This week, I want to dig a little deeper into how I envision the future of medicine. Since the start of Naturopathic Medical school, the intention and mission I aspire to is that those who cross my path will become less frightened by their body cues, and more empowered by listening to them.
This is why I practice outside the conventional lines of diagnosis and pathology, yet still embrace it’s wisdom and expertise.
The difference between functional medicine and our conventional reductionist medicine, is that holistic and integrative therapies view the body as an intricate and unified entity. One body part affects another. My functional medicine professors call it “a web like interaction.” This means that one action taken to affect heart health, say in a lifestyle shift consisting of a change in diet and nutritional status, or in anything for that matter (supplemental intake, exercise, relationship support, spirituality) will affect all other foundations of health.
Functional medicine allows me to go further beyond just organ dysfunction, but into this effect based on biochemical and genetic variances in someone’s health timeline. (I spoke about the beauty, joys, and frustrations of this medical art form and living as a naturopathic doctor who is borderline frenetically obsessed of getting to the cause of any disease on this week’ Living Well blog at Saratoga.com).
This means that my standards are set to go beyond the disease label and generalized recommendations, and into the individual’s specific needs, deficiencies, and lifestyle patterns. I value the need to not only understand someone’s unique biochemistry, but also what drives them as a person. All this contributes to true healing and health. The result of my passion has been rewarding, respectful, sometimes challenging, yet fulfilling therapeutic relationships with my established clients as beautiful individuals.
Last night, I was listening to a webinar with Dr. Evans who gave a sensational presentation on different factors involved in assessing and treating hormonal imbalances in menopause. Discussion centered on hormonal therapies, natural remedies, and nutritional considerations.
My inner biochemical geek went crazy for the mechanisms of action behind them for individualized treatments. I held my breath as I excitedly listened to the review of the two types of estrogen receptors and how herbs and nutritional factors could be selected by a combination of mechanism of action, biochemical variations in the individual, and lifestyle patterns unique to each person!
Ahh… individual differences and how these treatments work in synergistic way in the body, my healing truth expressed again!
Too Much of a Good Thing
Now, as reverent and accepting as I try to be of embarrassing all forms of healing, I do have a pet peeve. It’s centered around blind generalizations in nutrient recommendations for everyone. I feel this is doing the public a disservice and could be dangerous.
In the article, Calcium Confusion, Ms. Linton shares my woes. She speaks of the current viewpoint:
“Calcium works both by protecting bone mass and by reducing the excess bone remodeling that is the main cause of osteoporotic fragility.
“In the process of ordinary metabolic activity, all of our tissues develop structures they can’t use anymore,” he says. “We are constantly shedding skin; we turn over the lining of our intestines every five days. All of our body tissues are constantly replacing themselves.” Calcium is essential to keep that repair process going in our bones.
In his view, calcium supplements are not harmful but “the preferred source of calcium is food because it’s food that provides all the other nutrients.”
And the pitfalls of reductionism:
But for some, calcium frustration, if not confusion, continues. Reacting to the story that taking extra calcium in supplements is no longer thought to be associated with cardiovascular events, “Lynne” posted this on a British osteoporosis forum: “I find the whole calcium subject confusing. We have seen papers saying just the opposite…”
Here at home, Osteoporosis Canada remains cautious, noting on their website that eating extra calcium from your diet is not harmful. “However, getting more calcium than you need from supplements can be harmful. Excess calcium from supplements has been associated with kidney stones, heart problems, prostate cancer, constipation and digestive problems.”
Dr. Brown further discusses how there’s more to the picture on calcium supplementation for bone health. In fact, there are hormonal and dietary factors, 19 other key nutrients, environmental exposures, inflammation, blood sugar factors, and other conditions that all play a part in bone health.
The Bottom Line
Symptom suppression in any form or generalizations are a good start to improving health; however, treating the root cause and finding the body’s true balance is the only way to truly prevent chronic issues in the future and to create a society of empowered, healthy individuals!
For Your Listening Pleasure:
Dr. Northrup speaks on the power of self-forgiveness and happiness at home.
Metagenics Webinar: Slides & Recording Link – Managing Peri-Menopause and Menopause: The Functional Medicine Approach by Dr. Joel Evans. 11/13/12.
Linton, M. Calcium Confusion.Life Health. 11/12/12. http://www.sprucegroveexaminer.com/2012/11/08/calcium-confusion
Brown, S. 20 Key Nutrients for Bone Health. http://www.womentowomen.com/bonehealth/20keybonenutrients.aspx
Nielsen, F. H., C. D. Hunt, L. M. Mullen, and J. R. Hunt. 1987. Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. FASEB Journal 1(5):394–397. http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/reprint/1/5/394 (accessed 05.13.2008).