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Advice from Natural Health (Integrative) Practitioners

As someone who has been under the care of Integrative (or Functional or Holistic/Naturopathic) physicians for the last ten years and have gleaned countless tips, helpful strategies and a deeper understanding of my health then I ever would have if I had stayed in the traditional medical care, I wanted to pass some of what I have learned. I am entirely convinced I am much healthier and have a better quality of life from these strategies, so the benefits of Integrative care (which blends holistic and natural approaches along with the traditional treatments) should, in my opinion, be part of everyone’s healthcare. However, since insurance rarely covers much of this type of treatment, and these practitioners dig deep to diagnose (and that takes quite a bit of time) this type of care can be very costly. So, while everyone’s situation is different, today I wanted to share some of the things I have learned over the years from my Integrative doctors that may be of benefit.

I am trying to only share what I believe are the most beneficial tips for the most people, though this probably barely skims the surface. I have seen several very highly-regarded, caring and competent Integrative physicians (please email me if you would like recommendations in the DC area) over the last ten years. An initial evaluation, typically a two hour appointment, runs anywhere from $800 to over a thousand dollars, plus costs of testing, supplements and bloodwork. I won’t minimize the financial commitment, but long-term health situations are costly too, so I consider my investment well worth it. When you compare that sort of in-depth analysis to 15 minutes with a primary care doctor, you can see how this type of treatment can be much more effective at getting to the root cause of an issue not just treating the symptom.

I am not going to revisit my health history today. If you like you can read my post on Lyme disease and the update a few years later HERE. I do encourage anyone with a long-term, ongoing health issues to pursue an integrative approach especially for autoimmune-related health issues. While often people find this type of care when all other options are exhausted without improvement, no matter what your health scenario is, the tips that help me are things that can help you feel better, be healthier and have less stress in life.

I am completely convinced that eliminating processed food, eating organic as much as possible, adding plant-based foods, lowering sugar intake, decreasing chemical exposure and primarily eating grass-fed/natural/organic meat will improve your overall health. If you have an ongoing health concern I highly recommend that you begin by changing you diet. In a nutshell, if you eliminate the food (s) causing inflammation, your body can begin to heal. You then use nutrients more efficiently, sugar cravings will subside, you will be more energetic and will probably even lose weight, you will sleep better and your skin will glow. I am not making any promises, but you will find plenty of testimonies out there agreeing with this.

Following right up on that, don’t overlook the health of your gut. While this has always been something I knew, I have recently started really digging into this in more depth. I encourage you to delve in and do your research (and please, please avoid sugar and dairy-laden “probiotic” yogurts that the food industry want you to think healthy!). While there are plenty of products to help your gut (which then in turn helps your brain), like probiotics, prebiotics, digestive enzymes and such, one thing that I have found that is simply great for both your gut and your immune system is drinking bone broth. You can google a recipe on how to make it, buy it from a reputable source or I'll be sharing a recipe very soon.

Another tip, is be very wary of gluten! While I know it’s almost trendy to be gluten-free, I have learned over the years that it’s not an on-again/off-again thing you can do. It takes thirty, realistically closer to ninety, days for gluten to leave the system and for the inflammatory reaction it causes to subside. Plenty of people do not test positive for celiac disease (like me) but still can’t tolerate gluten. However, I often have people tell me that they too are gluten-free at dinner then promptly help themselves to a gluten-laden dessert and giggle about cheating. In most cases, if you aren’t fully eliminating gluten from your diet you won’t see the health benefits, just to warn you! In short, our food manufacturing has transformed wheat into a genetically-modified mimic of what our forefathers ate and what our bodies were designed to ingest. The theory is that people’s tolerance for it is diminishing. I have recently switched my family over to Kamut flour which is a purer, more traditional wheat grain without the genetic modifications that mass-produced flour has, I think it’s a safer and healthier bet.

Next up on the list is that your thyroid can really matter. Unfortunately, the standard thyroid tests your traditional doctor may give you aren’t that reliable, so if you have thyroid issues (weight gain or loss, fatigue, sleep issues, thinning hair, feeling cold etc. etc.) I encourage you to go beyond your primary care to an integrative physician who can run the true tests. A sidenote I’ll also share: my recent testing by my Functional physician showed slightly low thyroid function though thyroid testing by my primary care was “normal”. Apparently all the fun and fancy salts we use these days that don’t contain iodine can take their toll on your thyroid! Be sure you continue to use iodized salt, or you can take a kelp supplement. (This book is excellent if you have thyroid concerns).

A high number of people are deficient in magnesium, and it’s easy to fix. My levels were low, but since adding in a supplement before bed each evening my sleep is so much better. It’s also important for mood and controlling anxiety. Just make sure you take a pure form like magnesium glycinate and not a cheap drugstore kind, I swear by this one before bed. You can also enjoy epsom salt baths to help get your magnesium levels up (and relax and detox too-win!). Our modern-day lifestyle (coffee, alcohol, stress and poor farming practices which results in low food quality) depletes magnesium, so this is an easy fix that will help you feel better.

Over the last ten years, I have gone from occasionally taking Vitamin C when I felt a cold coming on to taking all sorts of supplements on a daily basis (most at the recommendation of my doctor). There are so many that are beneficial, and while over the years most of the ones I have taken have been to treat symptoms, I did recently have an entire nutritional evaluation test done. It was so interesting to see what things I needed to boost up, but thankfully because I am pretty careful with how I eat, I wasn’t in too bad of shape. Here are some basics, and I strongly recommend high quality supplements and not the off the shelf grocery store ones. These are more expensive but they are much more pure, I am linking the brands my doctors recommend, I consider them top-quality. It’s always a good idea to take 1000 mg of vitamin C daily (I take this powder and divide it up into an AM and PM dose for better absorbability, I also put it in my kids’ orange juice each day and they have no idea), Vitamin D (5000 mg is recommended especially in winter but again it depends on many factors, ask your doctor) and I also just take a good all-around multi-vitamin to cover all the bases (I like this one). I also have seen great benefits from this (Omega 3) EPA Extra supplement it is good for your mood I have been told, as well as for general health, and has no noticeable fish taste or smell. There are all sorts of other supplements that can be beneficial, and can be recommended by a professional.

After the last few years, I think we all have learned that it’s ok to ask questions when it comes to our health. I read a quote recently that said “A broke twenty-something has a million dreams, a dying billionaire has just one” and it struck a chord with me. There is so much we can do to be proactive about our health, but we can’t wait to do it, and while I am not a doctor and can’t tell you what you should specifically take or do for your situation, these are just some basic steps that helped me. I hope this information is helpful. I also hope at some point that the traditional medical community will start employing more of these strategies in treatment plans instead of just writing a pharmaceutical prescription, giving you a shot or passing a patient on to another specialist, but we aren’t there yet. In the meantime, my hope is that these tips will also help you!


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