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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Doctor: Drugs not the only approach to health

    Dr. Timothy Lohman welcomed the audience to the Provost’s WellU lecture held in the Gallagher Theatre on Thursday. Before introducing the speaker of the night, Lohman described the purpose of the WellU organization.

    “”The Well University partnership is such a unique group of people who came together: students, faculty and staff,”” Lohman said. The group represented various health-oriented units on campus.

    Dr. Andrew Weil, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and the keynote speaker of the night, lectured about a topic that is a particular passion of his: the need for a new health care system.

    “”I could probably summarize the future of health care in this country in one word – bleak,”” Weil said. “”Even before the present financial meltdown, many were saying that the looming health care crisis has the potential to sink our whole economy.””

    Weil explained that the health care crisis is probably the second cause, now seemingly becoming the first cause of personal bankruptcy in this country.

    “”The percentage of our gross domestic product is enormous in health care; it iseven more than we spend on defense at the moment,”” Weil said. “”But what is worst about all this, is that we have nothing to show for it.””

    Weil mentioned figures showing the comparison of dollars spent on health care in America in relation to other nations. America spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world by a huge margin, he said.

    The doctor explained that even with all the money spent on health care, America ranks at the bottom in terms of health outcomes.

    “”Any way you slice it – looking at infant mortality, longevity, rates of chronic disease, general happiness of people – any way you look at it we are terrible,”” Weil said. “”We rank somewhere near Serbia in terms of health outcomes.””

    Weil expressed to the audience that America is spending our money in the wrong ways, and that is a very fundamental concept to realize in order to reform our health care system. The obsession with profit by both the pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies has led to useless spending by consumers.

    “”We have a lot of good pharmaceutical drugs out there, but we also have a lot of really bad ones and a lot of worthless ones,”” Weil explained. “”And the major problem with these is the cost is enormous.””

    The companies justify this by saying they have to spend the money on research and development, but Weil said that the money spent on research is minuscule compared to the money spent on advertising.

    “”How did it happen that it is considered ‘normal’ in our society for people to be on multiple medications?”” Weil asked. “”The word ‘medicine’ is now synonymous in our culture with drugs.””

    Weil said that is not what the word originally meant. According to Weil, the word ‘medicine’ comes from an ancient Indo-Iranian root that also gives us the words ‘measure’ and ‘meditate.’ And the root actually means thoughtful action to establish order. Weil asked the audience how “”thoughtful action”” came to be synonymous with giving substances to people.

    Most people in this country who went to a doctor and did not receive a prescription would feel somehow cheated, and it is that mindset that has to be changed. But Weil claims that are many drugless techniques that are just as, if not more, effective at curing disease than pharmaceutical drugs.

    Over the years, Weil said that he has become known as the doctor who teaches his patients how to breathe. He has devoted a lot of his time to the study of breath, and the power it holds to change physiology.

    “”I learned nothing about breathing at Harvard medical school – how it is the connection between the mind and the body, the bridge between the conscious and unconscious, the key to the involuntary nervous system, and a master key to physiology and mental health,”” Weil explained.

    There is a simple breathing technique that Weil described to the audience: sit, stand or lie down with eyes closed. First, let all the air out through the mouth and then breathe in through the nose, not making a sound, for four seconds. Hold that breath for seven seconds, and then release the air through the mouth making a sound like the wind blowing. Patients are told to breathe like this for four cycles, twice a day.

    “”I have seen phenomenal results from this technique,”” Weil said. “”It’s the best insomnia remedy that I have found, the most powerful anti-anxiety remedy. People have even stopped having heart arrhythmias because of this technique.””

    But the power of breathing is not taken seriously in world of medicine. Weil says when he tells his colleagues about the wonders it does for his patients, they smile or even snicker at the absurdity. They are in disbelief of something because it sounds too easy, Weil explained.

    “”There is a very understandable theory for why this works. Breathing is the only thing you can do completely as a voluntary act and an involuntary act,”” Weil said. “”By imposing rhythms on this through the voluntary system, you can gradually induce those rhythms on the involuntary system. This, therefore, affects all the internal functions that are regulated beyond conscious intervention.””

    Weil mentioned that there is another technique that originates in another culture that could do wonders for medicine in America: Laughter Yoga.

    Research has been conducted in other countries that focuses on the health effects of laughter. It has been discovered that people can actually laugh their way to good health.

    “”Scientists found that there is a very powerful anti-depressant and anti-anxiety effect to this,”” Weil said. “”Some research shows that patients have dramatically lowered stress hormones, and normalized blood-glucose levels.””

    Weil explained that the power of breath and laughter are just two examples of drugless medicine that can be shifted into mainstream medicine.

    “”Part of our work at Integrated Medicine is to introduce these techniques, and to try and get practitioners aware of the possibilities,”” Weil said. “”But the real work is changing that mindset of both physicians and patients. It’s easy to blame the drug companies, but they are just capitalizing on this belief that medicine is synonymous with pharmaceutical drugs.””

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