Which Kind of Healthcare Is Best?

Analytics, Coaching, Diagnostics

Not all primary care doctors are the same. They can have vastly different trainings, perspectives, approaches, and solutions.

Conventional Medicine

A conventional medical doctor will look at your symptoms and lab tests and match your conditions with a disease label (there are tens of thousands of them.) They are then required to go by established medical ‘Standards of Care’ which dictate a predetermined course of treatment based on the diagnosis given. This usually involvs drugs and/or referrals to specialists who then prescribe medical procedures and more drugs. This works for disease with easily-determined etiologies, like infectious diseases, or acute injuries. This works less well for chronic diseases like diabetes, arthritis, or high blood pressure.

60% of adults in the US have at least one chronic disease. 42% have more than one (CDC, Rand Corp.) More than half of seniors 65 and older take four or more prescription drugs a day (Kaiser Family Foundation.) One of the reasons chronic diseases remain chronic is that drugs and medical procedures don’t address the chronic oxidative stress that causes the inflammation, that causes the tissue degradation, that causes the chronic dysfunction or disease.

It’s not unusual for doctors working for large organizations to be forbidden from ‘going off script’ and prescribing, or even suggesting, vitamins, nutritional supplements or any other non-medical treatment.

Conventional medical doctors aren’t even called doctors anymore. They are now called ‘providers’.

Conventional medicine claims to be ‘scientific’ and ‘evidence-based’. Unfortunately, this is a one-size-fits-all approach dependent on large, expensive studies to determine statistically-relevant levels of safety and efficacy, based on an undefined group of people with an unknown correlation to your unique genes, age, or health condition. How is the results of those studies relevant to you? Unknown! There is zero scientific evidence and certainly no guarantee that any FDA-approved drug or device a) will for you have an efficacy greater than aspirin, nutritional supplements, exercise, stress reduction, meditation (or anything else), or b) will not for you cause severe ‘side effects’, irreparable harm, or even death.

Is this a problem? Properly prescribed drugs in the U.S. cause about 1.9 million hospitalizations every year from serious adverse drug reactions (SDRs), and over 100,000 die. (Harvard Univ. Center for Ethics.) Every year hundreds of drugs and devices, after FDA approval and wide-spread use, are determined to not be safe and are recalled!

On the plus side, conventional medicine, is usually the least expensive, as much is covered by insurance.

Precision Medicine

Precision medicine brings science to a personal level. Genomic sequencing and analyses of our gut microbiome, combined with artificial intelligence and vast amounts of data, provide a statistical evaluation of our unique, individual genetic strengths and weakness, and the effects that the trillions of microbes living in your gut likely have on your digestion, nutritional status, immune system strength, and general health. This can provide highly accurate, personally relevant insights not only into possible root causes, but also custom, personalized solutions not available in conventional medicine.

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine takes a science-based, individual-centered approach and digs deep to find and address the ‘root causes’ underlying disease conditions. It has become an essential framework for managing chronic disease.

For, example, someone with a diagnosis of depression seeing a conventional medical doctor will likely get a prescription for antidepressants and be referred to a mental health professional. A functional medicine doctor will look for underlying causes by assessing things like chronic inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, neurotransmitter and hormone imbalances, toxicities, and gut health. The key is testing and questions, constantly looking for the answers to ‘why’.

More information about Function Medicine can be found at The Institute for Functional Medicine website.

Integrative Medicine

Integrative medicine seeks to treat individuals from an even broader, holistic standpoint to ‘integrate’ broader aspects of well-being to include mental, emotional, and even spiritual health. For depression, an Integrative Medicine doctor might also look at lifestyle habits, nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress levels, coping mechanisms, work and family life, support systems, and even beliefs.

Lifestyle Medicine

Lifestyle medicine is focused on preventive healthcare and self-care dealing with prevention, and treatment of disorders caused by lifestyle factors and preventable causes of death such as chronic stress, nutrition, physical inactivity, and self-destructive behaviors like substance abuse.

Lifestyle medicine focuses on educating and motivating patients to improve the quality of their lives by changing personal habits and behaviors around diet, lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances, and positive social connection.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) comprises a broad range of practices from over 2,000 years of documented medical observations. TCM is distinctly different from modern western medicine in its understanding of human body function and approach to healing. It takes the whole person into account and attempts to balance the body’s energies, increase energy flow and function, and stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms. TCM practitioners view the body as a complex network of interconnected parts rather than isolated systems or organs or separate diseases.

Advantages of TCM include natural pain management, reduced stress levels, improved sleep, stronger immunity and decreased need for medications.

TCM treatments can include acupuncture, TCM herbal medicines, cupping, moxibustion and exercises like Qi Gong or Tai Chi.

Alternative Health vs. Complimentary Health vs. Integrative Health

If a non-mainstream, non-conventional approach is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered ‘complementary.’ If a non-mainstream approach is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered ‘alternative.’ ‘Integrative‘ health aims for coordinated care among different providers and institutions by bringing conventional and complementary approaches together to care for the whole person and maximize healing. More info at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH.)

Healthcare Practitioners

Many types of healthcare practitioners exist that focus, not on ‘fixing’ a ‘disease’, but on enhancing health and wellness. These can include chiropractors and functional nutritionists, and a wide range of expert technicians like massage therapists, and physical therapists, all with unique rolls, expertise, perspectives and solutions.

Functional Medicine Health Coach

Functional Medicine Health Coaches have been trained in functional medicine diagnostic procedures that look for the root causes and to find natural, more permanent solutions. This includes a detailed review of personal and health history and the many complex interactions between genetics, biology, lifestyle, environment.

A Functional Medicine Health Coach can draw from the best of Precision, Functional, Integrative, and Lifestyle Medicine and utilize the best of multiple worlds and perspectives. Functional Medicine Health Coaches have the space to devote more time, dig deeper, and provide the ongoing support not found elsewhere. Functional Medicine Health Coaches can work with your primary healthcare provider.

It’s an exciting time of growth in individual-focused, personalized healthcare. In addition to functional diagnostics, new precision medicine analytical tools like genome sequencing and microbiome analysis are available. An explosion has occurred of wearable consumer tech and apps to help monitor, record and improve nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress levels, and more. Never before have more tools been available for individuals to learn about, take charge of, manage and improve their health and quality of life. Is your current healthcare professional helping you do that?

You no longer have to settle for just symptom relief. At Revitalize Restore, you can find a real health solution.

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Marty Gronewald, FMHC

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