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.

Myth: 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 prac­ti­tion­ersis a pub­lic­a­tion that con­tin­ues to demon­strate top qual­ity med­ical research, which I read and par­ti­cip­ate in monthly with excitement. To your health!

Posted on September 30, 2011 by Dr Aoife on www.draoife.com

Aoife Earls ND