By Janet Levatin, MD
I recently attended a 5-day course that was an intensive review of pediatrics. I took the course to prepare for the third recertification of my pediatric boards, which I initially tested for and obtained 24 years ago. Board certification, whether in pediatrics or another medical field, is not required to practice medicine. It is an extra credential that many doctors pursue, largely because it is necessary to participate in insurance plans and to hold admitting privileges at most conventional hospitals and centers.
Board certification is also supposed to be a way for a doctor to demonstrate competence in his/her chosen field, be it surgery, internal medicine, obstetrics-gynecology, or, as in my case, pediatrics.
I knew when I registered for the course that the information would be largely irrelevant to the way I practice medicine today. The content focused mostly on rare diseases that the average doctor will never see, and, conversely, on diseases like asthma and allergies that are very common.
The rare diseases are often quite severe. The cause is often genetic, and typically the diagnosis and treatment require specialized training, knowledge, procedures, and medications. Patients who have these diseases legitimately need specialists who work at academic centers and see patients from all over the world who are affected. I was impressed at the amount of intellectual achievement that has gone into understanding these rare and complex diseases, and the elegant solutions that have been found for some of the patients. General pediatricians need to have enough knowledge to spot infants and children with these diseases and refer them to the specialists.
The understanding of and approach to the common diseases, however, was quite different. Diseases such as eczema, ear infections, allergies, asthma, autism, and ADHD, which are all too common these days, are largely termed “idiopathic” by the medical establishment, meaning… “We don’t know the cause.” It is obvious to most functional and integrative physicians that these “idiopathic” diseases are caused by the many toxins children encounter these days in their food, water, plastic toys, electromagnetic forces that bombard them every day, multiple doses of vaccines, and more.
The conventional pediatric approach to these conditions is as woeful as the understanding of their causes. Most treatments involve steroids, antibiotics, and drugs designed for adults, but are now commonly given to children in smaller doses. I found myself feeling disgusted at the lack of insight into the underlying causes of – and solutions for – the common conditions that afflict today’s children. I found myself feeling so disheartened that the profession I chose over 30 years ago has failed miserably to help children achieve the vibrant health and well being that should be their birthright.
I recalled a sentiment I have seen on the internet frequently, the idea that pediatricians need to be avoided. I have to agree that pediatricians who practice conventional medicine do indeed need to be avoided. I then found myself asking, “What is the purpose of a pediatrician, anyway?” I’m sure my answer is different from the answer the instructors at the pediatric board review course would give.
For healthy children without unusual, complex diseases, a pediatrician should be:
- a source of information on nutrition and natural living that will help parents conceive naturally, help mothers have healthy pregnancies, and give birth naturally to healthy infants;
- a source of information on breastfeeding for infants and holistic nutrition for children from infants through the teenage years;
- a go-to resource on how to treat acute and chronic conditions with natural methods, such as homeopathy, herbs, bodywork, and energy therapies;
- a source of information on holistic solutions to behavioral and developmental issues such as teething, sleep disturbances, fears, and temper tantrums;
- an expert who can assure parents that their children are growing and developing normally so they don’t worry unnecessarily about rare disorders that, by definition, are rarely seen.
Sadly, there are far too few holistic pediatricians in the country who approach children’s health in this manner. It is my hope that more pediatricians will recognize that the profession is seriously off-track and has contributed to both the chronic disease burden of many children, and to the alienation of many parents. I encourage parents to seek out practitioners who support a holistic approach to health care like we provide at Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center. I urge pediatricians to wake up to the true causes of our children’s health problems and take the steps urgently needed to restore the profession of pediatrics to one that helps, instead of harms, our most precious resource, our children.