I just finished reading a thoughtful and informative book by Harvard-educated physician, Daphne Miller, MD. In Farmacology: What Innovative Family Farming Can Teach Us About Health and Healing, she makes an analogy between the “complex and dynamic” systems of soil and modern farming practices, and the human body and modern medicine.
After reading a book about soil ecosystems, Dr. Miller was struck by the similarities of the chemical processes that occurred in soil and those that happened in our own intestines.
Like our own biosystems, it [soil] too depends on bacteria and fungi to supply it with the fats, amino acids, and carbohydrates that make up its structures.
A quest for a new medical vision
Dr. Miller began traveling to family-owned “sustainable” farms that embraced a more holistic approach to agriculture, that is working with the natural ecosystem rather than trying to force it into submission with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
She found that not only is the soil healthier, the produce is tastier and more nutritious. Also, the farms operate more efficiently and the people working on the farms do not suffer the ill effects of working with neurotoxic chemicals.
She makes the connection that how these farmers treat their soil is how we should be treating our bodies.
But the concept made perfect sense and captured much of what I viewed as the shortcomings of our predominant model for health care: the wasting of resources, the overemphasis on pharmaceuticals for short-term benefit at the risk of long-term side effects, the focus on organs rather than organisms, and a general disregard for the body’s natural ability to heal.
Modern medicine works by assigning every patient a diagnosis (or two or three). This “code” is really meant for billing purposes, but it’s also used to direct patient care: one medication is for this diagnosis, another for that diagnosis, and this procedure will help that other diagnosis. You get the picture. And all these treatments may or may not work well together.
Using what she’s learned from the farmacologists, Dr. Miller advocates for a more organic and “web-like” health care model that looks at the entirety of each patient’s unique “ecosystem” rather than reducing each person to an ICD 9 code.
Such a holistic model is not new, but it is still not the norm in our health care system. Dr. Miller believes that the rich, healthy soils and the abundant, nutritious produce she encountered on her journey are indicative of the success of supportive farming systems and it is “time that we bring this same purpose and imagination to medicine.”
I couldn’t agree more.