PARAMUS, N.J. – The patients in Dr. Thomas Andrew Cacciola’s Paramus home office like to swap stories about him in the waiting room.
There’s the man who recalls the doctor driving to his workplace and insisting he go to the hospital immediately.
Or the woman with the thyroid condition who travels three hours from upstate New York just to see Cacciola, who is one of some 3,000 holistic doctors in the country. For years running, he has been named a top holistic doctor in the nation by the Consumers’ Research Council of America.
“There’s roughly another 900,000 doctors who are traditionally trained,” he explained. “We are holistic. We look at the whole person. We try to solve problems without constantly adding more medication.”
Though he does prescribe medicine when needed, Cacciola focuses his patients on the basics: a good diet, adequate exercise, sufficient sleep, less stress.
“Good health,” he insists, “also includes good relationships— horizontally with each other and vertically with God and the earth. These are the things that matter most.”
But, in Cacciola’s view, the modern American lifestyle is no friend to health. Often it keeps people indoors and sedentary, subjects them to artificial light, and deprives them of essential vitamins and fresh, healthy foods.
Plus, the American tax structure has people stressed out and overworked.
In the history of humanity, all those realities are relatively new and quite unnatural, Cacciola said.
So is the post-World War II chemical culture, which has brought genetically modified foods and, in his view, an overreliance on drugs involved in issues such as ADHD, autism, and opioid dependency.
“Good health is not a deficiency of pills,” Cacciola said. “We’re not born with a need for things like Lipitor.”
Cacciola, who grew up in Englewood and Leonia, moved to Paramus to establish his practice in 1989 after working in the public health service. He was chief of the Division of General Internal Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center from 2003 to 2010.
His career has inspired more than his patients. His son, Thomas Paul Cacciola, is a second-year obstetrics and gynecology resident physician at Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pennsylvania.
The younger Cacciola went on rounds with his father when he was a boy, as did his sisters.
“I remember the patients trusting him and being happy to see him, no matter how sick they were,” he said. “I wanted to have that sort of positive impact on people, too.”