms by improving the distribution of serotonin in the brain. But new research suggests no relationship between serotonin levels and depression. Experts are now supporting an emerging theory that SSRIs reduce depressive symptoms by reducing inflammation throughout the body (since the new research discovered that lowered inflammation is directly linked to reduced depressive symptoms).
After decades spent as a Board-Certified Cardiovascular ER Nurse, I can tell you that this type of industry-wide upset is not unique. Over the years, I blamed the medical industry’s “reductionist approach” for what I saw as deep seeded systemic failures and left my position to become a Board-Certified Holistic Health Practitioner. This more holistic view of health allows me to treat seemingly disparate concerns, primarily how persistent mental and physical ailments among individuals affect productivity and success throughout a business. I work to align team members and organizations through my Employee Assistance Program (EAP)TM.
As a Board-Certified Holistic Nurse, I support clients as they take an active role in their health and healing journeys. I offer the professional guidance they need to understand themselves better and navigate a severely lacking healthcare environment. A fundamental first step in empowering organizations and their employees to reach their full synergistic potential is to explain subjective mainstream approaches to medicine encumber the delivery of appropriate medical care and how that, in turn, impacts our professional lives.
Our Overreliance on the Medical Industry
We’ve been conditioned to take the recommendations and treatments of medical professionals at face value, but we know that doesn’t work. U.S. government data shows that women of color (specifically black women) are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than their white counterparts. The disparity exists even when the data has been corrected for socioeconomic status, education, etc.
The disparity has also increased over the past 100 years, which is true despite medical care advancements. There are endless examples of doctors missing critical markers and symptoms. Some of this may have to do with negligence, but some is with current protocols. Studies have repeatedly shown that when doctors fail to consider an individual’s circumstances, the patient will likely receive inappropriate care.
Because of this, people take the guidance of their physician at phase value until that guidance fails them. And at that point, they seek second opinions, do their research, and spend years or even decades frustrated and suffering without an explanation. So, while we tend to regard conventional scientific medical understandings as scientific facts, that isn’t true.
Clearly, medical professionals are people, and they make mistakes. There will always be a chance of errors in medical care. But from my perspective as a holistic healer, I see a systemic pattern of failures throughout the medical industry stemming from the current, dominating philosophical approach to patient care.
The current medical industry relies almost entirely on the philosophical idea of reductionism, which says that “all higher-level (e.g., social, mental or medical) phenomena and processes can in principle be explained at a lower level (e.g., biology, chemistry, physics).” In addition, reductionism influenced the biomedical understanding of “health” to mean the absence of physical signs of disease. Thus, physicians are trained to break the body down into individual and isolated pieces, like organ systems, and then identify a single piece as the cause of some ailment and treat it. This should sound silly because it is. Holistic medicine says that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and a lot gets missed if we fail to appreciate how interconnected our minds, bodies, and spirits are.
Returning to the example of SSRIs, it becomes easier to see how important the distinction between reductionist and holistic approaches to medicine is. SSRIs were developed to treat problems conceptualized by medical experts and directly tied to the brain. When SSRIs worked, their confidence increased in the reductionist-driven theory that a medication to alter the brain would help alleviate depressive symptoms.
And this conventional medical wisdom shaped the treatment of depressed and anxious patients, leading to millions of SSRI prescriptions and the development of new medications that focused on supplementing a “deficient” brain with chemical concoctions to function “properly.”
Fast forward to today, and physicians are rethinking the causal mechanisms that make SSRIs effective. If a chemical imbalance in the brain caused depression, why would inflammation reduction throughout the body positively impact depressive symptoms?
In this area and others, the medical community is already considering a more integrated, holistic approach, but the structure of the medical industry isn’t likely to change anytime soon. That’s why people need to understand precisely what medical paradigms exist, how they’ve evolved over human civilization, and how they can lead to unintentional subjective biases interfering with patient care.
Human Civilization up to the Age of Enlightenment: The Renaissance, the Church, and the Arrival of Newtonian Physics
Centuries ago, healers were often also spiritual guides for their local communities. Their treatment of patients was primarily derived from learned knowledge, experience, and spiritual or religious beliefs. In those early days, healing was approached more holistically, but available medications were limited primarily to herbs and naturally occurring supplements. As societies evolved and technologies improved, so did the overall approach to medicine.
Over time, medical care became more structured and more sophisticated until finally there was room for centralized education and training of physicians. Some of those early developments are still in use today. For example, the term “Rx,” used for prescribing medications, evolved from the Latin word “to take,” indicating that after reviewing the entire patient’s medical history, medicines or herbs were chosen as the best fit option.
In 17th and 18th century Europe, an intellectual movement emphasizing reason, nature, humanity, and God dramatically transformed how people understood themselves and their surroundings. This time came to be known as The Age of Enlightenment.
Driven by an interest in better understanding how the world worked, thinkers and philosophers began challenging the fabric of human society and culture. The Great Reformation challenged dominant religious philosophies, leading people to question the existence of life itself. The Renaissance, marked by a vibrant explosion of art and self-reflection, introduced new perspectives and ideas. It also altered the course of intellectual pursuits.
It was during this time that a man by the name of Sir Isaac Newton gave the world his Theory of Relativity. His theory understood the universe as several independent parts working mechanically and governed by predictable laws. It accurately governs the structure of the visible universe and, in return, has profoundly shaped the structure of our society. It’s shaping the conversation we’re having right now.
While you may remember learning about Sir Isaac Newton and his groundbreaking theories, you probably weren’t taught how his cultural and social environment influenced his thinking and how his theory influenced his cultural and social environment.
The Enlightenment and Newton’s theory paved the way for the development of the scientific method, which reasoned that the natural world could be understood through rational inquiry and answers could be found through rigorous observation and experimentation. The scientific method involves observable phenomena and replicable results.
At the time, observational astrology was the only science “with mathematically precise knowledge or predictive power.” Thus, the arrival of Newtonian physics allowed scientists to look up at the cosmos and break it down into interactions among stars, planets, and other astrological phenomena—this approach of breaking down complex systems into individual, more observable parts.
This thinking naturally led to a reductionist approach to medicine. Looking at the human body this way yielded incredible medicinal insights, paving the way for antibiotics, vaccines, medications, supplements, and medical procedures. It also gave rise to highly structured and siloed fields of medicine, where specialists are trained to look for problems and solutions in only one isolated part of the body (i.e., cardiologists, neurologists, optometrists).
After centuries of Newton’s influence on medicine, ethical approaches to medicine also evolved. As medical professionals increasingly relied on reductionist approaches for patients, their understanding of a comprehensive medical history shifted, emphasizing patient medical histories regarding medications and paying much less attention to a patient’s holistic medical history.
In short, over the years, the medical industry has developed an increasingly myopic view of patient medical histories. Therefore, they increasingly treat symptoms with medication because their paradigm discounts the value of a holistic understanding of their patient’s health and health concerns.
Because organ systems and bodily processes influence one another, a purely reductionist approach often leaves people to struggle for years before discovering answers and remedies for their health concerns since specialists without a more holistic understanding of the human body will either dismiss the patient’s concerns or say they can’t find a medical explanation. They will often end up treating the symptoms, not the underlying cause.
Recent Evolutions in Medical Thought
Today, health professionals and policymakers have grown increasingly aware of the interconnectedness of our physical, mental, and spiritual health. This is mainly due to dramatic improvements in computational technology and modeling, which now allow researchers to analyze complex data at scale-something that was impossible just a few decades ago.
As a result, it’s easier to observe and understand how complex and disparate information about an individual’s health can offer physicians a view of a person who is more than the sum of its parts- the person can be viewed physically, mentally, and spiritually as a single entity.
Holistic healers of today are not transplants of the holistic healers from early human civilization. Instead, they combine the insights of Newtonian understandings of the universe with Quantum physics, which a more capable of explaining and predicting the minor matter in our universe: atoms, subatomic particles (electrons, photons, etc.), and the rest of the sub-molecular level.
Although holistic medicine is often framed as competing with modern medicinal thought, that isn’t true. Instead, holistic medicine represents an evolution of medicinal thought, where we transition from a purely Newtonian view of the human body to one that incorporates quantum physics to account for the interconnected complexity of the human body.
Since reductionism is highly reliable in certain respects, and quantum physics complements reductionism (especially where reductionism comes up short), their combined prescriptive power is at the heart of modern holistic medicine.
Burn Bright Today
As a Board-Certified Holistic Healer, I take my understanding of reductionism, offering clear lines of treatment concerning medications and procedures. I ask myself if, looking holistically at the patient, there may be an underlying cause that can be solved without more invasive conventional interventions. And the process works.
Now, Holistic healers are being increasingly recognized by national and state governments. In fact, holistic healing is spreading through the United States in the same fiery way that the Enlightenment spread through Europe all those centuries ago. And if you’re considering getting a second opinion on health-related concerns in your personal or professional life, I’m the one you need.
My evidence-based holistic approaches and technologies are the key to improved relationships and general functioning. My company, Burn Bright Today,LLC, was awarded Best Wellness Center in Tomball in 2022 and 2023 and recently received the rare Hall of Fame Award for best wellness center for two consecutive years. My Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which targets common challenges around burnout and stress in the workplace, uses holistic medicine to address and treat these challenges cheaper, faster, and better than conventional approaches alone.
By working together, I speak with all team members, observe the workplace environment, and develop a custom treatment plan to improve company-wide job satisfaction, employee productivity, and overall workplace harmony. Learn more about the Burn Bright Wayä and schedule a free consultation by visiting my website or emailing me directly at Jennifer@BurnBrightToday.com. I look forward to working with you!
Danvers, A. (2022 July). Serotonin Imbalance Found Not to Be Linked to Depression. Psychology Today. Accessed on April 2, 2023 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/how-do-you-know/202207/serotonin-imbalance-found-not-be-linked-depression.
Fitzgerald R. J. (2009). Medication errors: the importance of an accurate drug history. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 67(6), 671–675. Accessed on April 2, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2009.03424.x.
Howell E. A. (2018). Reducing Disparities in Severe Maternal Morbidity and Mortality. Clinical obstetrics and gynecology, 61(2), 387–399. https://doi.org/10.1097/GRF.0000000000000349.
Mann, A. (2022 March). What is Quantum Mechanics? LiveScience.com. Accessed on April 4, 2023, from https://www.livescience.com/33816-quantum-mechanics-explanation.html.
Naturopathic Medicine is Growing in U.S. Medical Centers of Excellence. PR Newswire. Accessed on April 12, 2023, from https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/naturopathic-medicine-is-growing-in-us-medical-centers-of-excellence-300601605.html.
Nix, E. (2014, May 7). Where did the Rx symbol come from? History.com. Accessed on April 7, 2023 from https://www.history.com/news/where-did-the-rx-symbol-come-from.
Physics: Newtonian Physics. Encyclopedia.com. Accessed on April 2, 2023, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/science-magazines/physics-newtonian-physics.
Tynan, R. J., Weidenhofer, J., Hinwood, M., Cairns, M. J., Day, T. A., & Walker, F. R. (2012). A comparative examination of the anti-inflammatory effects of SSRI and SNRI antidepressants on LPS stimulated microglia. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 26(3), 469–479. Accessed on April 2, 2023, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22251606/.
Rhodes, P. , Richardson, . Robert G. , Thomson, . William Archibald Robson , Guthrie, . Douglas James and Underwood, . E. Ashworth (2023, April 6). history of medicine. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/science/history-of-medicine
University of Illinois at Chicago (2010, July 19). Physicians can perform poorly when patients need special care, study suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 7, 2023 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100719174905.htm.