Some doctors are content to be skeptical of alternative medicine. I, on the other hand, am developing a way-more-than-healthy skepticism about orthodox medicine. Fibromyalgia. Chronic fatigue. Irritable bowel syndrome.

First: apologies/sympathy to anyone who suffers from any of the above, or has a friend or relative who suffers. In the following diatribe, I am not discounting the experience of such people. It’s been said, if a person is feeling pain, even if it is “all in their head,” they are really in pain. I am not downplaying the reality of these people’s problems: I’m only questioning the accepted medical explanation and treatment.

So: chronic fatigue. Too tired to do work. There’s too much happening, too much to be done. If I go to the doctor today, and eat lunch with a friend, and go shopping, I’ll be worn out tomorrow, and have to rest all day. Fibromyalgia: I feel all stiff and achy every morning, especially if I exercised the day before (impossible to ask questions about this one, since one of the attendings “has” it), and there are “trigger points,” and if you inject them with steroids they feel better. (Everything and everyone feels better on steroids, btw.) Irritable bowel: the patients, mostly women, either young or retirement age, develop alternating constipation and diarrhea, with no visible cause (such as an autoimmune reaction, inflammation, allergy, or cancer), which is, get this, exacerbated by stress.

Here’s the deal: just because you can describe a symptom cluster, and predict the characteristics of the people who will get it, this does not mean that you have defined a genuine disease, or that you have explained it. Saying there is inflammation does not mean anything – what caused the inflammation? Finding a drug that fixes it doesn’t necessarily mean anything either – fixing the symptoms is not the same as fixing the root cause. The Bible says bitterness is a rottenness in the bones; that sorrow and guilt make one’s health melt away; and much more which I really ought to memorize. There is a very strong correlation in a lot of these “syndrome” diseases, and even the autoimmune entities, between stress/anger/bitterness and the symptoms. How many people who develop these things have: started a new job or started college; lost a job; lost a relationship; retired; and so on, right when the symptoms begin? For some people things calm down after the stressor goes away, for others it continues for years.

Also I can say chauvinistic things like, maybe there’s a reason nineteenth century doctors and society treated women as weak and fragile: most of these “diseases” occur in women. They’re definitely the ones who come to the doctor’s office about it. Maybe women really weren’t made to handle the stresses of the workplace and family combined. Maybe the rising occurrence of autoimmune diseases and things like “chronic fatigue” are related the modern attempt to drag women away from their most fulfilling role. (And you will please not make any comments at me: I’ve already had one patient ask me why I didn’t stay home and keep house. Exception that proves the rule, and all that.)

Anyhow, if you’ve been labeled with one of these syndromes (and all serious medical causes have been ruled out), I seriously recommend you to talk to your pastor, and see if there’s something in your relationship with God, or some bitterness from another relationship, that may be related. You can see now why I have to learn a surgical specialty. I would go crazy if I tried to be a medicine person, spending all day in the office with this stuff, throwing pills at people. Give me an acute process that can be fixed with a scalpel and thread! (Alternatively, and I am keeping this explanation open, I could just be young and healthy, and way too arrogant to imagine the situation of people who aren’t.)