He analyzes his patients’ blood and hair for clues to overall mental and physical health.
He embraces the philosophy of naturopathy: The body will heal itself if given the chance.
“Modern drugs don’t always cure, but can drive the disease further into the body,” Binder said.
Binder is also licensed in Montana as a chiropractor and acupuncturist. His office-study – with handsome desk and diploma-studded walls – resembles that of an ordinary M.D., until you look closely.
Along with the standard anatomy and physiology texts, there is the People’s Desk Reference, subtitled “Traditional Herbal Formulas.” Perched on his desk is a model of a male figure, crisscrossed with lines and dots and labeled with Chinese characters.
The office paraphernalia, however, is not as striking as the doctor himself. Binder is informal, talkative, quick to smile. He is 39 years old, but looks 29. If that.
He attributes his youthful vigor to an ascetic diet – no red meat, sugar, coffee or alcohol – and to the way he carries his body.
“Part of the aging process is not knowing how to use your body properly, being a salve to gravity, rather than gravity being your servant,” he explained.
Twenty years ago, as a teen-ager in Colorado, Binder was a slave to a crippling back condition called kyphoscoliosis – a twisted spine. “I was told, ‘learn to live with it, there’s nothing you can do about it. Put it in a brace.’”
Then he met an innovative Denver chiropractor, who not only straightened Binder’s back, but inspired him to develop his own physical education system “designed to give people the tools to take care of musculo-skeletal problems themselves.”
Now, Binder teaches four-day “Position Technic” seminars, in which participants cast off their slumped postures and learn to move easier.
“I’ve had all kinds of people with back problems, who, once they took my seminar, their problems vanished, “he said.
One of Binder’s enthusiastic patients is Vic Douglas, 54 a former construction worker from Victor who suffered 10 years from a back injury he received in a ditch cave-in. After other chiropractors and orthopedic surgeons failed him. Douglas said he went to Binder for acupuncture treatments and a “different “kind of back manipulation.
“That was the first time I hadn’t had the pain in my back since the accident in 1971,” Douglas said. “I thought it was all hocus pocus – until a few hours later, I was still feeling good. And several days later, I was still felling good. No pain, no pain! I could saw wood, carry blocks.”
Douglas now attends Position Technic seminars to learn how to keep his back health.
Binder’s keen interest in body mechanics led him to pursue what he calls the natural healing arts.
He spent two years at the University of Colorado, and later graduated from the Western States Chiropractic College and the National college of Naturopathic Medicine, both in Portland, Ore., and the North American College of Acupuncture in Vancouver, British Columbia. He practiced one year in Oregon and six years in Boulder, Colo.
When Binder started his 10 year training program there was one naturopathic college in North American, Now there are four. This is evidence, he said, that the natural healing arts are growing in popularity and acceptance.
Binder hopes Montana will follow the example of 10 other states in requiring naturopaths to be licensed, until then, he will not perform services he was authorized to do in Oregon, such as assisting in home births.
“I could do it on the basis of my training and constitutional rights, but I don’t have a state law for naturopathy behind me,” Binder said. One this is clear “I can’t tell people I’m and M.D., or use prescription drugs or do their surgery.”
According to a spokesman at the Professional and Occupation Licensing Bureau in Helena, naturopaths are in the same category of unregulated occupation as opticians it is up to the Legislature to decide if the should be licensed.
However, the spokesman pointed out, the state Board of Medical
Examiners will follow up complaints that a naturopath is practicing medicine, for instance, if he tells a diabetic patient to abandon insulin and substitute an herbal remedy. No such complaints have come in on Binder.
Binder says he simply practices what he was trained to do. “I have patients that come in that tell me they’re taking such and such medicine, for their high blood pressure or any problem, and it’s working for then. I say “that’s great, keep taking it.” Unless they want another approach. Then I’d say I do have an alternative.”
The alternative is often a “homeopathic” remedy like sulphur or the belladonna herb, which Binder said is toxic in full strength, but curative when diluted.
Homeopathy was developed in the 19th century and “has stood the test of time,” Binder said. He noted that he recently used homeopathic therapies, as well as diet, acupuncture and cranial manipulation, to cure and 8-year-old boy who had suffered from epilepsy for five years.
The boy’s parents, according to Binder, said conventional anti-seizure drugs were interfering with their son’s memory and concentration.
Binder said he rarely needs to refer a patient to a regular doctor, but will do so if his own treatments are failing. “I’d rather have a live chronic than a dead acute, ‘he explained. “I reserve a place in my mind for judicious use of antibiotics.’”
One of the medical profession’s standard criticisms of the natural healing arts is that they are based an anecdotal evidence – individual case histories – instead of scientific studies supported by controlled, clinical trials.
Binder said he is satisfied that naturopathy is backed up with scientific evidence.
Medical doctors also point to the “placebo effect” in acupuncture and homeopathy, suggesting that those treatments succeed in the same way a sugar pill “cures” a patient who has high expectations and believes he is taking an effective remedy.
Binder bristles at the notion.
“I have helped patients with skin problems, mononucleosis, viral hepatitis, gastro-intestinal problems, uterine bleeding, and ovarian cysts. If you do that repeatedly, are you going to call that placebo?”
“Most people who see me, they have tried the other way, and it hasn’t worked.”
He continued “If what I was doing was all wrong or fraudulent I couldn’t have survived. I wouldn’t have been successful, especially in a small community.”
“Everyone has their failures, and I do too. But my batting average is very good. I would guess I have a 90 percent success in treatment. A lot of my cases where I don’t succeed, they (the Patients) didn’t give me a chance.”
Binder said he has never been sued “In this profession, you have to be especially good. M.D.s can bury their mistakes, but I can’t. People would just call me a quack.”
Binder, his wife Sharon and two children live in a spacious, geodesic-dome house that was custom-built for them on a hilltop west on Hamilton. The family left Boulder in 1979 because the city was “unsafe to raise my children and myself” Binder said. “On one side of Boulder is the Rocky Flats nuclear warhead manufacturing plant, and on the other is the St. Vrain nuclear power generating plant.”
His son, 14 and daughter 10 have “never been to and M.D.” Binder said. “they haven’t needed it” he has treated his son three times for appendicitis, using acupuncture, homeopathic remedies, fasts and the careful application of enemas.
Binder has little contact with the medical community in Hamilton. In Colorado, he noted, local doctors would occasionally refer patients to him. But he never gets such referrals in the Bitterroot.
“Montana is about 20 years behind in terms of alternatives to medicine,” Binder declared. “People needed help and they will get it where they can. I think they should be allowed to seek the services of anybody they want as long as the person honestly represents himself as what he is.”
Binder stresses, however, that he wants to cooperate with the medical profession not fight it. “Medicine doesn’t have all the answers I don’t either. Eventually, there will be just one healing profession, when all the health professionals realize there is good in any of the approaches.”
Naturopaths, he said focus on keeping people health through diet and balanced living. “I don’t deny that a germ exists and can cause disease. I would just put more emphasis on the field that it lands on, and if the field isn’t fertile, it won’t grow.”
Someday, Binder said, he hopes to be out of a job. “If people know how to avoid getting sick, they wouldn’t need doctors. Can you imagine what kind of a world that would be? If every one were healthy? You have to strive for it. I think it’s possible, or I wouldn’t try.”