After battling breast cancer, Suzanne Somers restored her health with the help of alternative treatments. In her new book, "Breakthrough," Somers shares what she found through research and interviews with some of today's foremost Western-trained doctors and specialists in alternative medicine. An excerpt.
Chapter one: What is breakthrough medicine?In the old days, a doctor would be able to have lengthy office sessions with a patient when he or she came in for a checkup or to complain of pain or illness. The doctor could spend time with the patient and really listen to what he or she was saying. They could work together to make a determination on how to proceed. A prescription pad was reserved for extreme illness, with doctors trying to find other ways to make a patient feel better. Rest, proper nutrition and fluids were frequently the best remedy.
That doesn’t happen much anymore. Doctors have only a few minutes to spend with each patient, and it is easier and faster to write a prescription for something that will alleviate the complaints. Next patient, please!
As I said in the introduction, our prescription-mad medical culture actually contributes to our feeling unwell. We never really get better; we just mask our symptoms. We don’t follow a common sense approach to medicine, because taking a pill is easier. But we are not feeling better, and we are frustrated with the downward spiral of our health.
Recognizing that many of us feel we have hit the wall with conventional medicine, anti-aging is the likely outcropping to move medicine forward. At present its numbers are small but growing steadily. Breakthrough medicine treats people and patients like individuals who have their own special needs. It brilliantly brings together the personal one-on-one commitment we got from the medical community decades ago coupled with the cutting-edge technology of today.
Technology, so far, has been a double-edged sword for us. We are an aging society because we now have access to technology so sophisticated that the normal life span has been extended. In other words, technology today will not allow us to die. This is great news except for the sad fact that the health of most people has deteriorated to the point that quality of life no longer exists. As a result, many people are passing their last years suffering with various forms and stages of disability, uncomfortably waiting it out until the final curtain; that is, if their brain is still firing well enough to realize that they are alive.
Anti-aging medicine and the forward-thinking Western doctors who have embraced it are able to use technology to help us not only prolong our lives but also have good quality of life. They have rejected the idea of the inevitability of disability and debilitating disease and have decided to band together and take matters into their own hands using natural methods as well as cutting-edge science.
The goal of anti-aging medicine is to increase the life span as well as improve overall health. It emphasizes early detection of illness, preventive strategies, and lifestyle changes. This requires improving the diet, reducing stress, detoxifying the body, boosting the immune system, healing the GI tract, correcting hormonal imbalances, improving cardiovascular function, and rebuilding brainpower.
Change is never easy; as with all passages, most of us enter it kicking and screaming. We are comfortable with our pharmaceutical drugs. We are used to taking a pill for every ailment. We are used to side effects; for instance, a woman takes an antibiotic for a yeast infection, which then requires another antibiotic for the new strain of infection that has compromised the gut flora, so she takes yet another medication to rectify this new problem, and so on.
In its way, anti-aging medicine has put the brakes on this crazy hamster wheel and said, “Slow down, it’s not working; let’s find another way.” Let’s reintroduce common sense and the “art of medicine.” Let’s take advantage of intravenous treatments, chelation, detoxification, nanotechnology. In other words, let’s first try to improve health without chemical interference. Let’s reserve pharmaceuticals for their original intention, which would be extreme medical intervention as in acute illness, infection, mental illness and pain; then pharmaceuticals are the miracles they are meant to be ... the last card in the practitioner’s back pocket.
The new breakthrough doctors have pooled together their great mind-power to use nature’s tools to find creative ways to stay healthy without risking debilitating side effects.
What makes us age? What makes us sick? Aging brings about loss of function, loss of organ reserve. A number of factors contribute to the deterioration of the body — nutritional deficiencies are at the top of the list. We patients still have not connected the dots relative to good diet, that the food we eat is responsible for building us up or taking us down. It is truly that simple.
Imbalances of hormones accelerate aging; toxins and poor-quality food accelerate the aging process at a cellular level. Yet through this new approach to medicine we are able to reverse and correct these imbalances before having to resort to pharmaceuticals. These stressors combine to produce changes in the cell’s membranes; simple measures such as changing from omega-6 oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed, perilla, walnut and others) to omega-3 oils (flax, fish oil supplementation and others) can drastically improve the elasticity of each cell membrane to allow for hydration and oxygen to flow in and out freely. Cells that are hydrated and oxygenated work optimally and reverse the aging process to create a smooth-functioning, healthy body.
As human beings we are “cells reproducing.” In order to live long and healthy, this process must continue. On the other hand, cell dysfunction eventually culminates in disease as the body deteriorates. A simple step, like changing the oils you consume, can positively impact the health of your cells; there is no drug that can do that.
Anti-aging takes free radicals seriously, knowing that free radicals damage cells, which causes the body’s organs and systems to lose function capacity. Excess acid in the system increases free radicals, and 80 percent of chronically ill adults in the U.S. have too much acid in their tissues, which makes them prone to chronic degenerative diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. Free radicals are a major contributor to all cancers, and a major factor in loss of collagen resulting in tissues that are old and withered. Free radicals damage the cell membrane, which interferes with the ability of each cell to send and receive messages from other cells and to absorb the necessary nutrients while eliminating waste products. Free-radical damage is most pronounced in oxygen-rich organs (eyes, brain, liver, heart, lungs, kidneys and blood) and has been implicated in the following diseases: kidney disease, diabetes, pancreatitis, liver damage, inflammation of the GI tract, lung disease, eye diseases (macular degeneration, cataracts), nervous system disorders (Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS), diseases affecting red blood cells (sickle-cell anemia, pernicious anemia), iron overload, autoimmune diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, lupus) and most infections (tuberculosis, malaria, AIDS).
Clearly the need to understand the creation of free radicals and then to take the necessary steps to eliminate them is essential for our systems to be healthy.
Chemicals and toxins, plus stress and poor diet continually help create more and more free radicals, which is why anti-aging medicine understands and focuses on the absolute necessity of neutralizing free radicals by utilizing antioxidants through the food you consume, intravenous treatments and supplementation.
It’s a new world. If we continue doing things the same old way — eating chemical-laden foods, using chemical toxins in our homes and offices — it will seriously affect the quality and length of our lives, and most likely will be the trigger for one or more of the previously mentioned diseases.
The public is responding. Growing numbers of people are turning to alternative anti-aging medicine to address their needs. This new breakthrough medicine recognizes the wisdom and effectiveness of this approach to health, which blends mind, science, and experience. In 1993, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that over a third of those surveyed chose alternative medicine over traditional conventional medicine because people have grown weary of the medical establishment’s continued emphasis on diagnostic testing and treatment with drugs without focusing on them as the patient.
Here’s the good news: It’s not an either/or scenario. It’s important to recognize that practitioners of alternative medicine are not opposed to conventional medical practices and do not hesitate to resort to them when appropriate, especially when dealing with patients who have life-threatening, acute illnesses. Anti-aging medicine aims to stay a step or two ahead of sickness and disease; it also works at toxic avoidance and detoxification, knowing that toxins create malfunctioning cells and cell death is the gradual end to us as a species. It’s that serious. I am a great admirer of anti-aging medicine ... it appeals to my common sense. Drugs will never heal; they abate. Restorative treatment as practiced in anti-aging medicine approaches the body with true healing in mind.
Excerpted from "Breakthrough" by Suzanne Somers. Copyright © 2008. Reprinted with permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.