There seems to be such a divide between the natural medicine world; and the orthodox model that the majority of the population embrace. People seem to sit stubbornly on one side of the fence or the other – giving no credit or ground to the other side at all – as if we are mortal enemies and have nothing to offer each other.
This mindset of pitching natural against orthodox is one that does no-one any favours, and sets up an environment where we can miss out on the amazing benefits that both worlds have to offer. Now, of course, I err on the side of the natural medicine world, with one of my passions in life being to continue to explore the area of healing, and how the body is able to heal itself, given the right tools and environment. However, I also have one foot in the medical model, having suffered from an illness that was potentially fatal without the introduction of a hormone replacement – so I am not one to blanket all modern medicine as evil and corrupt. It does have its place.
My belief is that we do the least harm first, knowing that most illness, especially chronic illness, can be reversed through natural medicine, but that orthodox is there for those times when we are in severe situations and are in need of that level of intervention. I would love to see modern medicine focus on what it does best, which is treating life-threatening, acute issues and leave the rest to us – but I might be dreaming about that one I do hope that the day will come though, when we do recognise each other’s strengths, and integrate them to form a better option for patients, especially for those patients who don’t know any better, and leave their health decisions solely in the hands of their doctor. At least if we had an integrated system, that patient would receive much gentler care, and may be educated about their health at the same time, rather than just popping a drug or having some surgery.
One area that I do think is essential in our quest for health, is regular testing, just to make sure we’re on track and not missing anything. I hear a lot of people who live very healthy lifestyles, and eat very healthy diets, say that they haven’t been to a doctor for twenty years, like it’s a badge of honour. This scares the pants of me, and every time I hear that, I want to give a lecture about the dangers of being ignorant as to what is going on inside your body. We have access to some amazing testing today, and to not utilise these modern tools, can be foolhardy.
Feeling fit, energetic and healthy is not necessarily an indicator that everything is on track and running well internally, funnily enough. Of course it gives you an awesome guide as to the fact that you’re getting it pretty right, but there are many chronic illnesses which start long before any symptoms show up. In my mind, eating well, exercising, drinking pure water, getting sunlight, rest, having passion and lots of love and laughter in your life – are all preventative medicine. I see testing as also falling into that category.
Take myself for example. In my family we have a history of osteoporosis. My grandmother suffered with it dreadfully, my mother developed it in her forties (and we reversed it with natural medicine!) and I showed signs of osteopenia when I was 28 years old. Vitamin D is intricately linked with bone health, and after having my full genetic profile tested, I found that I fell into the 15% of people who do not process Vitamin D well, and need much, much higher amounts to achieve the same result as the other 85% of people. So unless I am getting a lot of sunlight on a regular basis (who does that these days?) I am likely to be deficient. So as well as getting some sunlight, I take supplementation and include foods that contain some Vitamin D such as raw butter.
My doctor tests not just for Vitamin D status to see if it is towards the top end of the optimal range, but also tests for something called ‘ionised calcium’ which is a marker as to whether you personally have enough Vitamin D in your system or not, regardless of what your baseline level of Vitamin D is. There are many excellent tests that are not just measuring the amount of a vitamin or mineral, but measuring whether that nutrient is in an optimal quantity for you personally. It looks at the markers that indicate whether you have enough for your biochemistry to function optimally – and I find these tests are much more important than just seeing whether you are within range or not. Measuring to this personalised and very detailed degree, we can find out so much more information, and can tailor-make a program that is suited for exactly what your body needs.
For me, I don’t notice the difference on a day-to-day basis, as to whether my Vitamin D levels are towards the bottom end of the range, or at the top where they need to be – however in a couple of decades I would be noticing, when osteoporosis started creeping in. At that stage it is much harder to reverse, than it is to monitor my levels of Vitamin D (among many other markers) now, and do what I can to prevent osteoporosis occurring.
There are so many other imbalances that we can test for, that give us information on preventing illness – such as the ratio of oestrogens in a saliva hormone profile test. If there is an imbalance in ‘good’ to ‘bad’ oestrogen, then an environment is being created where cancers may be promoted to develop – however you could feel amazing, with this ticking time bomb going on underneath. That’s not to just scare people, but to acknowledge that it is worth doing a panel of tests every couple of years, just to check these things out and look at prevention, rather than cure.
So instead of saying – “I haven’t been to a doctor in twenty years” – say instead “I haven’t needed to go to a doctor in twenty years, however my naturopath and doctor work together to give me a range of detailed tests every couple of years to make sure I’m staying at my peak of health”.
What are your thoughts? Do you shun all medicine, even testing? Or do you like to know what is going on internally, even if you feel pretty fit and healthy most of the time?