By Morton Teich, MD, PC
Dr. Morton Teich began his work in 1974 as a private practice allergist, long before allergies were the hot-button topic of today. The study of allergies was still on the periphery, and topics like gluten and candida yeast were mostly foreign concepts. Dr. Teich focused on his patients holistically, studying the whole picture rather than just the symptoms, also not popular opinion at the time. (Holistic healthcare is still struggling to reach the forefront even today.) All this groundbreaking work, and Dr. Teich never wrote any books, or published any journals — he focused on helping his patients, thousands of people whose lives he changed for the better. Dr. Teich weighs in on allergies, and the state of healthcare today.
You are a doctor of Pediatrics, Allergy and Immunology, and Environmental Medicine. Can you explain to our readers what that means?
According to conventional medicine, I have Board Certification in those specialties and my practice should be limited to the topics they address. Environmental Medicine, which addresses the root causes and imbalances in the symptoms presented by the patient, affords me the discipline of a much broader approach. I am basically a “detective” treating both children and adults.
You were an allergist before allergies were a hot topic, and talking about gluten and candida before these were household names. What was that like?
Until recently, mainstream allergy addressed only asthma, hay fever, eczema, hives, and insect bites. A small group of allergists, beginning about 40 to 50 years ago, considered that allergy could affect all systems of the human body, and could be triggered not only by molds, dust, pollens, insects, and food (including gluten), but also by chemicals and electromagnetic frequencies. My exposure to this group was fortuitous and taught me a broader view.
The term “allergy” itself is a controversial one — it has taken until only recently for conventional allergy to acknowledge the existence of the microbiome and "leaky gut" reactions. I have tried to bridge that gap by remaining in both camps. I, also, was lucky to be in attendance at one of the first Candida lectures by Dr. Orian Truss in 1981, and then spoke at the first Yeast Conference, and was quoted in the book “The Yeast Connection” by William Crook, MD. Though controversial, adding that concept has helped many of my patients.
How have you seen medicine change since you got your start?
Due to malpractice suit potential and medical board oversight, physicians tend to do more testing as defense protection, but often end up relying solely on that testing, as opposed to mainly using their clinical acumen to treat a patient. In addition, ancillary personnel are used much more frequently, and often act as the main or even sole caretaker and decision maker — sometimes in situations that require more expert decision-making. The patient may never get to even see the physician. More importantly, more and people are turning toward some form of integrative or alternative medicine to improve their health.
Do you think that doctors today are too quick to just prescribe a pill to "make it better"?
Conventional medicine physicians, because of education, time limits, plus the influence of drug companies (Big Pharm) tend to treat mainly the symptoms. For acute illness this may be acceptable, but for chronic illness, I feel the root cause should be pursued and, if found, be addressed. Then, if indicated, a “pill” might be prescribed.
How exactly do you test for allergies? Do you think it's important for everyone to have an allergy test at some point in their life?
After taking a comprehensive history and physical examination, the decision to do allergy testing may be entertained. Skin testing for inhalants, foods, and/or insect allergies — either using scratch or intradermal needles, or techniques known as Provocative or Serial Dilution testing — can be done. Blood testing to evaluate the results can also be used. As to whether everyone should have an allergy test at some point, the question is WHY. The answer is: Only if indicated, since many people have nothing that would point toward an allergic diathesis. Which tests are done should be based on an extensive history, and the final question would be whether there was anything to gain by doing them.
Why do you think kids, and even adults, today have more allergies than 10 years ago? Or are we just more aware?
There are several causes. These include the dramatic increase in the number of vaccinations given to our children, and the inclusion of thimerosal and aluminum in these vaccines, in addition to the hygiene hypothesis that we have cleaned the environment so much that kids cannot stimulate their own immune system naturally. The dramatic increase in chemicals and toxins, GMOs, and artificial coloring and additives add to this list. We are also more aware.
What do you think the future of medicine looks like? Will there ever be a point where medicine has gotten too impersonal, and it will bounce back the other way, with the focus squarely on the patient and the total body, versus just the problem/ symptoms?
I believe there will be a dichotomy in care. The haves (concierge, alternative care, and mind-body) and have-nots (basic, folk medicine, or no care.).
Morton M. Teich, MD, PC, is Board Certified in Pediatrics, Allergy and Immunology, and Environmental Medicine. He is affiliated with Mount Sinai Medical Center In NYC, a clinical instructor at Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, Former President of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, and a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, on the Adverse Food Reactions Committee.
Find Dr. Teich at www.mmteichmdpc.com