Dr. Michael Finkelstein Talks About His New Book, "Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness"

Story at-a-glance -

  • Only by taking the time to truly understand your body and the complex factors that may be contributing to disease can you truly begin to heal and achieve optimal wellness
  • Slow Medicine looks at your physical body in the context of your whole life
  • Dr. Michael Finkelstein, aka “the Slow Medicine Doctor,” shares insights into how to harness the healing potential of Slow Medicine for chronic disease

By Dr. Mercola

When it comes to food, there’s no comparison between slow food and fast food. Where slow food is the result of careful growing and harvesting, gentle and thoughtful preparation and cooking, and, finally, taking the time to savor each bite… fast food is the result of a cookie-cutter convenience approach.

As fast food has infiltrated society, levels of chronic disease have risen. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that half of Americans suffer from at least one chronic illness, while such diseases cause 70 percent of US deaths every year.

Even chronic diseases among children have quadrupled since the 1960s.1 Something is inherently broken or, more aptly, a series of factors are intertwining to sap the vigor and vitality from so many people, far too soon.

Faced with rising numbers of patients with chronic disease, and often multiple chronic diseases, that fail to respond to conventional medicine, many physicians don’t know where to turn.

The problem, as Dr. Michael Finkelstein, aka “the Slow Medicine Doctor,” realized, is that even the best medical schools aren’t preparing physicians to heal patients properly.

Instead, they’re trained in what is essentially fast medicine – a surgery here, a few prescriptions there, but nothing to address the fundamental root of the problem… the very crux of the disease.

According to Dr. Finkelstein, author of Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness, Slow Medicine is to the healthcare industry what Slow Food is to the restaurant industry…

And only by taking the time to truly understand our bodies and the complex factors that may be contributing to disease can we truly begin to heal and achieve optimal wellness.

The Slow Medicine Difference

Conventional medicine excels at treating life-threatening emergencies. If you have a heart attack or are injured in a car accident, for instance, modern medicine could very well save your life. But, as Dr. Finkelstein said, “for almost everything else, it falls flat.”

“We could say that this quick-fix mentality – the desire, the need, if you will, to go to somebody, to a scientist, a physician who will easily diagnose, pinpoint exactly what you have and give you a single remedy that will work almost immediately – is… what we think should be the standard of care. And, of course, we know that doesn’t always work that way.

…The response then to this fast medicine… is the concept of slow medicine. Gone are the days when you lived in a town where your physician was a family physician and had even visited your house, and where people lived in close-knit communities, where they spent evenings in the park or on the streets with their neighbors.

Our fast-paced life is consuming us here in America. In response, the idea is medicine as a way of living. That’s what I’m trying to encourage people to consider.”

Dr. Finkelstein was trained in both conventional and integrative medicine, and he has come to the same realization that I have, which is that it is rarely one factor that leads to a chronic condition… and it is just as rarely only one factor that needs to change to fix it.

In Slow Medicine, you “pan the lens back to look at the entire picture in the context of a person’s life.” Your health habits are important, for instance, but so too are your relationships, your career, your feelings about where you’re at in your life and so much more. According to Dr. Finkelstein’s website, SlowMedicineDoctor.com:2

Against the backdrop of our assembly-line model of medical care, in which we receive cookie-cutter prescriptions for complex health matters, Slow Medicine provides the necessary time and asks the relevant questions for optimizing general wellness and healing chronic illness.

In the Slow Medicine paradigm, we are recognized as the supreme authorities on our own bodies, and doctors serve as our guides – helping us navigate the maze of conventional, complementary, and alternative medicine options.

In some cases, we may need to schedule a surgery. In other cases, we may need to cultivate loving relationships. In still other cases, we may need to engage in artistic self-expression – through dancing, painting, writing, or playing a musical instrument.”

The Surprising First Question You Should Ask Yourself

Dr. Finkelstein spends two to three hours when he first meets patients, going over minute details in their life. This might sound shocking if you’re used to the typical in-and-out office visit common to conventional medicine, but as Dr. Finkelstein says, “This is not something that can be done… quickly.”

It takes time to get to know a person, including what’s going on in your work and personal life, what you do with your free time, if you spend any time outdoors… All of these questions matter.

If you’re currently struggling with chronic disease and you’ve found yourself at a standstill in your healing process, there is one question that Dr. Finkelstein believes can pull some people out of the rut. In fact, it’s something you might want to ask yourself right now… and it’s probably not what you think.

“One of the first questions I ask people after they tell me the things that are going on in their life [is]… “If I were a magician and I could, with a wand, just wipe away all of these symptoms and you are restored back to health, what would you do with your life?”

I ask that question up front early because I want people to understand why they want to be healthy. I feel that that’s rather important to be able to amass the energy and organization that’s required. The persistence, the perseverance to actually do the things like lifestyle change that will be required to get to that goal.”

If you’re sick, you may have forgotten what life can be like when you’re well. But once you remember what drives you, what you live for… it can be all the motivation you need to make some lasting positive change. That is the beauty of slow medicine; it looks at you as a whole person, not just a statistic or a “patient” with a disease.

Uncovering Your Linchpin

The next important aspect that sets Slow Medicine squarely apart from conventional medicine is that it helps you discover your linchpin. Most people do, in fact, have a linchpin – the event or occurrence that triggered or contributed to your disease process or symptoms. Dr. Finkelstein refers to your linchpin as the central theme of what is going on.

When you take a thorough inventory of a person’s life, that central linchpin often becomes clear… but it’s something that is virtually never uncovered in conventional medicine. Your linchpin might be a bad relationship, for instance, or unresolved grief or anger that is interfering with your ability to really break through and heal. Dr. Finkelstein explains:

Even though they may be doing a lot of other things that are really effective and maybe good for them, they seem not to get to much mileage even though they may work very hard. The word ‘slow’ in slow medicine implies that this is something that takes time and takes a thorough review with people to really help them ascertain what that might be, so that they don’t overlook that central linchpin factor. And then once they identify what that might be, to see how the other things relate to it.”

It is oftentimes this combination – of remembering what it is you want to do with your life (and going after it) and addressing your linchpin – that leads to recovery. You can see how no ordinary physician’s visit, no pill, and no surgery would be able to accomplish this.

The Three ‘Tenets’ of Slow Medicine

Dr. Finkelstein used a good analogy in describing Slow Medicine. He refers to the advice or treatments offered by conventional medicine as seeds, and the rest (your life, lifestyle, linchpin, and experiences) as the soil and the way to condition that soil. The seeds cannot grow without soil, and the healthier the soil is, the more the plant will grow and thrive. In other words, Slow Medicine is very much about taking control of your health – and gaining (or re-gaining) the confidence needed to take an active part in your healthcare and wellness. When asked to explain just three key points from his book, the takeaways that might most benefit someone struggling with their health, Dr. Finkelstein recommended this:

1. Find Your Life’s Purpose (or Remind Yourself of It)

“The first thing… is to identify your life’s purpose. Why do you want to be healthy? I think there’s a real value in spending some time with each person, and asking and answering that question for themselves. Purpose is number one.”

2. Appreciate the Perspective: Your Physical Body Must Be Viewed in the Context of Your Whole Life

“The physical body is part of an array of interactive components that actually make up your whole life. To address the physical body by itself is not likely to lead you as far down the path as you would like. The perspective… is the embedding of the physical symptoms into the context of your greater life. And then from there, to understand how important it is to integrate what you do to recreate the whole.”

3. Have a Plan to Make Your Soil More Fertile

“[Number three is] to have a plan. It’s to understand that in addition to maybe the magic bullet, if there is something that’s really important, you still want to put that seed into soil that’s more fertile. That’s the foundational practices of daily living. Living in alignment and in sync with the rhythms and cycles of nature in harmony with the people you live with, doing something meaningful in your life, and working on all those things simultaneously, so that everything comes together and leads you where you want to be.”

The Manual to Slow Medicine Helps You Take Control of Your Health

Dr. Finkelstein’s book, Slow Medicine, is intended to be a manual, a tool to help you harness the healing potential in your own body and take control of your health. It is based on 77 questions that will help you identify where your life is in balance and where it’s not, as well as where your major opportunities for improvement lie.

It will help you to understand what to prioritize, how to gain the proper perspective and then initiate a plan to get well, mentally, physically, and spiritually. If you’re currently fed up with feeling sick and feel you’ve exhausted all that conventional medicine has to offer with no results, I strongly recommend reading Slow Medicine: Hope and Healing for Chronic Illness. It could quite literally change your life.

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