Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Do you treat...?"

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
-- World Health Organization, 1948

Quite often, I get e-mails from potential patients asking me if I treat X condition. They are happy to have received a diagnosis, be it hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, diabetes, or whatever they have been labeled as having. At least these people know that what they are suffering has an official name, and thus a potential exact treatment, usually a drug of some sort. (Unfortunately, in many cases, these drugs are not effective, or have undesirable side effects.)

I also often get e-mails from patients who have a mysterious array of symptoms that are not easily pigeonholed into a diagnosis. They have run through a barrage of lab tests that indicate - at least on paper - that all their blood/urine levels are normal, or that there was nothing abnormal found on the imaging they received. These are the people who often come to me like Princess Leia, saying, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

In either case, when working with patients, I generally adhere to a philosophy known as the naturopathic therapeutic order. It goes like this:

1. Remove obstacles to cure.
2. Instill a healthy regimen.
3. Support the body's natural healing process.
4. Support individual weakened or diseased organs or organ systems.
5. Address structural abnormalities.
6. Address the condition or pathology.
7. Suppress the condition or pathology.

Notice that in this therapeutic order, there is no emphasis on whatever condition a person has been labeled with until all other health-supporting priorities have been addressed. Often, an effective treatment protocol may include just the first three or four parts of this order, and the patient gets better. (Incidentally, treatment almost always includes patient education, so that not only does the patient get better, but he or she has tools they can use for the rest of their lives to help keep themselves healthy.)

This emphasis on creating health is often the rationale behind naturopathic doctors who say, "We don't treat conditions. We treat people (who happen to have these conditions)." This is not to say that naturopathic doctors do not understand these conditions; four years of excellent in-residence education with many classes in pathology, public health, and pharmacology (among others), ensures that they do. But patients are more than the labels of diseases they have been given. Addressing only these labels without addressing the fundamental causes of their diseases - the obstacles to cure, the less-than-optimal health regimens, the weakened organ systems - does a patient disservice. To address each patient wholly and to pursue the real cause of disease is the ultimate goal of a naturopathic doctor. Only by doing this can we achieve the true definition of health: complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

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