Does Treating Symptoms Treat Disease?

Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS Nutritional Periodontist
April 17, 2017 [printfriendly]



Treating SymptomsJason is 53 years old, and he has problems. His doctors are concentrating on treating symptoms, which may not treat disease.


Patients like Jason may have one, two, or more chronic diseases. Most patients think each chronic disease is unique and separate from each other. These patients often have multiple doctors treating symptoms related to their medical specialty. In reality, most chronic diseases have common causes that have not been explored or uncovered.


Manifestation of Various Diseases

Three separate doctors were treating Jason:

  1. For many years, Jason had bleeding gums. Over the last ten years or so, his dentist was performing a deep cleaning around his teeth every three or four years because of his gum disease. His dentist implored him to floss better, but actually Jason was flossing everyday with no obvious difference.
  2. About seven years ago, his medical doctor put him on a medicine to reduce his high blood sugar. Then, about four years ago, the same doctor put him on a statin drug because his cholesterol and triglyceride levels were getting too high.
  3. Recently, the statin drug was not controlling his increasing cholesterol and triglyceride numbers, so his doctor referred him to a cardiologist who prescribed a stronger and different statin medication.


Jason has been diagnosed with periodontal disease and type 2 diabetes, along with a high risk for heart disease because of his cholesterol and triglyceride numbers. Three different health professionals – his dentist, his personal physician, and his cardiologist – currently are treating isolated symptoms of these three “separate” conditions. None of these doctors is getting to the real causes of the symptoms; they are concentrating on the treatment of the manifestations of the diseases they specialize in. Jason is getting sicker.


Jason has noticed other problems. He is gaining weight. His blood pressure seems more difficult to control. Jason has a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. He also seems to be tired more often. What’s wrong with his treatment? What’s wrong with this picture? Could all his problems have similar causes?


Deeper Causes

The general physician, the cardiologist, and the dentist need to look deeper into the common causes that could be affecting his health. Jason’s elevated blood sugar, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and advancing gum disease may be related to the same underlying issues. What could be precipitating his medical and dental problems?


The underlying causes might actually involve Jason’s diet of high sugar and processed grains, which could upset the delicate balance of good bacteria in his gut. Also, poor diet and unbalance of gut bacteria could damage the lining of his gut. Once the lining of his gut was damaged, chronic inflammation could invade the entire circulatory system. In turn, other organ systems could be the target of chronic inflammation.


Digging deeper into Jason’s lifestyle, other factors may be uncovered. Jason’s exposure to environmental toxins, lack of exercise, poor-sleep habits, and severe job-related stress could all increase the damage to various organ systems.


Correction Of Underlying Causes

Jason might improve his symptoms of disease if he started a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet; began an efficient exercise program; received 8 hours of sleep a night, and changed his job environment. Other environmental triggers would need to be investigated. After correcting the root problems, his doctors could get a better handle on the remaining manifestations of disease.


Unfortunately, specialists in various medical areas frequently only treat the symptoms of disease. Underlying causes must be addressed in a definitive manner. If treatment consisted of only resolving superficial symptoms, then the real causes of disease might never be discovered.



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