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The Future Of Health: Uniting Medical And Naturopathic Doctors

03/06/2017 02:15 EST | Updated 03/07/2017 11:49 EST
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A woman is at the doctor's office and is getting good news after her check up.

Co-written by Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld, naturopathic doctor

Medical doctors and naturopathic doctors are often placed on opposite sides of the medical spectrum. In reality, conventional and naturopathic medicine is most effective when used together. An integrative healthcare team that features both a medical doctor and naturopathic doctor can help to ensure an accurate diagnosis, employ the least invasive treatment and support/ educate patients to develop actionable health plans.

In a health-care system that is facing increasing rates of chronic disease and preventable illnesses, integrative medicine offers a novel solution for health care and improved patient outcomes.

More Accurate Diagnoses

Time is a precious commodity in the Canadian medical system. Medical doctors are only allocated 15 minutes per patient, even if your doctor wants to spend more time with you. As a result, patients can be left feeling rushed through their appointment, forgetting to ask pertinent questions. Incorporating a naturopathic doctor into the health-care team allows more time for patients to discuss physical and emotional health. Patients are better able to understand their diagnosis, medication or side effects.

Less Invasive treatments

It is well known that not everyone responds to the same diet, lifestyle or medication. As practitioners, we often see patients presenting with similar conditions but find the same treatment doesn't work for everyone. Integrative medicine recognizes individuality and personalizes each treatment to the patient. Working with both a medical and naturopathic doctor allows each practitioner to present greater treatment options and individualization.

Patient Education and Support

Integrative medicine promotes optimal wellness and looks at health as more than just an absence of disease. Perhaps your blood work is ideal but you're still having digestive issues. Maybe your menstrual cycle is out of balance or you are struggling with chronic tiredness. These are all important markers of overall health but will often not be diagnosed with abnormal blood work or imaging. With an integrative approach, a healthcare team can offer additional support and address concerns with effective and safe interventions.

Communication is critical

The relationship between a patient and physician is very important, and open communication is critical. Studies show that patients who feel comfortable asking questions and voicing their preferences or concerns have higher quality of life and higher satisfaction levels. Integrative medicine places this relationship as a partnership, in which the physician listens, asks questions and together, helps the patient decide on treatment options.

Case Study

Jane was experiencing chronic urinary tract infections. Every few weeks she was given a course of antibiotics, only to have her symptoms return. After six months and six courses of antibiotics, her family doctor referred her to a naturopathic doctor (ND). Her ND helped her work through some of the causative factors, including dietary changes, supporting a healthy physiology and optimizing bacterial balance. Within a month, Jane's infections went away and haven't returned.

A few months after, Jane was experiencing negative side effects from her cholesterol medication, and decided she wanted to try stopping her medication. Her doctor agreed, but when her cholesterol levels began to increase, she was once again referred to her ND. Through natural supplementation and dietary support, her cholesterol returned to optimal values, with no side effects. She continues to see both her medical and naturopathic doctor, and reports an extremely high level of patient satisfaction.

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