I’ve practiced Dermatology and General Medicine for the past 35 years, since 1979s.
Until I started this office, Tarrytown Functional Medicine, 15 years ago, I practiced the way most doctors still practice, treating the disease. The paradigm was that the disease, not the person, had a treatment.
Acne treated with antibiotics, eczema with steroids, psoriasis with ultraviolet light and certain drugs, dry skin with dry skin lotions, hives with antihistamines, etc.
We associated medical illness, especially infections and autoimmune disorders, with some skin disorders but aside from treating infections with antibiotics, and autoimmunity with immune suppressing drugs, we did not look at the causes of the skin diseases or the underlying medical illnesses, and prevention was not even discussed except for using sunblockers to prevent skin cancer.
Some of the drugs we used carried severe risks of side effects, such as loss of eyesight with Antimalarials, severe liver toxicity with Methotrexate, damage to a fetus if the woman got pregnant while on the drug with systemic Retinoids, Steven’s Johnson’s syndrome (a condition in which the entire skin gets blistered and inflamed and can slough off, resembling scalded skin, especially the mucous membranes, where you can be left with permanent scarring) with almost any drug but especially antibiotics, Allopurinol, or even Tylenol. There are entire text books detailing the toxic skin reactions people get to drugs. Doesn’t that tell you something?
I saw children with stunted growth from the steroids they used for their eczema and patients on antibiotics for years for acne but nobody told them to stop eating sugar and dairy. Nobody was addressing the cause!
There was no concept of diet in relation to skin disease in the early 1980’s. Gluten is a known trigger for psoriasis in some people, but after people had 3 weeks of inpatient ultraviolet light therapy (they actually admitted people into the hospital for psoriasis in those days), we gave them a pizza party on leaving the hospital!
I actually went to a Dermatology conference last year where doctors presented their difficult patients and one doctor said she had a patient with an eruption around the mouth with no antibiotic or topical cream could heal and she put him on an “all bread diet”!! Eruptions around the mouth are frequently due to dietary triggers, most frequently dairy or gluten. This diet could actually exacerbate the problem. This is the extent of the disconnection between standard treatment and what we do in Functional Medicine. We absolutely live in two worlds.
In the 80’s and 90’s I set up Dermatology clinics in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan in medical offices.
Patients began asking me if they could prevent their skin diseases with diet or vitamins and I started studying this, becoming certified in clinical nutrition by the International and American Association of Clinical Nutritionists.
In everyone who agreed, I started a very simple nutritional program consisting of a detox shake, a probiotic, fish oil, and some dietary restrictions along with the medications. The results were remarkable. There were people with chronic dermatological diseases who previously would come in every month for medications who would get better sometimes for a year or longer after doing a few months of this simple nutritional program.
When I discovered Functional Medicine, it was as if the world opened up. I began applying the principles of Functional medicine to all patients, not just Dermatology patients. The principles consist of supporting the body through natural healing by supplying the body what it needs nutritionally and removing toxic substances and dietary triggers. See our section under “Detoxification” in the “services” section. The results were amazing. Instead of treating each symptom individually with a drug, we used laboratory assessment to see what people actually needed and supplemented them with those nutrients. We saw many conditions vanish even though we were not necessarily treating them. When we combined this approach with acupuncture, the results have been really gratifying for our patients and for us.