NEW YORK—Growing up as an orthodox Jewish kid in a mixed race community in Brooklyn and Queens and influenced by hip-hop culture, little did Dr. Ronald Primas know that he would one day become a medical doctor. Even less did he expect to practice Eastern healing and help patients get off medications.
When Primas started college in the ’80s, he had every intention of becoming a marine biologist, but his future wife convinced him to follow in his best friend’s footsteps and go to medical school.
For the first 10 years of practice, Primas did what other internists did—prescribe medications and refer patients for surgery. For patients who suffered with chronic diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or diabetes, Primas prescribed the usual medications, which tend to “patch and fix,” he said.
But he had a chronic stomach condition that had been diagnosed as irritable bowel syndrome by his colleagues who specialized in stomach disorders. Yet, none of them could cure this condition, even though “they’re the guys who write the textbooks,” he said.
Primas is the kind of guy who likes to solve problems. “I like being a master clinician and diagnostician,” he said. It’s like that feeling you get when you complete a crossword puzzle, he noted as an example.
“When I get a diagnosis right, I’m like, alright that’s great,” Primas said, gesturing as if checking off a bucket list.
So it bothered him that his colleagues couldn’t solve this problem for him.
At the same time, he was also overweight and “trying every different thing” to lose it, he said.
Determined to shed the pounds once and for all and inspired by patients who said they exercised and didn’t take medications, Primas started working out consistently and went on a vegetarian diet.
His new routine got him the svelte physique he wanted, but he still had chronic stomach pain and occasional diarrhea.
At this time, he started looking into Eastern medicine and decided to take an acupuncture class.
On the first day of the class he was in pain. One of his classmates who practiced integrative medicine noticed Primas holding his stomach and asked about his diet.
Ultimately, becoming medicine-free depends on the patient’s condition and commitment to the plan.
After telling her he ate lots of bread and other starches, she immediately suggested he get tested for gluten antibodies.
The test revealed that Primas was indeed gluten intolerant. “So I stopped eating wheat and within a week, 40 years of misery evaporated like that!” he said.
He started reading more about evidence-based medicine and why people have gluten intolerance. He came across works by Loren Cordain, a pioneer of the paleo diet movement. Gradually Primas changed to the paleo diet (no dairy, no sugar, no grains), which he said made his blood parameters all become “super normal.”
Eager for more health knowledge, he spent hours educating himself about Eastern medicine.
East Meets West
In transitioning his practice to incorporate Eastern methods, Primas studied for the boards of integrative medicine, which required “tons of hours of literature and course work,” he said.
In the process, he discovered qigong, an ancient Chinese health practice that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques, and focused intention to balance the subtle energies of the body and replenish qi, or vital energy.
What he learned in Eastern medicine validated what he’d found to be best practices in Western medicine.
In medical school, Primas had learned to touch patients in order to put them at ease. But he sees this touch as also an energetic, even spiritual connection.
“Everything is spiritual. Everything is connected. We have this great universal point field. … Whenever I listen to somebody’s heart, I always have my hand on their back or their shoulder because it comforts them, and you make that energetic connection,” he said.
Getting Patients Medicine-Free
Based on his knowledge and years of experience with Eastern and Western treatment methods, Primas feels confident recommending medicine-free remedies to his patients.
His personal medicine-free regimen includes daily exercise with a personal trainer, consultations with a nutritionist, and the paleo diet.
Primas himself takes a multitude of supplements, but advises his patients to take at least three: fish oil, vitamin D, and a multivitamin.
He also tells his patients to do yoga, tai chi, or qigong to help them relax. Being calm is key to health in Eastern medicine, and Primas said these practices work more efficiently on chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia,
Western medicine is still better for acute ailments like appendicitis or urinary tract infection because patients want to get better quick, he said. But once the acute phase passes, he still recommends Eastern medicine afterward.
Ultimately, becoming medicine-free depends on the patient’s condition and commitment to the plan. Some of his patients just want the pills, and that’s it, he said.
However, many others do get off their meds completely.
“Between nutritional consults, exercise consults, and me … making sure they do what they’re supposed to do, I can get the overwhelming majority of my patients off medication,” he said.
And for Primas, the purpose of being in good health and off medications is so we can live life to the fullest.
“My philosophy is we all have a spirit, and the body is just a tool for this spirit to examine this realm and just kind of get the max out of it that [we] can,” he said.
Dr. Primas’s prescription for becoming medicine-free.
Diet and Exercise
Get on a regular exercise routine by working with a trainer and consulting with a nutritionist familiar with an ancestral diet such as paleo.
Track your activity levels with an app like Jaw Bone or Polar Loop. Also get an app like My Fitness Pal, which counts calories.
Take fish oil and vitamin D. In the summer, reduce the vitamin D dosage and sunbathe for about 20 minutes each morning—10 minutes on the front and 10 minutes on the back.
Take a liquid multivitamin for efficient absorption.
Do some form of relaxation technique such as yoga, tai chi, or qigong to help stay mentally balanced.
Note: Success requires commitment.
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