I know what many of you are already thinking: where do I sign up? Let’s face it: we organize much of our lifestyles contrary to CW specifically to live healthier and feel better. When it’s check up time, however, we find ourselves back in foreign territory. If it’s just an annual ritual, we can grit our teeth through the usual advice and make the best of it. On the other hand, if we’re receiving care for on ongoing condition and using the Primal Blueprint to get on top of our health – or if we’re just looking for more from our health care – it’s harder to skirt the Primal issue. Some practitioners will listen and offer gentle, cautionary advice. Others will agree to give your approach “a chance” before going back to their prescribed route. A few will unfortunately fly off the handle and tell you they will need to sever the treatment relationship if you continue on this ill-advised course. It can be a tricky, awkward situation to handle: living out your Primal principles while trying to garner benefit and help from your conventional (a.k.a. insurance covered) health care providers. A less explored question is this: what is it like to be on the other side of the fence? What is it like to be a Primal-minded medical practitioner swimming against a wholly un-Primal mainstream?
It’s one thing to swim against the current in your own personal life and quite another to openly navigate a professional career devoted to Primal health. What is it like to live one way but feel held back from sharing the truth with one’s patients and clients – the very people whose care is entrusted to you? Is there a place for Primal yet in the medical field?
The establishment, as we know, sticks with the same old, same old in rampant fear of litigation. (I’m sure Primal-minded practitioners are forever conscious of this anvil over their heads.) Ironically, for the establishment it doesn’t matter if conventional results themselves are lacking or even fatal – as long as the treatment regimen coheres with accepted CW. If the majority agree to uphold the same message, it’s the prisoner’s dilemma, I guess.
For many practitioners and health care students, however, the incongruence between common practice and they’ve come to know as common (Primal) sense becomes a source of continual stress and even fundamental questioning about their career trajectories. Here’s just a sampling of the mail I get:
My question is, what kind of careers are available to a B.S. in Nutrition with a primal/paleo methodology? I imagine I will have to forge my own path; despite the fact that the paleo/primal community is growing, it still isn’t generally accepted.
I’m dreading the idea of doing a year long ADA dietetic internship (despite being called in internship, I pay tuition and do not receive pay), followed by a state licensure exam in order to become an RD, when I disagree with the majority of the ADA’s positions! Unfortunately, opportunities seem quite limited without that RD after my name.
I’m an MD just finishing up my first year of family practice residency…, and I am going crazy!! I have had it up to here (my eyeballs) with modern medicine and how it exists basically to manage disease and not promote health. …My dilemma: I’m an MD who wants to do paleo, paleo, paleo! I’ve even toyed with the idea of getting out of residency after my intern year. I would if I could find gainful employment that would help me pay off loans and get on track to starting my paleo-centered practice.
Currently, I’m in my last year of school … studying nutrition and can honestly say the best thing I have gotten out of it has been the biochemistry classes I’ve taken. I’m going to get my RD credentials within the next year, but definitely don’t want to be stuck in a hospital treating sick patients and (for the most part) making them sicker or not helping them to my fullest potential. To me, that’s against my morals. I’m considering starting up a private practice that focuses more on the paleo lifestyle, but I was just wondering if you had any thoughts on other options for those of us with nutrition backgrounds.
The conundrum becomes this: how does a Primal practitioner maintain gainful employment and fulfillment in his/her chosen health care field? Sure, there are a few big names: Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades, Loren Cordain, cardiologist and blogger Dr. William Davis, and geneticist and researcher Cynthia Kenyon. Other than Dr. Davis, they’ve all gone the route of teaching, research, and publishing. They’re high profile, effective messengers for a better health approach and those who would follow and practice it. Nonetheless, barriers still remain in the day to day practice of health care.
The right path will ultimately be different for each practitioner. Some will choose to head out on alternative tracks in research, publishing, or less conventional health domains. Others will add their unique and needed expertise to change the system from within the heart of the beast – however slow and small (yet significant) their steps toward progress. Obviously, it’s not a black and white issue, and my point here isn’t to stand in judgment of anyone as they navigate the murky waters. It’s not about who can both live and “work” the most genuinely Primal. Rather, I think it’s a chance to further explore – and support – the opportunities of Primal minded professionals.
For those who choose to go out on their own, don’t underestimate the power of networking – virtual and old school. Get your name on the full array of low carb, paleo, and Primal directories. Get connected with local professionals and centers that cater to people who already view wellness (and health care) outside the restrictive bounds of CW: chiropractors, osteopaths, naturopaths, midwives, and even doulas (trust me – these women can network!).
Then there are the semantics. While paleo or Primal raises eyebrows, something like “functional medicine” (which approaches health in terms of nurturing the whole or “holistic” system rather than treating isolated conditions) can perhaps fly more effectively under the radar if you’re working in a more traditional health care setting. As a more widely recognized philosophy, FM can also garner you attention from more alternative/open-minded clients. The Institute for Functional Medicine is a pretty established and expansive organization with some serious networking clout. Granted, it’s more than just tomato-”tomahhto.” Functional medicine is a pretty big umbrella (one that might present its own conflicts), but it might be an area to look into.
For those of you looking for a Primal minded practitioner (or want to see how – and where) others are navigating the medical field with their alternative principles, you can check out Robb Wolf’s new directory (under construction as we speak). You’ll find a lot of chiropractors, acupuncturists, osteopaths, and naturopaths. However, you’ll also find a few pioneering family physicians, cardiologists, bariatric specialists, and even a neurosurgeon! Folks, they’re out there. I think we’re just on the cusp of making these pivotal networking connections.
With that, let me open up the issue for lively discussion as a good old Primal community – a resourceful, thoughtful, informed lot if there ever was one, I’d say. Share your thoughts on connecting with Primal minded practitioners or seeking out professional networks that support Primal physicians. Thanks for reading today.
Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.