Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Naturopathic Medicine: Treat the whole person

Naturopathic Medicine
The third principle of Naturopathic Medicine is to “treat the whole person”. You may ask yourself how in the world do you not treat the whole person when they are sitting right there in front of you. Unfortunately, it happens far too often and has even become ingrained in the healthcare system.

The way we learn science and medicine has become increasingly compartmentalized starting in elementary school and going all the way through to medical school and post-graduate work. Therefore, the way many physicians practice medicine is compartmentalized. When you have a heart problem you go to the cardiologist. When you have a skin problem you go to the dermatologist. When you have a hormone problem you go to the endocrinologist. The list of specializations goes on and on. However, who do you go to see to put it all together? When the physicians and healthcare providers you utilize view you as an organ or body part instead of a “whole person” you are not receiving optimal healthcare.

We are much more than the sum of all of our parts. You cannot work on one area of the body without affecting other areas. In fact, the dividing lines between parts of our body that you may think are well defined are actually not. For example, what is the dividing line between a muscle and its tendon? What about the dividing line between the tendon and the bone? You may be surprised to find out that everything is not only attached and connected but so intimately connected that we don’t actually know where body parts like tendons, ligaments, bones, fascia, and connective tissue begin and end.

When a patient has a cardiovascular health concern I do not just investigate the cardiovascular system and then refer to a cardiologist. I look at all of the possible cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular connections to the concern. I look at nutrition, exercise, stress management, medication, and supplementation. I also look at the health of the other tissues and organs like the liver, kidneys, bowels, lymphatic system and so on to see if the cardiovascular condition is part of a greater health concern.

In the 1950’s Dr. Roger Williams, PhD wrote a book entitled “Biochemical Individuality” that introduced the world to the ground-breaking concept that each individual portrays a large degree of individuality on a biochemical level. This means that people of the same weight, height, age, and ethnicity can have staggering difference in the size and function of organs like the liver, kidneys, heart, stomach, intestines and so on. It was previously believed that the outside of the human body was a good indicator of the inside of the human body. However, this research showed that you truly can’t judge a book by its cover. Unfortunately, it seems as though this understanding of biochemical individuality is not being practiced in the clinical setting.

Many TV medical programs like House show doctors treating diseases instead of treating people. They portray medicine as something akin to solving a puzzle, math equation, or murder mystery. However, healthcare doesn’t and shouldn’t work this way. Many diseases are nothing more than a name for a picture of symptoms. The name of the disease often doesn’t tell you why it’s happening, what the causes are, and what the ultimate treatment needs to be. Good examples of this include fibromyalgia, arthritis, hypertension, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome to name a few. These diagnostic names describe what is happening but they don’t really answer the question of why they are happening and what their optimal treatment should be. These answers can not be found in the text books or protocols but can be found when you examine the individual and provide individualized healthcare.

Optimal healthcare should not be narrow minded or narrow focused. It should never lose sight of the fact that there is a real live human being receiving treatment not just an organ or region of the body. Good physicians and healthcare professionals do not treat disease they treat people who have disease. Optimal healthcare should embrace the concept of biochemical individuality and “treat the whole person” to provide truly individualized healthcare.


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