Naturopathic medicine as a part of our new integrated health care model

I have had this top­ic come up quite often in the past few weeks. So much so, that I feel the need to com­ment and lend addi­tion­al perspective.


Conventional medicine and complementary medicine do not come from the same place

One camp is drugs and evid­ence-based medi­cine. The oth­er camp is herbs and hip­pie medi­cine without research, and scorns any­thing that is involved in phar­ma­ceut­ic­als. Both ideas are incorrect.

Firstly, both kinds of medi­cine come from the same place. What we know of as con­ven­tion­al medi­cine is fairly new, and many phar­ma­ceut­ic­als are based in herb­al medi­cine. Aspirin is actu­ally an extrac­ted com­pound from wil­low tree bark which his­tor­ic­ally was known to assist with pain as con­sumed in a tea or ground. The fur­ther use of bio­chem­istry made the trans­form­a­tion pos­sible into a pre­dict­able dosage of pain-sup­press­ing substances.

As a natur­o­path­ic doc­tor, I do think that the stand­ard­iz­a­tion of dosage is bene­fi­cial, and is needed in medi­cine (regard­less of the source of the medi­cine). Compounds should be mon­itored. It is pre­cisely why soci­ety at the time encour­aged devel­op­ment of phar­ma­ceut­ic­als because herbs could not be stand­ard­ized in the same way. Current herb­al com­pan­ies and com­pounds of good qual­ity do stand­ard­ize. Ibuprofen, based on the under­stand­ing of an inflam­mat­ory cas­cade path­way in the same class as aspir­in, is well-known to assist with pain relief. In the same way, so is fish oil and is now used not only for pain relief, but also for depres­sion, anxi­ety, cog­ni­tion… and the list goes on. Biochemical under­stand­ing in both cases has allowed us to reduce symp­toms, and is used by both health care models.

As a natur­o­path­ic doc­tor trained in a con­ven­tion­al sci­entif­ic back­ground, my exper­i­ence is unique. My post-gradu­ate mas­ters in med­ic­al sci­ences trained me to think about jus­ti­fic­a­tion of ideas, evid­ence, and proof of valid­ity. My exper­i­ence as a patient demon­strated that, des­pite evid­ence-based treat­ments for skin dis­orders, my body was fail­ing to respond to treat­ments in a con­ven­tion­al way des­pite every­one’s best inten­tions. My exper­i­ence as a natur­o­path­ic doc­tor and link­ing my under­stand­ing of the immune sys­tem revealed that symp­toms we see in a dis­order in a con­ven­tion­al frame­work often apply, and give us an idea of where to start, but each body (and soul) is unique and per­haps we need to think out­side of the box espe­cially for chron­ic conditions.

As cur­rent patients of both con­ven­tion­al and com­ple­ment­ary medi­cine, I know that you would prefer for someone to tell you that one of us is right. “One per­son knows the answer, that the body is pre­dict­able, and if you believe one camp over anoth­er you will be cured”.

Our society and health care system is becoming integrated.

Not one camp is right. In fact, the more camps work­ing togeth­er, the bet­ter you will feel. Rather than being defens­ive about what can or can­not be done by one prac­ti­tion­er or the oth­er, why not think about the idea of pos­sib­il­it­ies? If I see a patient who has tingling down their arm due to sit­ting all day at a desk chair, would you not want me to refer back to your GP for an x‑ray, out to a physio­ther­ap­ist to improve your pos­ture, out to a mas­sage ther­ap­ist to relax your tight muscles, recom­mend mag­nesi­um to help with the mus­cu­lar ten­sion, and per­haps include some acu­punc­ture to relieve your dis­com­fort? Perhaps you need to dis­cuss your job itself, the source of your stress and how we can man­age it?

I wish for the day that when a new patient sits in my office, they sit down to hear the addi­tion­al per­spect­ive I can offer on their health con­cern rather than the more com­mon appoint­ment starter that they don’t believe in “my form of medi­cine”, my approach is not sci­entif­ic, and that I am not use­ful to their health care team. It is amaz­ing they still walked in the door! I won­der do they truly believe this, or are we trained to work against one anoth­er rather than integ­rat­ing what we know together?

For those of you who would like to see medi­cine integ­rated, let us work togeth­er for improved health and a bet­ter world. Learning from one anoth­er can only improve our health as a whole. Integrated health prac­ti­tion­ers is a pub­lic­a­tion that con­tin­ues to demon­strate top qual­ity med­ic­al research, which I read and par­ti­cip­ate in monthly with excitement.

To your health!

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