Why I Do What I Do….
My name is Michael Smith and I am passionate about helping people improve their health and lifestyle.
I am especially passionate about helping people who are suffering from chronic illness, degenerative disease and autoimmune disease, the people in our society who need real and proactive health care the most.
All too often these are people who are left behind with largely ineffective treatments and passive illness management protocols. In my experience just managing the symptoms of an illness will never resolve the root cause of any disease.
For most of the last 20 years I have combined the leading edge sciences of Functional Medicine and Evolutionary Nutritional, with the ancient healing wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I have seen this combination of healing modalities help hundreds of people resolve or at least find relief from many of the illnesses that plague modern society. These consistently positive and inspiring results continue to fuel my passion for staying abreast of new research, new protocols, supplements and dietary strategies.
Another source of passion is my own personal journey with health, disease and the long road to recovery. Twenty years ago, I went from being a 165 pound athlete to becoming a 112 pound severely ill patient in the intensive care unit of the hospital – given three days to live. I was diagnosed with an almost fatal variation of Crohn’s disease and Colitis. Luckily I made it through all of that, but the doctors told me I would be tired, weak and in pain the rest of my life. Believe me, I wanted a second opinion. From that intention, I found Chinese Medicine. By changing my diet, how I exercised, how much rest I allowed myself and getting regular support through supplements and acupuncture treatments I was better within a year. It was an amazing journey and it still is.
Since that time I have been a student, a practitioner and eventually a teacher of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Functional Medicine. In my clinical practice I focus on inspiring my patients to eat, move and rest like all of our ancestors used to a few hundred to a few thousand years ago. It has been my experience that our modern lifestyle of eating processed foods, near constant stress and a lack of exercise is the underlying cause of most of today’s chronic illnesses. By eating an “ancestral” diet centered on abundant plants, healthy proteins and fats while avoiding grains and other foods that contain allergens and irritants many people find amazing changes in their health in just a few weeks. I am so passionate about this approach to healing that I wrot
e a book about it.
Why Chinese Medicine?
I LOVE Chinese medicine! I was first exposed to Chinese medicine as a martial arts student when I was still a teenager. I read some of the classic translations of books written over 2,000 years ago and was fascinated with the perspective that natural laws govern so much of human health and our emotional wellbeing and lifestyle had so much to do with the process of disease. This healing tradition has evolved over the last 5,000 years and includes herbology, acupuncture, massage, diet, exercise, meditation and counseling.
I also feel that this ancient and deep resource of healing wisdom is, for the most part, largely misunderstood in the western world. After becoming a Doctor of Chinese medicine I came to realize that most people find the terminology a bit challenging. I can appreciate that being told your illness is due to dampness and wind and a lack of yin or yang can seem vague or at least unscientific. I can also appreciate that being told that something called “Qi” is stuck or not moving properly is the reason you need acupuncture can sound a bit strange.
It may sound like I am criticizing what I practice, but I am not. I am just acknowledging that the attempt to translate ideas across thousands of years and two very different languages and worldviews has created some confusion. One of the purposes for this website and blog is to bridge the gap of time and language and help make sense of Chinese medicine to those who speak English and see the world through the eyes of modern science. I hope to show that there is really only one fundamental difference between Chinese medicine and Western Allopathic medicine. In each, the body is the body, anatomy is anatomy and physiology is physiology. The terminology and depth of understanding may be different, but the understanding is the same between the two. The difference is based on what a diagnosis is.
In Western medicine a diagnosis is a label for a group of symptoms and changes in physiology. The diagnosis “label” usually describes the condition (Arthritis – Latin for joint inflammation), or is named for the doctor who understood the condition as unique (Crohn’s disease) or is named for a famous person with the condition (Lou Gehrig ’s disease). Once a diagnosis is made it informs the doctor on the method to treat or control the symptoms and manage the disease. I think it is worth remembering that modern medical science really got started in World War One. The focus was naturally on pain management, resolving infections and emergency surgeries, amazing developments we are all grateful for to be sure. I bring this up because Western medicine has taken on the leading role in health care for over a century but most of what is practiced is essentially symptom relief and crisis management.
In Chinese medicine a diagnosis is a description of the primary root dysfunction or imbalance within the deepest systems in the body. If you have a headache your doctor of Chinese medicine will need to figure out WHY you are having headaches. It could be due to many changes or combination of changes in the body. In Chinese medicine the focus is on restoring normal function to each system and balance between the systems. This usually takes some time and each individual’s health improves in unique ways, but effects tend to last.
Why Functional Medicine?
Functional medicine is like Chinese medicine with a microscope and it is leading medical science into the 21st century with open research, clinically proven therapeutic protocols and the most up to date lab testing available.
For any disease process to occur there has to be negative changes in one or many of the essential functions in the body. When there are systems in dysfunction there will be symptoms and any group of symptoms will eventually be diagnosed as a disease. I know of people who have gone to a regular doctor and be told that they are not sick enough to be diagnosed with anything, so they are told wait until they are sicker and then come back. Modern allopathic medicine begins with diagnosing a disease and then focuses on alleviating the symptoms. In my experience focusing on reducing the symptoms of a disease is less effective in the long run than resolving the root cause of a disease. Functional Medicine focuses on finding the sources of dysfunction (SOD’s) in each individual and restoring each dysfunctional system back to normal function.
Unlike allopathic or Western medicine, Functional medicine does not focus on the diagnosis, but why in each individual the disease is occurring. Each individual will have a unique combination of these sources of dysfunction. Ten people with the same medical diagnosis may each have very different proportion of SOD’s. This tells us that each person requires individualized treatment strategies and that the length of treatment can vary greatly. It is always an amazing experience to review a patients lab tests and explain what is actually happening in their bodies. It is an incredible motivator for someone to change their diet and lifestyle as well as seek proper treatments and take their supplements regularly.
This has been my experience after 17 years of practice. Each of us is unique and the process of healing is different for everyone. Regardless of a persons diagnosis, the real investigation begins with discovering why it is occurring and from this we discover what will work and what won’t.
Why write a blog?
I love learning new things and as a front line clinician I feel more confident being up to date with the latest research. I once heard that the word Doctor comes from the Latin doc-ere and means “teacher of common sense”, which of course makes all of my patients students of common sense. Writing a blog seems like the easiest way to have an accessible collection of the most practical things I discuss with people in my clinic daily.