Foodmatters: Deepening the Divide

“Man has been called the reasoning animal but he could with greater truthfulness be called the creature of suggestion. He is reasonable, but he is to a greater extent suggestible”

– from “The Theory and Practice of Advertising” (1903)

Sometimes people recommend movies to me and, if they are of a scientific nature, I try to watch them when my mind is ready to absorb and analyze the information. Some movies, such as An Inconvenient Truth, have inspired me to reevaluate my lifestyle and rekindle an appreciation for the world around us.

Last night, I watched Foodmatters. This movie, quite frankly, caused me to cringe. I neither refute nor support the movie’s claims regarding food as medicine or the use of high-dose vitamins in the treatment of disease. My intention here is not to assess the validity of the movie (which may not be worth the space on the web).

Unfortunately, the inaccurately titled Foodmatters had little to do with matters of food. Rather, it contained a concerning underlying message that the “medical industry” is greedy, maleficent, and a perpetuator of illness. I would argue that much of what was called the “medical industry” actually referred to the pharmaceutical industry. Regardless, an inordinate amount of film was devoted to Andrew W. Saul’s diatribes, whose propagandist approach really made it difficult to be open to any other aspect of the film. I suppose my reaction would have been expected had I known that Dr. Saul (who earned a PhD in Human Ethology) wrote a book entitled Fire Your Doctor!  Yes, with an exclamation point.

When I was a medical student, I shadowed a Family Physician who used alternative medications to treat things like acne. I will freely admit that I was hesitant about accepting it at first. Really, at the end of the day (literally) I only had the time and brain space to memorize hundreds of drugs along with their mechanism of action, indications, adverse effects, and interactions. But, as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) is becoming more acceptable as a choice that patients might take, physicians are making strides to learn more about these treatments. I am not an expert, so I learn from my peers and from journal publications. There is also a small subset of MD physicians who have been trained in CAM, as well.

As CAM becomes more popular (and lucrative), the providers of this approach gain more trust and credibility from the general public. My hope is that naturopathic students – whom I have heard from insiders can have a deeply negative attitude towards allopathic medicine – are taught to be open-minded towards Western medicine, as well. If patients pick up a sense of disdain or judgment from an alternative medicine spokesperson – Dr. Saul, being a not-so-subtle example – it might deepen what I felt was a closing divide between two potentially integrative fields.