Healing Disease With Functional Medicine
In the year 2010, I set out, on a global quest.
I’d seen too much suffering and death from the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, which Western Medicine insists–despite much evidence to the contrary–is the cure for cancer.
Little did I know that after 3 ½ years of study and travel, I’d learn a lot about disease, and how to return the body to health–and true healing–that went far beyond cancer.
What I learned was mind-blowing for how human beings can heal from neurodegenerative disease like Parkinsons, ALS, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimers and dementias as well. Not to mention auto-immune conditions and many more of the modern epidemics.
I learned how “three weeks can turn it all around.”
I’d like to share with you what I learned that 99.9% of Americans don’t know—and they should, based on the rate at which we are being diagnosed with diseases for which Western medicine has no answers.
The Western school of thought is that toxic drugs (sometimes) temporarily suppress symptoms or burn back a tumor. And our doctors mostly leave it at that, with no tools for returning us to original, vibrant health.
In my own circle of family and close friends, I’d watched relatively healthy people who were diagnosed with a Stage I cancer die, literally, from chemotherapy.
And I’d read thousands of pages, for 20 years, about the epic failure of Nixon’s 1974 War on Cancer—now a phenomenon 1/2 of men and over 1/3 women face in a lifetime. In 2018, we currently treat most cancer with the same deadly, sub-par drugs and treatments that we did in 1974!
Besides slightly lower toxicity of some of the treatments from the 1970’s, and some targeted approaches that narrow in on the tumor, rather than blasting the whole body, cancer treatment still yields unacceptably poor outcomes, as well as massive secondary disease risk and high toxic load, after the treatment is done.
I traveled to 19 clinics on a few different continents, and I filmed interviews with dozens of doctors. I wasn’t talking to “Standard of Care” oncologists. I was talking to doctors of functional medicine—also called “biological medicine,” in Europe—about what they do to find the root cause of the degenerative disease, and then heal the human being who has the malignancy, neurodegenerative condition, autoimmune misfire, or other catastrophic failures of the immune system.
My original intent was to put together all the best practices of these doctors and researchers, world-wide, into one resource.
I planned to write a book. I never did that.
(Why? A few reasons. One is that my friend Chris Wark came along and did it best—and he’s a living testimonial, since he beat Stage IIIC colon cancer, with a dire prognosis, doing all the things I discovered from clinics all over the world. Things you can and should do at home to change your diet and lifestyle. He teaches all the things I learned in this worldwide search. You should get his free 20 Questions for Your Oncologist, which I feel is one of the most important resources I’ve ever encountered, on cancer, as a starting place. Grab that important resource even if you have another disease, because the treatments are often similar, sometimes the same, because the root causes of the various diseases are similar in this modern toxic world. And get it to review, and keep on hand, if you should ever face “the C word” yourself.)
But for some, an inpatient stay at a clinic for their MS, cancer, autoimmune or other diagnosis, is important, and a lifesaver. An inpatient stay at a clinic run by experienced biological medicine doctors is a first important step for many who are serious about not just treating symptoms, but truly healing from the disease.
I found ONE place, on the planet, that is head and shoulders above the rest. So amazing, on all levels, that I’ve gone back there, now, annually, for 7 years. I plan to go back for 1, 2, or 3 weeks every summer for the rest of my life.
I’m going to share with you 5 reasons why this is where I, personally, would be treated, if I became ill.
I’ll share with you, first, the basic principles all of the best doctors I interviewed use, even though specific treatments for various health issues are number in the hundreds.
Second, I’ll share with you my frustration about the field of functional medicine, biological medicine, alternative medicine—and why there are so many patients who spend a lot of money and don’t get well.
And third, I’ll share with you why this one clinic stands head and shoulders above the rest. And why, as educated as I am after 25 years of research on cancer and disease—and holistic ways to treat disease that honor the integrity of the human immune system, rather than nuking it, crushing it—this is the clinic I would take my own child, or my own father, to, if they were diagnosed with a serious illness.
Principles of Functional Medicine
This discussion is brief, and oversimplifies the power of what Functional Medicine seeks to do. And that’s because I assume you want the abstract in this blog post, rather than the 400-page book I set out to write.
But the purpose of doctors trained in functional medicine (a term becoming popular in the U.S.) or biological medicine, which is how I’ll refer to this holistic medical treatment, since we are discussing a Swiss clinic, is to solve the underlying problem.
Western Medicine treats the symptoms. It resolves almost nothing.
Even in the case of cancer, as an example, Western Medicine sees the disease as a tumor: an invader, something to identify and destroy.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatments can certainly shrink a tumor. There are two problems with this.
One is that the treatments themselves (chemicals and burning rays) are highly carcinogenic and are well documented to cause secondary cancers. (And when the cancer “comes back?” First of all, that’s a misnomer, as biological medicine knows that cancer is never truly “gone,” nor is there any such thing as a discrete “Stage I” cancer—it is virtually always metastatic by the time it is diagnosed. When the cancer comes back, it’s ferocious, and it comes back with a vengeance, adapted to the chemical drugs, virulent and resistant to chemo and radiation.
The second problem with the chemo/radiation approach, besides its toxicity and increasing your overall disease risk, is that at best, it can shrink a tumor. Toxic chemicals and burning rays cannot, and will never, heal the human organism.
So, biological medicine sees cancer or other disease as a catastrophic, foundational failure of the human immune system. (After all, your body was metabolizing 50,000 cancer cells daily, before cancer got the upper hand.)
And biological medicine seeks to understand what happened, with you, emotionally, and physically, that led to your immune system going “down for the count” so that mutating cells were able to organize themselves, with a terrifying vascular system to grow, feed itself, and eventually threaten entire bodily systems and functions, and potentially kill you.
(I’m using cancer as an example, but remember, biological medicine has amazing results for millions of people on virtually all disease. All disease starts with inflammation–usually of billions of cells, for many years, by the time you have a diagnosis, and a clear failure of the immune system.)
You’re with me so far? So your typical U.S. MD sees cancer as the enemy and wages war.
Biological doctors—who, in the case of those who run the Swiss clinic, went to traditional medical school and have all the background in human physiology and epidemiology—see the big picture. They assess many factors that led to the problem that has been growing an average of 8 years, by the time you’re diagnosed!
These may include your pH, your mineral and other deficiencies, dozens of measurements of the functioning of your cells, your heavy metals toxic load, where those toxins came from, how your detoxification pathways work, and many other things that Western Medicine knows nothing about.
(It literally isn’t taught in North American medical schools. In fact, it is scorned by many, because medical schooling is underpinned by, in many ways controlled by, the megabillion dollar pharmaceutical and tech industries.)
After learning whether perhaps you grew up on a farm where pesticides were sprayed, or you worked as a hair stylist or dentist or chemical technician, for example, with high exposure to known sources of toxicity….after your biological doctors learn that perhaps you ate processed food the first 20 years of your life…after they learn where the innate weaknesses in your body are, functional medicine doctors do two things:
1. They seek to eliminate ongoing toxic exposure, and get the toxins out of your body.
2. They seek to rebuild your immune system.
Now, a growing body of research shows what Chemical X causes in the human liver, or kidneys, or musculoskeletal system, for instance. And also, what treatments—using technology, supplements, diet, psychological interventions—actually turn disease states around.
Western Medicine has not adopted these treatments, and in fact ignores them, not because they don’t work, but because insurance doesn’t pay for it, because there are no billing codes for the doctors to get paid. Because there is no profit in alternative treatments, the way our system currently works—with very few exceptions.
In Europe, there is no “great divide” between the drugs-and-surgery monopoly of Western Medicine, and the huge body of biological (or holistic, or functional) knowledge that seeks to find “root cause” and heal the human being.
In fact, there is a specialty in traditional medical schools in Europe, of Biological Medicine. Doctors who become frustrated with the limitations and problems of the “all-drugs-all-the-time” approach may seek this additional training. These doctors may go on a life-long quest of self-study to pursue the very exciting and growing knowledge base on how to help people truly heal.
Problems With Functional (or Biological) Medicine
Functional medicine has roots in thousands of years of research, practice, and techniques in Eastern and Ayurvedic and other traditions of Medicine, but the movement also benefits from ongoing research and practice.
But right now, in this moment that you are reading this, it is also a reaction to 100 years of excitement about what drugs could do for us, and then the disappointment of learning that these approaches have terrible risk levels, and don’t actually “cure” anything.
Our grandparents were excited to think that eating chemicals (taking prescription meds) or cutting people open to do surgeries, might be the answer to a terrifying growth in disease rates.
As Western Medicine has failed us, everywhere but in emergency medicine and in suppressing symptoms of many diseases, many brave doctors have asked, “But what is missing in our knowledge and practice?”
In Europe, at least compared to the U.S., these doctors wanting to work outside “Standard of Care” are not scorned, and shunned, cut off from insurance billing, with their medical licenses at risk. European doctors have more freedom, and they integrate the two schools of thought far better.
However, my 3 ½-year tour of clinics and countless interviews of doctors, very frankly, was depressing. Few of these doctors could offer published clinical evidence of the efficacy of their methods and interventions.
Usually, that is not because the doctor is a charlatan, though I certainly had my doubts about some of them. In a few cases, thankfully not many, doctors were putting together lightbulb treatments they’d invented, or selling network marketed products with flashy claims or expensive “after care” packages to patients.
I would call the care received at two of the clinics I visited bordering on malpractice.
At several others, the diet served was sugary, salty, fried-food cafeteria fare, indicating to me that the management doesn’t know or care about how important the role of diet is, for people in a process of healing.
(I prefer excellent whole-foods and superfoods nutrition at a clinic, and education to go along with it, for when the patient returns home.)
But mostly, the problem with biological medicine is that there aren’t millions of dollars for “clinical trials” in the more natural or holistic approaches, because those studies are funded, when you dig into where the money came from, by the megabillion-dollar Pharma and Biotech and Medical Tech industries.
The whole concept of the “clinical trial” was invented by Big Pharma, and has never been scientifically tested. It is now used to see if a new drug can beat the standard, for even slightly lower toxic effects or slightly better short-term outcomes, to get FDA approval.
The journals (funded by Pharma, often, or Pharma is funding the University or organization behind the journal) aren’t particularly interested in publishing studies that don’t yield results that flow to these industries, which are among the richest industries in the history of the world.
Another challenge I found, studying at these clinics worldwide, is that most people don’t seek out biological medicine until they’ve been through many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, where their compromised immune system is deeply damaged and time is not on the patient’s side. A doctor of biological medicine has a difficult task, in most cases.
Finally, a lack of standardization challenges functional medicine in the U.S. and biological medicine in Europe, as we are in a transition phase where patients demand better than they’ve gotten from the strictly “cut-burn-poison” methods, but can’t find the double-blinded, placebo-controlled published study on long-term outcomes of the alternative approaches.
Many of these doctors plug many or all of their patients into the supplement line they’ve adopted, or the expensive technology they’ve invested in.
I asked difficult questions of the doctors I interviewed, and left, in most cases, disillusioned with the state of what is available to a patient seeking “alternatives.”
5 Reasons Why This Swiss Clinic is the Best, World-Wide
As I continued my travels around North America, Europe, and Latin America, I often gathered more questions than answers along the way. But I discovered major weaknesses at the various clinics. Not least of which is that anyone stepping outside Standard of Care (the system of insurance, drug and surgery interventions) usually has to now market their services only to wealthy cash payers.
I became a bit disillusioned about the expense of holistic care, to either heal from a major disease, or to rebuild and heal after the assault on the immune system of many rounds of chemo and/or radiation.
In many of the clinics world-wide, I found the doctors to be overwhelmed, cash-strapped, unable to prove that their treatments work except on a case-study level, and without the support of the insurance networks and medical organizations.
The famous Swiss Mountain Clinic (formerly known as Paracelsus Al Ronc) in the North of Switzerland is a major reason I flew to Europe (and studied at five European clinics, while I was there). However, I found it to be highly clinical: busy doctors in white coats, always in a rush, the patients in a busy factory of sick care.
The point of this article isn’t to review all 19 clinics I attended, worldwide. However, the clinic that took my breath away, the clinic I have sent my own family and friends to, has these benefits:
1. Medical doctors trained in biological medicine run the clinic and oversee all patient care. They are deeply compassionate and have decades of experience in treating the worst diseases, and have seen hundreds of miraculous outcomes and health turnarounds. I like chiropractors and naturopaths (which are most of the holistic practitioners worldwide), but in my opinion, best of all is an MD who has received a great deal of additional training outside that foundation.
2. The treatments are the “best of the best,” the most evidence-based treatments I discovered in my global research, even if those treatment modalities require significant investment by the clinic. (Not wacky, unproven spa treatments foisted on a cancer or neurodegenerative patient who doesn’t know better. I saw a lot of these, world-wide.)
3. The facility itself has a healing vibration and a carefully cultivated environment to allow human beings to get well. The healing isn’t limited to the treatments. The Swiss Mountain Clinic facility involves minimizing EMF exposure in the residence and treatment and dining areas, and a relaxing on-site residential stay. The views are beautiful, the air is clean, the water is pristine snowmelt from the Alps, and the building itself is an architectural wonder.
(Whether you come with me, on a 1- or 2-week summer liver detox retreat, or if you are treated here for 3+ weeks for a serious illness, you must hear the story of how the facility came to be—it’s amazing. See the p.s. below this blog post for a bit more about it.)
4. You stay on-site, and you are served three detoxifying meals daily, by a Michelin-rated chef. (Most of the other clinics, world-wide, you must stay at a hotel off-site, and fend for yourself, for food. This makes your visit rather stressful, which defeats the purpose. I believe that what you eat is foundational to your healing, and so is the “vibe” of the facility. You will not want to leave this clinic. I’ve stayed for three weeks—and I generally love going home after a trip—but I’m always very sad to leave.)
5. Shockingly, given that Switzerland is the most expensive country in the world, a stay at the clinic is less expensive than anywhere else I visited, including sub-par Tijuana clinics. Mexican clinics are the second most cost-effective solutions I discovered in my global travels. However, you are staying in a gated compound due to crime around the area, which means no beautiful morning hikes in the Alps, of course—and you’re staying in a dingy room with a twin bed, often in a shared room, very hospital-like.
The Swiss clinic is so affordable for three reasons. One, because we are bringing Americans to them, so they give my followers a large discount. Two, the $24M 1984-built clinic was acquired in 2009 for $3M, making its cost structure affordable. And most importantly, three, these doctors are not in the practice of Medicine for the big bucks. After the Wiechel family acquired the business from Dr. Thomas Rau, the mother-daughter MD’s and their partners live humbly, in small apartments on site, and their motive is a genuine love for caring for people using what’s working in biological medicine.
In the 7th year of my visits to the clinic, and after showing my MD friends there around the western U.S., I decided to help them keep their dream alive. Of keeping this utterly magical facility in its original purpose: helping sick people become well, in the care of compassionate, experienced, knowledgeable doctors of biological medicine. Introducing this amazing facility to North Americans.
The clinic does best in the treatment of neurological disease and cancer, as Dr. Petra Wiechel is extremely gifted at neural therapies and has studied and treated thousands of patients with these diseases, in her long career.
I am going to the clinic in July, and you can learn more about a reasonably priced Liver Detox and Retreat, of 1 week or 2 weeks, with me, here.
If you have been diagnosed with a serious illness, also learn more about a 3-week stay. As Dr. Petra told me, “I can accomplish miracles if I am given three weeks.”
While that would mean different things to different people, and while we will not make health claims regarding specific outcomes, I say this to suggest that a commitment of three weeks is a minimum to turn around a very toxic situation involving significant illness. For all others, consider a group retreat with us in July.
–Robyn Openshaw, MSW, is a researcher and wellness author of 15 titles, including 2017’s #1 bestseller Vibe, as well as The Green Smoothies Diet, and 12 Steps to Whole Foods. She has spoken in 450 cities in the past decade and specializes in educating her audience about human detoxification, making easy shifts to a whole-foods diet, and believes that accessing the highest vibrations of the Universe is possible for those who seek them.
P.S. As promised, the amazing backstory of the Swiss Mountain Clinic:
The clinic was built in 1984, when one of Switzerland’s most wealthy citizens was healed of a “terminal” disease by a holistic doctor, and asked him what she could do, to repay him.
He asked her to build him a clinic. The architecture maximizes every room’s breathtaking view of the beautiful Calanca Valley in the Swiss Alps. Every residential room, and virtually every treatment room, even the dining area, have a spectacular view that has an extraordinary effect on the human spirit.
This makes a huge difference in how you feel (anxiety free!) during your medical diagnostics and treatments: massages, hyperbaric ozone treatments, heavy-metal chelations and nutrient infusions, and more.
The very famous Dr. Thomas Rau, MD, one of the greatest living doctors of biological medicine, trained Dr. Wiechel and owned the clinic until its sale to the Wiechel family in 2008. They purchased the facility from Dr. Rau, breaking off from the other (much more famous) northern Paracelsus clinic in an industrial town, for 1/8th of its original cost in 1984 dollars!
We, the patients, are the recipients of this development, because due to their cost structure, Swiss Mountain Clinic can now provide affordable care.