Monday, November 10, 2008

Treat the whole person

Why it’s hard to be a pure Specialist if you’re a Naturopathic Doc, and hallelujah!

Even though conventional medicine can’t get enough of specialization, and insurance companies begrudge the costs of specialist visits, it’s hard to complain of overpriced Specialist care from a Naturopathic Doc.

You see, we are trained in the science of the body as a whole system- it is all generally interdependent. That is if you hurt your ankle, we’re not gonna forget about the hip or the knee or the adrenal glands for that matter. There’s just no escaping the fact that we can’t help create our treatment plans without addressing the whole person- including your livelihood, lifestyle and your general environment. For example, people with arthritis rarely realize that they need to make changes in their diet to reduce the pain in their joints.

You might be stunned, “how can food have anything to do with joint pain?” It all boils down to inflammation. Inflammation is the cause of pain, swelling, redness and well more inflammation. It can fast become a vicious cycle and it often involves an immune reaction that perpetuates or worsens the inflammation. Inflammation itself is not a bad thing, it is an important mechanism meant to protect the body by giving clear signals of pain, like redness and swelling to help our minds easily recognize the place of pain and adress the source of it quickly. As we ignore the symptoms they worsen, or sometimes they seemingly go away only to return in another more serious form. An example of this is an allergy that creates skin eruptions, and the longer this is either ignored or just treated symptomatically (i.e. hydrocortisone lotions) the inflammation goes “underground” it turns into a deeper pathology commonly in the form of asthma. Asthma is a serious long lasting disease and a cause of early death and a lower quality of life for many.

Thus, by treating the whole person naturopathic doctors need to make the time to see who their patients are in their unique situation. Only by seeing our patients in all the aspects of their current situation can we clearly imagine our patients being whole, and doing all we can to help them get to that stage. We cannot treat the cause until we know as much as possible about each of our unique patients.

So a Naturopathic doctor is a specialist at generalization, and putting together the fractals of each individual patient.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Doctor as Teacher

Just like the fable of compassionate helping, we can offer others in need longlasting benefits by offering them tools they can use to help themselves and others. In that spirit, I offer each patient as much information about their condition in easy to understand language- in fact I create mind maps (simplified flowcharts) that give a good picture about the many different elements that play into their condition the obstacles, the catalysts and the main players.

It is very important to offer patients as much information as possible so that they can make good decisions. After all, I am a guide and coach mainly for each patient; the best doctor is inside each one of us. Still, information can only give you so much. Perhaps you’ve noticed the abundance of information on the internet?

Yet, I have patients come ot me, even practitioners like Nutritional therapists and massage therapists who’ve been using something they heard about on the web or by word of mouth, and yet they are ignorant that their current complaints are related to the misuse of that same information.

For example, high doses of Vitamin B6 can create numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. Though Vitamin B6 can offer excellent relief for conditions from insomnia to PMS, it can be used in lower doses with other vitamins and minerals to create even better results without creating side effects. As Goethe said “How much knowledge have we lost to information? How much wisdom have we lost to knowledge?”

Not only do I offer patients information, I put it in context- I offer my knowledge and, with many treatments, I offer first hand experience. I don’t stock medicines if I don’t know they’re effective. Doctor as teacher is not only about sharing information, it is about sharing my own experience with you and creating an experience where your body and it’s present state makes sense to you.

If that’s not the case how can you know that it’s time to change and if the route to change will be effective for you or not? I’d love to hear your view on this and how you envision a doctor’s visit being a satisfying learning experience. Or perhaps I should say that visits aren’t so much about learning but unfolding what is the next step, what makes sense at this point in the journey.

Sometimes, I must ask myself what are my patients needing to recognize about their situation, now. Doctor as teacher, more importantly, is not about hierarchy. Though medicine has bred an arrogant lot of Mdeities, doctor as all-knowing authority, it is a disservice to approach patients from a pedestal. Inevitably, the man behind the curtain like in the Wizard of Oz, will tumble from grace by the smallest gap in knowledge. This gap in knowledge is really the gap in recognizing that we are all fragile human beings seeking refuge from suffering, reaching out towards happiness and support. I see my work as being present with my patients, hearing them fully and seeing who they are trying to become.

To this end, I continually hone my skills and offer my best to bring you long lasting benefit. A lot of naturopathic medicine could be coined “antecdotal,” if we see that it is tried and true practical applications of knowledge passed from generation to generation then we recognize the loving kindness and wisdom of our grandparents who’ve passed this knowledge to us freely. I feel privileged and honored to share this with others, and combined with the latest information I offer you the opportunity to email me if you’d like a quick clarification or simplification on a medical condition you have or a treatment you’re considering. Until then, may you go in Grace and good health.