Happy March! Let’s talk Conventional (Western) Medicine vs Holistic Health
Hey Everyone! Happy March! If your winter has been anything like mine, it’s been grey. And rainy. And cold. And COLD. Colder than usual. While I’m still on the mend from a horrible case of plantar fasciitis in BOTH feet (thanks to a trip to a very wintry MidWest in January and running on 3 hours of sleep over 72+ hours…), I’m happy that Spring and Daylight Savings is coming! I’ve noticed as I get older my body demands that I function based on circadian rhythm. What’s that, you say? It’s basically your biological process for waking and sleeping, and for most of us, it’s heavily tied to sunlight. When winter comes and the days are significantly shorter, I find it harder to get as much done as I can in the midst of a deep summer with the sun waking me up at 6:30 and the sun starting to set around 8:30. It’s marvelous.
In other news, when I’m not working that full time job or helping advocate for safer personal care products, I’m STUDYING. That’s right. I even learned what the appendix does! If you are anywhere around my age (or older) and haven’t taken any anatomy/physiology in a while, you probably thought what I did. We have no effing clue as to why the appendix is in our body. Low and behold….we know now! At least a little bit. Ever hear of probiotics? I’m guessing you probably have, since they’re commonly recommended when a doctor prescribes ANTI-biotics. Natural probiotics are actually stored in the appendix and released into the colon to aide in nutrient breakdown and absorption. How about that?
Here’s the thing. I’m gonna type out a list of things that I hear about all the time in our modern health world. Concerns. Read through it and ask yourself if you have experienced any of these.
menstrual cramps/irregular periods
runny poops (or the other side of it)
general fatigue (that means you might be tired AF all the time)
moodiness or irritability
irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
general skin issues
chronic sinus infections
prone to bruising
food intolerances (not to be confused with just disliking certain foods)
concerns of cancer in your family
concerns around heart disease
sleepless nights or insomnia
trouble needing caffeine throughout the day
Any of these sound familiar? The list could keep growing. Now, I’m not saying that you’re broken or messed up. I’ve got my fair share of check marks across that list too. What I AM telling you is that this is why I’m in school. There’s western (aka traditional) medicine. There’s also FUNCTIONAL medicine. In the same regard, there are Registered Dietitians (RD), and then there are Nutritional Therapy Practitioners (NTP) and Nutritional Consultants that practice functional holistic nutrition. Can a functional medicine doctor do MORE than a western medicine doctor? Can an NTP do MORE than an RD?
It’s not about who is better or who is right or who can do more. We all work together. We need great medicine doctors. We also need great specialists, great surgeons, great acupuncturists and chiropractors. All these healthcare professions exist because we need them! And don’t think I’m forgetting about our RNs. Our nurses are absolutely critical to health and wellness. As are so many other professions I haven’t addressed. But for this conversation, let’s talk a bit more about western/traditional/conventional (it’s got a lot of labels now) vs functional/holistic/ancestral.
Western — these are your medicine men (and women). The ones that you go to for a concern, and they’ll do what they are trained to do. Most of the time, it’s going to be prescribing you a drug. An antibiotic, a stimulant, a steroid, an inhalant. Their job is to identify the symptoms, and treat the symptoms. Some western practitioners will certainly make dietary suggestions or even suggest elderberry, etc. But if you ASK for drugs, they will probably consider if not prescribe it for you, and will certainly do so if they think it’s necessary. Again — it’s what they are TRAINED to do. Treat the symptom. This is not a bad thing. But there is cause for concern when we become patients and clients that are OVER-prescribed, particularly when we aren’t getting any better.
Functional — these are sometimes confused as your supplement men (and women). The core of a functional based practice is to evaluate the body as a whole. You may very well be seeing a practitioner for, say, asthma — but functional wants to look at your overall FUNCTION before recommending you to a specialist or suggesting a drug to help alleviate symptoms. Functional looks for root cause. Including things like stomach acid levels, proper production of hormones, nutritional deficiencies, etc. What if you could treat your asthma with a stomach acid supplement and some B-Vitamins instead of a preventative inhaler and an emergency inhaler?* Functional practitioners look for the root cause of your symptoms and when able, help make recommendations to restore balance and alleviate symptoms.
There’s a large schism within these two sides. People who trust the medications and would never consider a holistic approach, and people who wouldn’t take another antibiotic to save their life (maybe). But it shouldn’t be that way. People now have options that they didn’t have 20 or 30 years ago. And my goal is to be one of those people. Again, I’m not saying medicine is bad. But sometimes there’s only so much it can do. I’ve seen it fail in cancer. I’ve lost people I love dearly. I’ve seen it fail with my REPEATED ER trips for migraines. Sometimes medicine is not enough. And sometimes supplements and eating “healthy” is not enough. That’s why we need them to work together.
Interested in learning more about the non-medicine side? Looking for a practitioner (a functional medicine doctor, a naturopath, or even an NTP) in your area? Send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll try to help you out!
*PLEASE NOTE: I am not suggesting you self-treat if you are suffering from asthma. That is not the purpose of this post. Please work with your practitioner to ensure you are following a safe protocol.
Thanks, and Stay Shiny!