“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
- Benjamin Franklin
Coronavirus is on the verge of being the next worldwide pandemic. Thousands of people, mostly in China, have contracted the virus. Yesterday New Zealand had its first reporting of the virus at Auckland hospital. With no known cure for this virus, researchers are working furiously to find a way to treat those with this potentially deadly infection. And while the world is focused on a cure, not enough of the conversation is focused on the things people can do to avoid contracting the disease!
“A clever person solves a problem a wise person avoids it”.
- Albert Einstein
As with most of these epidemics, sadly the people who generally die are the elderly and those with weak immune systems. At Holistic Health & Wellness we are combating this issue by using natural, safe and scientifically researched approaches to strengthen the body’s natural biological functions to combat and avoid disease/viruses. We spend a great deal of time with our clients to design a personalised plan that is right for them. It should come to no surprise that to promote a strong immune system, we must maintain a healthy diet, lifestyle and exercise regime. But with so much information out there, it can be confusing to know where to start and too daunting to bother.
“You seek too much information and not enough transformation”.
- Sai Baba
As an example, herbs and supplements such as vitamin C, echinacea, elderberry and garlic are all beneficial nutrients to help fight off and/or prevent an infection. However, many of these supplements brought over-the-counter are limited due to ineffective dosing, poor quality and/or absorption ability. It is important to make an appointment with a qualified naturopathic practitioner who specialises in this market to make sure that the herbs/supplements you are taking are of a high quality and have therapeutic effects. Let us help you simplify the confusion of this market and provide you with the tools that actually work to boost your resilience against disease.
One of the most common criticisms of natural medicine is that it lacks supportive evidence. This is simply not true! In many cases, there is as much or more research evidence for natural medicine as conventional medicine. However, there are also areas in which the research evidence is sparse or incomplete.
While the official definition of EBM does fit with naturopathic principles, the applied definition, in terms of how the health care system actually operates, does not. Many people argue that conventional medical interventions are considered to be safe, valid, and effective when in fact many lack scientific basis or have been proven ineffective.
What is evidence-based medicine?
EBM is defined as the “conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about care of individual patients (Sackett et al, 1996).” Furthermore:
“The practice of evidence based medicine means integrating individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence from systematic research. By individual clinical expertise we mean the proficiency and judgment that individual clinicians acquire through clinical experience and clinical practice (Sackett et al, 1996).”
This definition of EBM does not conflict with the principles of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine is based on a large body of evidence gathered through systematic research and knowledge gained through clinical experience. Its principles support the application of this information to devise the most effective treatment for our patients.
However, the colloquial understanding of EBM supports randomised, double blind, placebo-controlled studies as gold standard of knowledge and leaves little room for other forms of research or for clinical experience.
There are 3 major flaws with using this conventional definition of EBM in the clinical setting:
What about holistic health care?
Conventionally understood EBM is limited in encouraging health care that adheres to naturopathic principles. First, EBM does not recognise holistic treatment of individuals, and in fact seeks to boil down complex information to a simple conclusion recognising only how the majority of subjects respond to a single intervention.
Not only does this ignore the knowledge that could be gained through examining all the subjects in a study and why they each responded in the way that they did, but also is not necessarily applicable to real life health care since patients are nearly never under controlled conditions and subject to only one intervention.
Naturopathic practitioners are interested in treating real patients in the real world and therefore in gathering knowledge in any area that will serve this purpose. In many cases, this knowledge includes clinical observation and experience with real patients.
An article titled, ‘The Mythology of Science-Based Medicine’ provides examples of conventional medical interventions considered to be safe, valid, or effective when in fact they lack scientific basis or have been proven ineffective. This article provides links to sources and some responses from the authors and other medical experts in the comments. Here is an addendum to that article further addressing comments.
Another article titled, ‘How Common Are Medical Mistakes?’, which delves into the startling fact that the third leading cause of death of Americans is iatrogenic causes, meaning caused by doctors, medical treatment, or diagnostic procedures.
The “gold-standard” of medical research is the double-blind randomised controlled trial, which attempts to isolate the effect of a single intervention and control all other factors (including many features of patients such as pre-existing conditions, medications, lifestyle, diet, etc.) This makes sense in a research context but has little bearing on reality, in which medical interventions are used in conjunction with other treatments in a wide variety of patients. It is important to understand that a clinical trial is only the first step in evaluating treatment. It provides information on how something works and verifies safety in the short-term but is most definitely not a verdict on the effectiveness in the real world. This can only truly be gauged in the context of an uncontrolled patient population over time.
The funding flaw
Funding committed to research is not allocated based on what areas of knowledge are the most interesting, warrant the most investigation, or even may be the most beneficial to the public. Most research is conducted by pharmaceutical companies on products they hope to bring to market in order to earn profits for shareholders.
Unfortunately, this capitalist drive behind health knowledge is not conducive to researching how low-cost treatments such as diet and lifestyle changes can be far more effective than any drug. It is also not conducive to gaining knowledge through “failed” experiments, such as when pharmaceutical research does not yield results favourable to the drug being researched. Currently, pharmaceutical companies are not required to publish such research, although there is a movement to change this, thankfully. Naturopathic practitioners are interested in achieving results, even if there is no particular product to sell.
What about quality of life?
Something important to note about bypass surgery and angioplasty is that while they do not extend life (which is the case for many common medical treatments), this is not the only important measure to consider! Quality of life is also incredibly important and these procedures can make a major difference here. Patients with cardiovascular disease who in the past would not have these options would be severely limited by the inability to engage in even the most basic everyday activities but would also not be ill enough that they would pass away. These procedures have allowed many patients to return to a more normal level of activity and participation in life, which is invaluable, even if their lifespan remains the same.
An Example of Depression: The importance of treating the cause
Regarding antidepressants, it should not be surprising that they are not very effective except in cases of severe depression. In most cases, antidepressants are the sole treatment prescribed despite mountains of evidence that combining them with other treatments (most notably psychotherapy) is far more effective.
For many patients with depression, there are valid reasons to feel depressed, such as grief, declining health, emotional stressors, post-partum changes, etc. Depression is a natural human response to life’s ups and downs. Unfortunately many of us are just not equipped to accept and work through life’s challenges on our own.
Psychotherapy can be enormously helpful in arming patients with coping and self-care skills. There are also many patients for whom antidepressants are very useful in boosting them up enough so that they can actively seek other treatments to address the underlying causes of depression, but the key here is that the cause must be addressed and corrected. Otherwise antidepressants either just don’t cut it or simply mask a problem that will re-emerge once the patient discontinues the medication.
This is common considering the many uncomfortable and intolerable side-effects of these medications. There are so many proven and safe treatments for depression (such as nutrition, exercise, supplements, lifestyle changes, homeopathy, therapy) that can be used in place of or in conjunction with antidepressants to achieve much better outcomes.
Empower yourself with knowledge
Finally, naturopathic practitioners also act as teachers, seeking to empower patients with information so that they can care for themselves. EBM places power in a faceless research environment, removing it from clinicians with decades of experience, and therefore also removing it from individual patients who may know their unique needs best.
While the official definition of EBM does fit with naturopathic principles, the applied definition, in terms of how the health care system actually operates, does not.
“Wait, what did you say you do? What’s a nat-uro-path?”
I get this question all the time. It's not so surprising when it comes from the average person I meet, but I still hear it from doctors too. Admittedly my profession is rather small and has very little chance of making a popular TV show like Grey's Anatomy. Preventing heart disease and cancer through diet or helping someone break the pattern of insomnia is not nearly as exciting as rare diagnoses or ethically questionable emergency transplant surgeries. In fact, when some "alternative" health approach is portrayed on one of these shows, you can be fairly certain it's why the patient is so ill. Ironic, considering the now-famous JAMA article reporting "medical treatment" as a leading cause of death in Western countries.
Qualified Naturopaths Have Scientific Training
A qualified naturopath has a bachelor's degree, which by definition must be three to five years studying the latest scientific research. After admission, the course work of the first two years of naturopathic and "conventional" medical school is comparable both in subjects and in hours of training. We learn all the basic medical sciences like anatomy, pathology, and biochemistry.
Our clinical training is a bit different from "conventional" medical clerkships. As naturopathic students, we spend all our clinical time in practice (outpatient) setting, under the supervision of qualified and experienced naturopaths. Instead of rotating through a variety of medical specialties, we learn when and how to refer to specialists to diagnose or treat conditions beyond our scope of practice.
Naturopathic Medicine Is Not the Same Thing as Homeopathy
Homeopathy means to give a medicine in a very small dose. Scientifically, we don't know why it works, because the doses are so small. Naturopathic medicine is not how medicine is given specifically, but based on our six principles. Naturopathic medicine refers to an approach to treating people, and tends to favour natural and low-force (scientifically proven) interventions. Our treatments with patients might include dietary changes, supplementary nutrients, exercise, herbal medicine or occasionally homeopathy. So homeopathy can be part of a naturopath’s treatment plan, but it's not the only tool in the shed. That said, other medical providers may use homeopathy as well but that doesn't make them naturopaths.
Naturopaths Can Work Alongside Medical Doctors
Some people assume that naturopaths are against "conventional" medicine, but this isn't true. Health care is best provided by a team, and naturopaths are only one part of the team. There are times when we shine and times when specialists or other medical providers are best suited for the task at hand. We refer our patients to surgeons, cardiologists and other specialists when it's clear their conditions are beyond of our scope of training.
What Makes Naturopaths Different
Our patients often tell us the face-to-face time we spend with them is a lot longer than all the doctors they've seen. We spend that time getting to know each patient as a person. We ask about everything that's going on with them physically, emotionally and oftentimes spiritually. When making a specific recommendation or suggestion, we spend time explaining treatment options and answering questions. We aim to teach our patients about their health and how they can care for it.
Our treatments are advised using the therapeutic order, where we start by laying the basic foundations for healthy living and use higher-force interventions (like specific nutrients, drugs and surgeries) only as conditions become more severe. In this way, we also work with patients who haven't developed a disease yet and simply seek to improve their health whether it be physically, emotionally or spiritually. We consider the term "health care" from its true meaning.
We know our patients are literally atoms, molecules, cells and organs, but we appreciate that they are so much more those physical components. We each exist uniquely in the world, with different values and priorities, and as naturopaths we believe our health care should reflect that.
Yes, some of us are a little "out there," and "touchy-feely." But that's not all that guides our practice. Remember, naturopaths have real training in government-approved subjects and schools, researching and interpreting the latest science in health and nutrition. Our "hippie" medicine works and what we do is becoming less "alternative" and more "conventional" every day.
When they were done the status had changed to stage 3 and they placed me on to palliative care at the oncological clinic. After they went on and gave me a survival rate of 10 percent after 5 years with their cutting edge traditional treatment, putting me in hospital twice with serious side effects, we decided that their plan wasn´t that appealing.
With help and encouragement from my wife and friends in USA we decided to look into the holistic approach. With excellent guidance of Stephen Roigard, a Naturopath at Holistic Health and Wellness, we took charge of the treatment with natural medicine. Today we completed the treatment when the last evil tumour came off. I will continue with check-ups, but things are looking bright ahead. Special thanks to my wife Vikki and Stephen Roigard at Holistic Health and Wellness for excellent advice and help with products that work.
NOTE: The client above is still cancer-free and has a greater level of health now than before his cancer diagnosis. However, as mentioned on the 'About us' page, a naturopath treats the person as a whole and not the disease. When I worked with the client above, it was made very clear that we were not "treating cancer" but working with his body and mind to bring them both into balance and optimal wellness so that in turn, the body can heal itself.