Like many of you, I grew up in the world of Western medicine and I rarely thought outside the box when it came to health. However, the older I got, the more I saw how often mainstream medicine had very few answers other than quick fixes (like taking Rx drugs to mask symptoms that often cause MORE problems long-term) and expensive diagnostic tests. My narrow-minded perspective quickly grew, and quite frankly I wish I had thought beyond the walls of my doctor's office far earlier. Some may say I have my "head in the sand" for thinking this way, but that's OKAY, I really like the beach, so the sand is not all bad. 🙂
The integrated approach works best for me; use preventative methods (like nutrition) to actively prevent and heal underlying imbalances that cause illness, but understand that sometimes something happens that is out of your control and you need a quick fix, temporary support, or attention fast from Western medicine. But just for fun, let's compare these two different perspectives on some common health issues. Please note, I am not a medical doctor (nor do I play one on the internet).
8 Scenarios: Natural Health vs. Western Medicine
1) Example: Young woman with chronic PMS
Natural health/preventative: run blood labs to assess the mineral levels involved with hormone production (like zinc and copper), investigate gut infections that could impact estrogen recycling, check in with the functioning of phase 1 and phase 2 estrogen detoxification and hormone levels using a DUTCH Hormone test, all while using nutrition therapeutically to build up the body and support hormone synthesis. Typically, hormonal imbalance is caused by a low thyroid function, poor detoxification, chronic gut infections and/or a low nutrient diet causing a low progesterone and/or excess estrogen.
Western medicine: take a side effect-loaded pill to "manage" PMS with synthetic hormones, while masking symptoms and underlying imbalances in the body.
2) Example: Middle-aged adult with high cholesterol
Natural health/preventative: look a diet, liver + thyroid function, and nutrient levels that are needed to turn cholesterol into sex hormones as they should (thyroid hormone and a healthy liver/gallbladder are essential for this conversion). Just like a recipe, the body can't do its job without ALL the right ingredients.
Western medicine: take Rx drugs to lower cholesterol (an antioxidant), as well as reduce cholesterol intake, namely saturated fats, while increasing your intake of processed vegetable oils. Yikes!
3) Example: Young woman with varicose veins
Natural health/preventative: address areas of stress in the body that put a burden on the venous system (like poor liver detoxification, weak digestion, chronic gut infections, hypercoagulation and hormonal imbalance). Use nutrition therapeutically with lifestyle changes and wear compression stockings to help support the veins while correcting nutrition balance in the body.
Western medicine: ultrasounds to diagnose the problem, laser ablation to destroy the vein or an injectable solution into veins to "kill" them whenever needed. Compression stockings are also usually recommended.
4) Example: Young woman with sluggish thyroid function
Natural health/preventative: run a hair tissue mineral analysis to assess the thyroid ratio (calcium to potassium levels) along with a nutrient dense diet and targeted nutrition to address the liver, energy needs, and digestion. Use thyroid supplementation only if needed, and only after energy production is supported through dietary means.
Western medicine: take a thyroid supplement, and adjust the dose as needed while digging your body into a deeply depleted state if not also addressing diet and lifestyle (the reason the hypothyroidism came to be in the first place).
5) Example: Teen with ulcerative colitis
Natural health/preventative: address chronic gut infections, support beneficial bacteria levels, remove common food allergens from the diet along with harder to digest carbohydrates (ie. grains, disaccharides, and polysaccharides), while focusing on a nutrient dense diet of easy to digest foods. Also support the metabolism and thyroid health by making sure one is eating enough to up-regulate digestive strength, and reduce stress levels (stress has a huge impact on digestion).
Western medicine: Take anti-inflammatory drugs, and/or surgical removal of parts of the colon.
6) Example: Adult with acid reflux
Natural health/preventative: work on strengthening digestion naturally to up regulate stomach acid production to stop the acid reflux as well as address any overgrowths in the stomach (such as h-pylori and small intestine bacteria overgrowth that are linked to GERD).
Western medicine: take a Rx acid blocker that turns off/suppresses stomach acid (weakening digestion, severely limiting your body's ability to absorb nutrients, and creating the perfect environment for pathogens to overgrow in the gut — yikes)!
7) Example: Woman with mood issues
Natural health/preventative: assess what could be causing imbalances with neurotransmitters to begin with including: zinc:copper imbalances, pyrroles disorder, over/undermethylation, low b-vitamin production (from your good gut bacteria), gut infections altering serotonin production and creating chronic inflammation. Once the areas of stress and imbalances are uncovered, work to build support them as needed.
Western medicine: take a Rx medication to alter body chemistry while ignoring the conditions that created the problem in the first place. *Note, there is no shame is taking medications, but it's important to acknowledge it doesn't actually change the conditions that started the imbalance in the first place.
8) Example: Woman with unexplained weight gain, chronic fatigue and pain
Natural health/preventative: assess the liver-gut axis to understand nutritional deficiencies and excess using hair tissue mineral analysis, gut testing and blood labs. Gain clarity on the overall toxic burden at play and come up with an easy to execute plan to open detoxification pathways and help reduce the toxicity over time.
Western medicine: go on a diet for weight loss while taking Rx drugs to manage the fatigue and pain (which can cause liver injury).
I'm REALLY huge on common sense. Each part of your body is there for a reason and you need it, thus it shouldn't just be removed if deemed necessary by the medical doctor getting paid big bucks to cut it out(!). Your body works as a system of systems; find out the root cause and address it (not cover it up with a Rx drug!). I also love the simple diagnostics of a holistic approach like gut testing, fatty acid testing, hair analysis, the personal nutrition assessment, and bodily observations: nails, skin, tongue, temperature, pulse, sleep, bowels, etc.
Ideally Western medicine and preventative health/nutrition are paired, coming at an issue and supporting the individual from all angles.
So tell me, what approach works best for you?
Also published on Medium.