By Emily Holler
‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ Aristotle
Despite all the advances of modern medicine, it’s clear that disease continues to increase exponentially. Chronic diseases are becoming increasingly common according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. More than 11 million Australians (50%) reported having at least 1 of 8 chronic diseases in 2014–2015 while 87% of people aged 65 and over had at least one chronic disease. So despite the fact that our life expectancy has increased, we are becoming more unwell, which sadly makes it much harder to enjoy our extended lives. Why is this so?
Modern pharmaceutical medicine and practice can be very effective at controlling or suppressing symptoms and can certainly prolong our lives in doing so, however a very simple concept that is often missed by the Western approach is asking one simple question ‘why is this person sick?’. Until the root cause of a problem is understood and addressed then the health seeker can never achieve true wellness. At times pharmaceutical drugs are simply forcing the disease and the body into submission, which can be taxing on us and will ultimately backfire if the true cause is not addressed.
The human body has an incredible innate healing capacity and if given the right environment, will heal itself. However there are increasingly complex health conditions being seen here at The Health Lodge, and cracking the unique code of each individual case can be a complex riddle that requires time and patience to unravel, even for the most highly skilled practitioners. We believe that having multiple modalities working together will one day be considered the norm rather than the exception.
At The Health Lodge we are proudly pioneering the advancing field of Integrative Medicine, and the results speak for themselves. But what exactly does the term ‘Integrative Medicine’ mean? The National Institute of Integrative Medicine sums it up as ‘conventional medicine combined with evidence-based complementary medicine, therapies and lifestyle interventions for the treatment and prevention of disease.’ A platform where ‘the patient-practitioner relationship is collaborative and supportive, empowering patients to take control of their health and wellbeing.’ This in itself is a novel approach, as anyone who has experienced the disempowering feeling that can sometimes accompany the traditional patient/practitioner relationship can attest to.
Our clinical psychologist Simon DuBois has found the integrative approach highly valuable within his modality. Despite his work being primarily focused on mental health, he has found that an understanding of the gut/brain connection and utilising naturopathic care has greatly improved the recovery rate of his patients. Sometimes medication has its place in a recovery program, but symptoms can be managed using diet and supplementary support provided by a naturopath or holistic GP. ‘The integrative model is so powerful because it challenges practitioners to allow what they’re doing to be complemented by other modalities, thereby preventing tunnel vision in individual practitioners’ he says.
‘Sometimes viewing a patient through one lens of understanding is insufficient to get the desired results’ says Phil Baxter, one of our highly skilled Acupuncturists. ‘By mixing and matching different forms of understanding, it helps achieve the clinical results we’re seeking. Human beings are made up of psychological, spiritual and physical components, we need to be getting someone well on all levels simultaneously. Using the integrative model we leave no stone unturned.’
‘It’s a holistic model’ says our wonderful Naturopath Emma McLaughin, ‘it ensures the individual receives the most efficient and effective treatment available and that specialist care is received for all aspects of health.’ To gain a better understanding of this work in action, Emma shared a recent case study with us.
*name changed for privacy reasons
Jacinta came to The Health Lodge suffering from a gastrointestinal complaint called SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth). She had chronic bloating and inflammation in her gut. She was tired, stressed, working really hard and having difficulty finding food that did not aggravate her tummy symptoms. Emma took a thorough case history and referred her to one of our GPs to get investigative blood work done. The results revealed nutritional deficiencies and Emma was able to recommend dietary changes and supplements. Emma identified that stress from her work and relationship were contributing to her ill-health so she referred her to some psychology sessions, which gave her the tools to cope better. Finally, Emma recommended some body work with one of our acupuncturists to physically tone her digestive system. Emma acted as the primary facilitator in Jacinta’s care and was able to communicate her needs to other practitioners and receive valuable feedback from them. As a result, within just 6 months Jacinta reported that her stress levels had dramatically reduced, her symptoms had resolved and as a bonus her sleep and skin had also improved. Jacinta reported feeling very supported throughout her journey and loved that the practitioners had been able to guide her through a recovery plan where she had previously felt overwhelmed and unsure where to begin.
‘The integrative model is a relatively new approach to healthcare and as such does not yet enjoy the financial rebates offered to the more traditional framework. But in seeing how incredibly effective it is for people, I really hope that this changes’ says Emma. At The Health Lodge we are continually seeking new ways to ensure that financial constraints are not a barrier to quality care. The introduction of our new group sessions offer a more DIY approach for those who wish to access education and tools but may find a one-on-one practitioner cost prohibitive at this stage. ‘I find the group work can be really powerful as people are feeling supported by the practitioners as well as their peers’ she concludes.
The rapid global growth of this integrative model of care is a testament to its effectiveness, with the principles and practices becoming more widely commonplace as people experience excellent results for themselves and witness it in others also. At The Health Lodge we are so excited to be part of such an innovative worldwide movement and will continue to work together to grow awareness of the power of integrative medicine in action.