What is Root Cause Medicine?
I’d like to introduce you to what we call Root Cause Medicine. For decades I have seen patients who were frustrated at the western medicine approach of a pill for every ailment and often, another pill to counteract the effects of the first. Watch television for a small amount of time and you’ll easily run into a commercial for a drug with a list of side effects that are beyond frightening. We hear the side effects yet we still take these medications.
I realized a long time ago that patients feel that taking a pill is their only option. They aren’t happy about it and are worried about the potential side effects but they truly feel they have no choice. They feel that way because traditional medicine GIVES them no choice!
In our consultation rooms, there is always a box of tissues. They are used often by women (yes, men are more stoic and don’t typically shed tears), who begins to cry once we explain the concept of what is root cause medicine. It is an approach to healthcare that looks at the body as a whole and designs a customized program to answer the needs of that body, typically without the use of any drugs. Patients often well up and state “I’ve been looking for this for so long, I just didn’t know this type of healthcare existed.” The other comment so often spoken is, “That makes so much sense, why don’t other doctors practice this way?”
It’s unfortunate that there aren’t more clinicians utilizing root cause medicine. My goal is to have clinics around the country that do so, but for right now we are a destination clinic and patients travel from across the country and internationally to see us. After their initial exam and treatment take place, we can then work with them long distance, which works very well.
How Might Root Cause Medicine Work For a Patient?
Imagine you suffer from migraines, as I used to. If you have them in your family, you will likely be told they are genetic and your only choice is take medication. My mother had migraines and that is exactly what I was told. Yet using root cause medicine I completely got rid of my chronic migraines and then hers. Despite my mother having suffered for many decades, she hasn’t had a migraine for thirty years (she’s currently 92) and I have been equally free from that suffering for decades.
Root cause medicine looks to the parts of the body not functioning ideally and heals them through a customized program. Migraines, I have found, tend to be a multi-factorial problem, meaning that there typically isn’t just one thing that is causing them.
Primarily, food must be addressed. Does this patient have any food sensitivities? This is frequently an issue with those suffering from migraines, as well as many other disorders. It makes sense, doesn’t it, that if the fuel you are putting in the body isn’t appropriate, the wonderful machine you call a body cannot function optimally. Does your car function well if you put water in the fuel tank? Sounds silly but it’s just as silly to keep eating gluten or dairy (if you’re sensitive to them) or junk food and expect your body to perform ideally.
Beyond food, we need to assess all the symptoms the patient has and, with an understanding of how organs affect each other and their hierarchy, what organs and systems need to be addressed first.
As an example, the digestive tract is only second in importance only to the brain. In fact, it is so integral to body function, and it interacts with the brain and nervous system to such a strong degree, that it is known as the body’s “second brain”. Therefore, we never miss identifying any digestive symptoms or malfunction that may be contributing to a patient’s lack of ideal function.
This is a very key point to the success of root cause medicine. If the patient doesn’t have symptoms obviously associated with digestion, as an example, it doesn’t mean their digestive tract is working optimally and it also doesn’t mean that the digestive tract isn’t influencing the symptoms they do have.
I was a perfect example of this. If you had asked me in my twenties, when I was suffering from daily headaches, both migraines and “regular” headaches, I would have told you that my digestive tract was great. I never had stomach aches, food never bothered me, and I was “regular”. Based on that, traditional medicine would never have delved into my eating habits, nor the health of my gut. But that was exactly the system that was malfunctioning! Interesting isn’t it?
I had a gluten sensitivity, reacted poorly to dairy products, craved sugar, and was suffering from malabsorption. Secondarily to this, I had adrenal exhaustion and due to that, a severe hormonal imbalance.
All too often doctors begin their treatment with hormones if they suspect they are awry. This disagrees with the root cause medicine approach because hormones are a “downstream” system – meaning they are affected by many, many other organs and systems. If you begin too “upstream”, as it were, you miss the root cause of the problem. In my case the digestive issue was at the root, the adrenal malfunction was due to that and the hormonal imbalance occurred due to the first two imbalances.
Along with too frequently wanting to suppress symptoms with drugs, the other “mistake” I believe traditional medicine makes is not appreciating the complex brilliance that is the human body. If you have pain they want to give you a pain reliever, they never ask “why” the body is producing the pain. Is it a local problem, systemic? This would be answered by root cause medicine and that is why a problem can be handled for good, rather than only temporarily until the effects of the drug wear off.
Often patients have what I like to call a “laundry list” of complaints. Traditional medicine would address each one in a vacuum and medicate. Root cause medicine seeks to discover what is generating such complaints and often finds one or two key root causes that when properly addressed handle all the symptoms.
To continue with my own story, once I discovered my food sensitivities and adrenal exhaustion, not only did my migraines go away but it also handled my “other” daily headaches, my fatigue, joint pain, PMS, and blackouts. Talk about a slam dunk! That is what we do for our patients and it is a delight each and every day.
What is so fascinating about working with root cause medicine is the puzzle that is each patient. How did they get there, what is their history, what genetic predispositions exist, and how do we support the body to counteract those weaknesses? It is a puzzle I never tire of solving and all I ask of my patients is compliance and some discipline.
Our team of doctors consists of internal medicine, naturopathic medicine, clinical nutrition, certified functional medicine practitioners, physical therapists, and chiropractic. All doctors are highly trained and experts in their respective fields.
I wanted to introduce you to root cause medicine so that you would know it existed and where to find it. It works and it’s available to you.
Do you need help with your health?
We have the tools to discover why you may be having trouble with a weakened immune system. It’s not difficult as long as you’re ready to make some dietary and lifestyle changes. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. We will hold your hand through the changes and make each step of change an easy one.
Dr. Vikki Petersen DC. CCN
Founder of Root Cause Medical Clinic
Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr Vikki Petersen is a public speaker, author of two books, several eBooks and creates cutting edge content for her YouTube community. Dr Vikki is committed to bringing Root Cause Medicine and its unique approach to restoring health naturally to the world.