The Nutritional Therapy (NT) I practice is not just about eating your greens, if it were you now have all the answers to your nutritional concerns and my continual research and eduction in this field would serve no purpose. NT is really about the individual, what makes you, me and that other person over there different. What aspects of our lives, our choices, our family history, our health history, our genetics are influencing the health we are experiencing at this time. Imagine joining the dots to all these things through an understanding of biochemical interactions and then finding links between symptoms. Imagine designing a specific plan based around the individual and their unique circumstances that promotes that persons optimal health, that’s Nutritional Therapy.
NT is about looking upstream to the source of a problem and developing nutritional and lifestyle strategies that promote improved function and by doing so improved well being. This strategy differs in many aspects from the conventional approach of matching symptoms to a named disease and then prescribing a pre designed and agreed protocol. I will be the first to say never ever ignore a symptom that is troubling you, and having a diagnosis is an important aspect of a healthcare treatment plan. The one problem with a diagnosis is that it is often seen as the end of an investigation rather than the beginning. NT differs in it’s relationship with a diagnosis as it continues to investigate and refine its search towards the origins of a diagnosed condition.
The approach I take with NT embraces a health care movement that has it origins in the USA. Some 20 years or so ago a group of doctors and biochemists began to openly question the methodology of modern health care practices. Their motives were purely to seek better outcomes for their patients as if was becoming increasingly clear to them as medical doctors that many of their patients lived with a number of chronic illnesses that even with the best investigative testing and medications were never able to overcome their conditions and return them to a state of health that many of us take for granted.
This movement is called Functional Medicine and the organisation is the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM). Over the last 20 years the IFM has grown from a disparate group of highly motivated people to an educational institute providing doctors and therapists with access and educational training in the latest research into chronic disease. The IFM’s approach like that NT is to seek root causes, investigate the interactions of biological pathways and to understand how all these things fit together.
It would be untrue to say that all medical professionals support the IFM’s approach to 21st century health care. However, consider the following as a vision of health care provision that is currently happening in the USA. What would you think if your GP’s surgery suddenly built a gym within its own building and invited patients and the general public to use it. What would you think if your GP also built a kitchen so they could educate their patients on the value of healthy eating. How would you feel walking into this practice to see 70 year olds on exercise machines whilst you sit in the waiting room of that GP’s surgery and what if your doctor placed food and exercise at the very front of their health care strategies rather than simply reaching for the prescription pad. That is what the IFM and a brave group of medical doctors in the US and Canada are doing now.
This movement worries some doctors as they see it as an attack upon conventional practices. Surely a change of direction is an admission of failure and must be opposed? But we need to take a step back and ask ourselves where we are going, be critical and not be afraid of challenging conventional thought regardless of who or what it might upset.
The USA is an interesting country and I have had the opportunity to visit it a few times as part of my training with the IFM. It’s people are hard working, money centred but also from my experience mostly friendly and generous. Its politics can be confusing with seemingly irrational policies that promote hardship and poverty to those most in need. This is a generalisation I know, and although some aspects of its social polices appear harsh, the current president has worked hard to bring about a health care insurance plan that is aimed at ensuring everyone regardless of economic status has access to basic healthcare. I know the politics from a Republican viewpoint are highly socialistic and many in the US would rather pursue a small government, low tax, light touch, free market approach, but one aspect of this new healthcare bill has created an interesting situation. Patients now have to sign off any prescribed care plan as being affective otherwise the doctor isn’t paid for their services. A small change with huge repercussions.
What does this imply with regards to possible prescribed procedures ? Simply that the patient has suddenly been placed at the centre of the health care system. No longer is the patient just a named diagnosis and simply the recipient of a treatment, the patient must state that the treatment is affective for them, not be told by a medical practitioner that it is affective. This is focusing the minds of many doctors and the IFM has seen a significant increase in interest in its integrated approach to health care. Doctors are retraining in nutrition, integrating stress management and developing exercise programs to go along side pharmacological prescriptions.
Non of this would be happening if patients were not finding benefit on a number of different levels. The biggest problem FM doctors are encountering is time, how do you do all of this in a ten minute consultation ? Truth is, you don’t and just like NT the time spent on a single patient case can be measured not in minutes but in hours. Doctors are becoming teachers taking groups of patients at one time with similar situations and forming supportive communities, this allows the doctor to see more people and to give those people the necessary time and support they really need.
NT is unique in that it embraces Functional Medicine at the very heart of its values with the client firmly placed at the centre of any optimal health plan. Over the coming months I will be focusing upon a broad range of health related subjects and will expand further on many of the exciting developments Functional Medicine has implemented and how Nutritional Therapy and Functional Medicine is changing health care in the USA and now in the UK.