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Dr. Divi Chandna  Headshot

Canada's Health Care System Should Incorporate Alternative Medicine

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Daniele Carotenuto Photography
Daniele Carotenuto Photography

Health care is something that most of us have opinions about. Having just celebrated Canada Day, there is nothing closer to a proud Canadian's heart than health care.

If you are part of the system, and work as a physician or nurse or are a current patient, you may be struck by the seeming non-stop shortages. As a practicing family doctor, I have my own bird's eye view of the system. Every day, I find myself explaining why this test is not covered or why they may have to pay more for that medication.

Beyond that, we often forget how much is actually covered. If we ended up in the hospital with a case of pneumonia or required sudden surgery, we leave these institutions without an invoice in our pocket. In most countries, this is unheard of.

That is not to say that our health care system is 'free.' For those of us who pay taxes, we can attest to the ever rising tax dollar we pay from each pay cheque. A large percentage of these taxes goes to pay for our 'free health care'.

Despite the rise of taxes, it always seems like our health care system is short on funds. After 20 years as a practicing family doctor, that shortage seems to being getting larger! Why is that? Will this ever get better?

This article is not about addressing where the money goes and trying to determine the validity of that or not -- but to look at the health care model from a different angle.

After I graduated from medical school and was out practicing, I thought I had all the answers to health care in my hands. There was nothing (so I thought) that I didn't know about wellness. Getting out in the real world and exposing myself to tens of thousands of patients taught me differently. The real learning came when I got ill with chronic health issues.

I had developed chronic pain, recurrent infections and unexplained allergies. The tests in Western medicine would have told me that I was fine. The lab tests and x-rays would have made me look healthy. This did not equate to how I was feeling inside. No medications or treatment with surgeries would have fixed my illnesses.

This is when my own true learning about health began. I learned that there was much more to wellness than I knew. My eyes were opened to a world of healing outside of the pearly gates of the hospital.

What surprised me the most was that this world even existed! I 'assumed' that after eight years of dedication to the institution of medicine, I would be exposed to different forms of healing. Like most aspiring physicians, we are taught what is in the curriculum, but that is not necessarily exhaustive in its healing methods. The funny thing is that as physicians, we are often taught to distrust that which is not scientifically proven and to only give credence to that which is backed by a double blind study. As young physicians, we are trained to believe that anything outside of this realm is placebo, fake or quackery.

I know from personal experience, then when I was not feeling well, and traditional methods did not work, I was willing to try anything for relief. If you are there, and struggle with a chronic illness, you are likely not waiting for a study to prove something to you. You simply want to feel better and get your life back.

After I was able to step outside of the gates of Medicine and expose myself to the expansive models of healing out there, I was truly surprised. There are themes that run through a number of alternative medical modalities that may surprise you.

The first thing I learned which shocked my medical mind was that our bodies do not have to suffer. There are a vast number of methods of wellness that teach us that we are connected to our bodies and that the body has the ability to be well again.

Another theme is that the body is capable of shifting into self-healing if we can create the proper atmosphere for it. These alternative methods of wellness all weave a connection between our emotional well-being and our physical wellness. Personally, I have used mind-body-spirit medicine, energetic medicine and medical intuition as practices to heal my own ailments and through which I now help others.

Having spent 15 years studying these alternative medicine techniques I clearly see how the body can be receptive to such suggestions. It is more than just positive thinking. Having done this type of work to heal myself and having helped many others, I can attest to the fact that it is truly a journey. I have witnessed supposedly incurable illness miraculously resolve and have seen people who have been suffering for decades release emotional and physical pain. I have had the honor to work with people who have reversed chronic disease with personal work. This does not happen overnight, but is a process. In fact it is a process that involves a deeper connection with ourselves on both a mental and emotional front. The funny thing is that this work is being scientifically proven in labs across the world in the leading edge of science called neuroplasticity. More and more proof is coming to the old adage that the body can actually self-heal.

What does all of this have to do with health care funding? My ultimate question is this: Do these systems of health really have to be separate? Do we have to keep allopathic medicine away from other forms of healing? I do not believe that they have to remain separate. If we combine them, and teach physicians and nurses more about alternative medicine, can we have a more impact on patients?

For example, when patients come in with high blood pressure, would we be more equipped to teach lifestyle modalities, stress management skills and important exercise tips to help them lower their blood pressure on their own? Could our health care model open up to accentuating the importance of emotional wellness in conjunction with use of medications? With this combined approach, we would be exploring greater wellness as opposed to eradicating symptoms only.

If health care within our hospitals is going to continue to focus exclusively on mending symptoms, then there will always be a shortage of money. With our aging population, newer diagnostic tests and pricier medications, we will likely need more money.

This constant drain on the system could stop. If we could embrace alternative modalities and teach patients the pillars of wellness, then we may see a significant impact. I believe that the time has come. Our system is always crying for more money and it always seems like there is never enough. Could embracing both models and truly working with patients individually, empowering them, and guiding them help? I do believe that this is a way. When we make health care more about wellness care than sickness care and work on patients' integral well-being, then we can create a system that no longer is a financial drain, but one that is sustainable.

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