Nature Medicine’s Health Strategy
My Health Navigator is a tool designed to inform and encourage readers about an effective health strategy that has been successfully implemented with thousands of patients over the past twenty years. As authors and as a clinic, our purpose is to direct and walk alongside our patients and readers as they seek to reach their health goals. Our strategy is designed to address the true nature of disease and promote an attainable definition of health.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Despite no amendments to this statement since 1948, mainstream medicine continues to define health as the absence of disease. Like the WHO, Nature Medicine seeks not only to view health as the absence of disease, but also as a state of well-being in which disease causing factors are identified and addressed in every area of an individual’s life. By striving for continual physical, emotional, spiritual and social optimization, we at Nature Medicine aspire to increase vitality to Give Life to the Living™!
Our strategy is to progress through The Health Continuum™ in order to treat disease, treat functional disorders and prevent disease while progressing towards health optimization. In order to accomplish this, improvements to health are made through successive therapeutic sessions to increase quality of life, vitality and energy. There are many disease causing factors which require identification and isolation in order to attain and maintain one’s optimal well-being. At Nature Medicine, our health strategy includes 5 key principles.
1. The Health Continuum™:
Functional Disorder vs. Pathological Disease
The first foundational principle of our strategy is The Health Continuum™ which illustrates the progression of disease. A visit to your medical doctor (MD) will usually begin with a symptom. In some cases, the MD may run multiple tests that do not present a diagnosis; their investigations come back within normal limits. There may be no signs of a pathological disease, but you still do not feel well. This may actually be due to a functional problem. In fact 85% of visits to MDs are for functional problems and not pathological ones. A functional disorder requires a tune up rather than significant intervention by your MD. In other words, you are not sick enough to qualify for treatment under the current system of healthcare. Therefore, you are left with symptoms without a long term strategy to successfully address them. Interestingly, Traditional Chinese Medicine functioned completely opposite to our system today. In ancient times, Chinese doctors were only paid as they maintained the health of their patients. If the patient became ill, the doctor was expected to provide free treatment. Their main goal was to promote optimal health and rectify functional disorders before pathology becomes established. As NDs our focus is to ultimately guide you through the Health Continuum™ by providing disease treatment, functional disorder treatment and disease prevention on the road to achieving optimal health.
2. The Health Cup Analogy™: Multifactorial vs. Monocausal
Another distinctive principle of our health strategy is that at Nature Medicine, we always look for the root cause of the problem. What are the factors causing poor health? There are usually several in a chronic condition (multifactorial) or there may be just one in an acute condition like an injury (monocasual). Modern pharmaceutical medicine prefers the monocausal disease philosophy as this promotes the idea of the magic bullet or miracle pill. One pill to address one symptom. Or one intervention to address one symptom. The Health Navigator proposes a different strategy. All possible factors are taken into consideration in order to properly assess and treat the cause of your health concerns. Humans are complicated beings. Over 1 trillion chemical reactions occurring in our bodies every second. Neurons fire every millisecond. We are very complex organisms indeed.
The Health Cup Analogy™: Imagine your body as a cup which represents your well-being. Your health cup is constantly being filled by various factors (these could include: pollution, diet, stress, microorganisms, etc.). Overall these burdens can be categorized into 5 main sections: Environment, Lifestyle, Body, Mind and Spirit.
Multiple factors accumulate as we progress through life and eventually your cup overflows resulting in functional symptoms or possibly disease. Most prescription medications regrettably do not address the causal problems. Instead they give you a larger cup to catch the overflow (Fig. 2). The symptoms are given temporary relief (the magic bullet or miracle drug) but the factors causing those symptoms are not eliminated. So the cup overflows again. This necessitates another stronger prescription (another miracle drug) to deal with an ever−expanding litany of symptoms, but not addressing the multitude of causes. In order to obtain long-term health, we must treat the cause by identifying, isolating and/or altering the factors filling up your cup. Emptying your cup of these negative influences will lead to a true recovery rather than a suppression of symptoms.
Pharmaceutical treatment of headaches is an excellent example of an immediate Band-Aid solution. Tylenol gives your symptoms relief by providing a bigger cup (Fig. 2), but it does not isolate any factors actually causing the headache. If causal factors, like diet, stress and environment are ignored then after a while, the Tylenol fails to work, forcing the need for a stronger medication. This creates a larger cup but none of the causal factors have been successfully treated. The cycle continues as the medications progress to Imitrex, then Cafergot, Fiorinal, nerve blocks or botox. This provides symptomatic relief but the cause again is not addressed. Arthritis and heart disease are conditions which follow similar patterns.
- For arthritis, pain relief begins with Tylenol or Advil, followed by Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (Celebrex, Naproxen), then steroids, onto chemotherapeutic medications such as methotrexate and eventually joint replacement.
- For heart disease, various blood pressure medications are prescribed, followed by blood thinners and cholesterol lowering pills. Gradually increasing the number of prescriptions for each of the above while continuously monitoring for when to provide surgical intervention.
More prescriptions provide a larger cup, yet no one is isolating the factors filling up the cup and contributing to these disease conditions. Discovering the various causal factors is essential to eliminating disease and reaching your health goals.
Everyone is physiologically unique and the roadmap to health is dependent upon assessing the whole person. Modern medicine has isolated the body into different segments (i.e. dermatology, endocrinology, rheumatology, etc.), with each specialization acting independently of the other. At Nature Medicine, we acknowledge the complex interrelationships of environment, lifestyle, body, mind and spirit thus believing each segment works synergistically with the others. The person as a whole must be taken into account in order to create an effective plan to continue in the right direction on The Health Continuum™.
3. Healing Crisis vs. Disease Crisis
The third foundational principle in our health strategy is the well accepted naturopathic concept of a healing crisis. The path to health is not easy; you may feel temporarily worse before you get better. These may not be the encouraging words you wish to read although the change of symptoms is usually a positive sign. A healing crisis is associated with the emptying of your cup and removal of a disease causing factor. When the burden is isolated some symptoms initially become worse as the body now has more energy to focus on healing another area. This is what is commonly known as a healing crisis. Your energy and symptoms are the keys to determining whether this is a healing crisis or disease crisis. According to Constantine Hering, the father of American homeopathy, as healing progresses, symptoms appear in the reverse order of occurrence, from the top down, inside out and from the most vital to least vital organs. Therefore, if your energy is increasing while symptoms worsen or old ailments return, you are going through a healing crisis. In contrast, a disease crisis, is when the overall progression of symptoms, energy and disease continue to worsen. The experience of a healing crisis, while not initially enjoyable, can often be accompanied by a sensation of euphoria as the burden in the cup is being eliminated. Do not let a healing crisis discourage you. Stay focused and remember your ultimate goal.
4. The Weakest Link™
The fourth of our five health strategy principles is the importance of supporting The Weakest Link™. To reiterate, at Nature Medicine we acknowledge the complex interrelationships of the environment, lifestyle, body, mind and spirit. The various physiological functions and processes of your body can be represented by an intricate chain. Each link represents a different organ, hormone, muscle, neurotransmitter, enzyme, protein, etc. The strength of the chain is dependent upon the connection of each link. In regards to health, the common expression “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” holds true. When one area is not functioning properly, the body attempts to compensate for the weakness. At Nature Medicine, we begin the health journey by systematically isolating disease causing factors and supporting the most fragile link to help rebuild your system. By strengthening The Weakest Link™, the whole chain becomes stronger, resolving many symptoms without the need for further intervention. The body has the ability to heal itself is given the right conditions and support. Vis Medicatrix Naturae is the latin phrase that refers to the healing power of nature. It is one of the founding beliefs of Naturopathic Medicine. It is our essential life energy (Qi, vital force) that helps us to heal and maintain balance. By identifying obstacles and reinforcing areas of weakness, we are fostering the power of the vis to promote healing as your cup is purged. There are many layers to health. On your journey, each layer must be successfully peeled away, like an onion, to reach your optimal health.
5. Docere (Doctor as Teacher)
The final key principle of Nature Medicine’s health strategy is the naturopathic concept of doctor as teacher. Education is critical to treating disease and progressing toward the achievement of optimal health. A Naturopathic Doctor (ND) plays a very crucial role in this process; an ND acts as a teacher. Disease can manifest in a variety of forms, but by understanding the factors that contribute to the problem and how they can be corrected, health is attainable. The knowledge contained in the Health Navigator will empower and motivate you to make informed decisions and take control of your health.
What to Expect
Nature Medicine’s health strategy incorporates these 5 key principles as well as methods of accountability to ensure commitment and goal attainment. Obtaining a full health history is essential for identifying obstacles and individualizing your strategy. There are health practitioners whose strategy is to give supplements that address every issue at once. You will feel better, but unfortunately you will always be dependent upon the supplements or the practitioner to maintain your health. At Nature Medicine we take a systematic approach. By isolating factors in a sequential way and supporting The Weakest Link™, we can provide minimal supplementation, save you money and help you take control of your own health. The education about disease causing factors is invaluable to your success. When you learn how disease progresses, you can actively work towards disease prevention and the optimization of your health.
It is necessary to understand that your present state of health may be the result of an entire lifetime. Therefore to expect an overnight cure is unrealistic. Healing is a process that takes time and commitment. At Nature Medicine, we do not chase symptoms. We seek to find the root of the problem and address it. To achieve this we want to know all about you!
To assist you in getting the most out of your doctor visits and attaining your health goals, we have created tools to help you track your progress on a routine basis. The Symptom Tracker™ and Lab Tracker™ are designed to keep you in tune with your body, allowing you to see the long-term change in your concerns and motivating you to fulfill your goals. The Pill Minder™ is a great addition for maintaining your treatment schedule. Knowing when to administer medications and observing the effects on symptoms can significantly amplify your progress. By utilizing these tools you will be able to monitor your health progress over time. This will boost your self-confidence and provide the impetus to push forward to your goal of disease prevention and health optimization. These handy tools are currently available in hard copy form at the Nature Medicine clinic.
At Nature Medicine, our goal is to work with you to provide education, service and access to effective healing therapies geared towards giving you the health results you desire. In order to be successful, your cooperation as a member of your own health team is essential. All the necessary forms, tools and products are available, however without your participation it will be difficult to achieve the results you desire. This is equivalent to asking us to wrestle a disease to the ground with one arm tied behind our backs.
Before entering into an effective treatment relationship, Nature Medicine will propose a Health Commitment™. The Nature Medicine team is determined to provide safe, effective, individualized treatment that addresses your concerns and is intended to provide disease prevention while working towards optimal health. Nature Medicine will strive to reach these goals throughout your treatment program. If at any time you feel we are not doing our part, please provide us with your feedback immediately.
The opportunity of having a guide with an effective strategy for achieving your goals will accelerate your journey to health. The following chapters will share in depth some potential obstacles and therapeutic possibilities.
Kroenke, K., & A.D.Mangelsdorff. Common Symptoms in Ambulatory Care: Incidence, Evaluation, Therapy & Outcome. American Journal of Medicine 86:262-266, 1989. http://www.amjmed.com/article/0002-9343(89)90293-3/abstract