This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Basics of the Biomedical Approach to Healing

Taking a biomedical approach to understanding health challenges and healing those challenges has worked for many people.  Undertaking this approach takes making some paradigm shifts and really rethinking how we view the body, health, disease, food and nutrition on a very basic level.  In conventional western medicine the body is seen as a machine made of separate and isolated parts, and those parts are viewed as belonging to one or more major system such as cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, etc.  The aspects of the body that we can see, such as organs and these larger systems, are emphasized while aspects that are too small to see- such as cellular mechanisms- are de-emphasized.  The parts of the systems are seen as "fine" until they "break", at which point they need to be "fixed" or replaced.  The parts of each system are viewed as passively fulfilling their role, as the parts of a machine would, rather than being active.  While the analogy of the body as machine can be very instructive and helpful we must remember that it is only an analogy and that the body itself is an organic entity that operates very differently than a machine.

So, how does the biomedical approach differ?  Essentially the body is understood as a complex organic system that functions primarily in the realm of biological and biochemical interactions rather than mechanistic ones.  The body is seen as an exceedingly complex conglomerate of cells which interact and communicate with each other regardless of their physical proximity.  The cells and the various structures in which they work together are active and involved in localized responses.  These biological systems are highly inter-related rather than isolated from each other.  The function of these systems is influenced by many factors and can be compromised to varying degrees, so they exist in relative states of health rather than absolute ones.  What this means in terms of autism, or any other disease or disorder, is that the observable symptoms are not the problem in itself but rather are signs that something is going on inside the body on a biological level- they are clues.  Rather than trying to eliminate them, we can try to use them to understand what has gone wrong inside the body and what can be done to restore the involved systems to a better level of functioning.  These clues can also be used to manage symptoms (in cases where either the underlying cause has not been identified or will take a long time to address) in ways that support the body in it's functioning. 

Dr Mark Hyman MD gave an amazing talk at TEDMED 2010 about what functional medicine is, which is the same thing as biomedical medicine.  He gives a very thorough discussion of what this paradigm means in a surprisingly succinct way: