The Integrative Wisdom Project

The Integrative Wisdom Project

I strenuously applaud the naturopathic profession’s masterminds behind this movement to expose elements of collaborative natural health care.  It’s an extremely forward-thinking and inclusive group of minds putting social media to use in the name of holistic health for all and by all.  I wish for my own profession to get on this bandwagon.  Just today I had an exchange about recent shifts happening in one of the chiropractic associations as they scramble to keep step with the times and join these progressive voices.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to speak with this movement.

“Persistent limited beliefs along with complacency are part of the biggest barriers to making integrative medicine standard in healthcare. Every discipline of provider in health care, both conventional and alternative medicine practitioners, are guilty of this.”

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For more voices on this progressive movement follow the source of the original post here: The limited beliefs of integrative medicine limit progress | Integrative Wisdom

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Your Pain is Not Because You’re “Fat”

Your Pain is Not Because You’re “Fat”

What do I know about the struggle to lose weight? Not much and I don’t pretend to. That is a genetic “crap shoot” that I came out on the lucky side of.

What I DO know is that pain does not happen to overweight people alone.

The other thing I know and hear about more often than I should, is how doctors of all specialties commonly and unabashedly display extreme prejudice against people who are overweight.  Numerous patients of mine tell me similar stories about reaching out for help with their pain and being met with a host of physician encounters that leave them feeling judged and ashamed.  So many doctors are quick to blame the weight and slow to investigate past the fat.

Anyone in this day and age knows about the correlation between obesity and disease and mortality.  I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that the majority of overweight patients know that it’s not ideal to be on the heavy side.  The last thing they need to hear is that everything wrong with them is because of their weight. First of all, that’s just not always true and more importantly, blaming their weight is certainly not something they need a doctor’s help doing.

When has fat-shaming ever helped anyone make positive lasting change? Being judged by careless strangers is one thing but by your own healthcare provider is quite another and shouldn’t be allowed.

If someone has been steadily on the heavy side for the majority of their lifetime and there hasn’t been a sudden recent change in weight, then the skeleton – while perhaps stressed in ways that lighter people aren’t – has had years to adapt.  Our bodies are pretty amazing that way and given years to slowly get used to something, we just do.  The likelihood that suddenly the weight is the main problem is unlikely for this sort of scenario.
I see plenty of lean and “fit” looking people who just wake up one day in pain and have no idea why.  We don’t say to those people: “Well it’s obviously because you’re too skinny.  Come back and see me when you’ve gained some weight.”

Here’s another problematic drawing of parallels that seems to happen quite a bit…

Any sized woman who experiences a 9 month gain of pregnancy weight should never be compared with someone who is chronically overweight.  It is completely different. Not only do most overweight people not gain that quickly but they also aren’t experiencing the unique destabilizing and mechanically disorienting effects of massive hormonal and blood volume changes.

If weight is legitimately suspected as the cause for pain, then the last thing you should do as a doc is dismiss the patient with a sweeping prescription for exercise and calorie restriction when the more likely chronic weight-related risk is cardiovascular.  If anything, this person needs to have a heart health check first.

When a patient feels alienated from their physician due to the shame over their weight, it creates a dangerous  barrier to receiving true healthcare solutions.

I hear first-hand from patients that they will simply not return for care when they feel unfairly judged and dismissed and this can be more dangerous than the weight itself.

We do need to be clear with our patients about the facts:

But facts can be shared without judgment and blame. Higher body fat percentage is a real health risk. Abdominal fat is the worst. It predisposes us to higher levels of chronic inflammation which can manifest in many ways – not just through pain.  Evidence shows that it’s inflammation that is the huge risk factor and linked with a host of diseases.

Doctors and patients alike need to be aware of the cold hard fact that body fat percentage can be dangerously high in underweight, average weight and overweight people.  This is why everyone of absolutely any size, needs to avoid being sedentary, eliminate inflammatory foods and care for their stress levels and stress coping – all of which have been shown to play a role with inflammation which is the ultimate killer.

It’s never just the weight alone.

When there is pain, the pain chemistry needs to be addressed first and foremost.  Yes, fat cells contribute to inflammation which can stack the deck against us and cause pain, but every person’s situation is unique.  Look at the mechanics.  Consider individual body chemistry.  Inquire about psycho-social factors.  These are the inroads to better, more compassionate self-care which is where weight loss can begin if indeed that is appropriate for that patient.

We are emotional creatures first.  The physical body is a reflection of who we are.  All bodies need to be greeted with kindness and respect first before change can be made.


image credit: By Peter Paul Rubens – The Prado in Google Earth: Home – 7th level of zoom, JPEG compression quality: Photoshop 10., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22620913

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No, You Do NOT Need to Improve Yourself For the New Year

No, You Do NOT Need to Improve Yourself For the New Year

rogi__gorski_kotar__croatia_-_panoramioThere is nothing wrong with you.

When you start believing that you are not inherently bad or defective, that is when resolutions for change actually can have lasting effect.  All we ever need to do both in life and in health is to get out of our own way.  Eliminate the obstacles.  Like a log jam in the river – moving the logs is much easier than trying to push the river uphill.

It’s true that you might be more comfortable in your body if you exercise regularly or eat fewer inflammatory foods, but you are still a valuable human being regardless of what you choose to do about this.  If you see your intrinsic value, you would probably choose less punishing behavior, and less time would be wasted spinning in unproductive guilt when things don’t go exactly as you planned.

Letting go of the idea that there is anything “wrong” with who we are opens the door to making good choices.  Connecting with our value lets us put aside harsh judgement and shame over the choices we make when they are not ideal.

The self-improvement frenzy of the new year’s resolution tradition is dangerously destructive because it feeds all sorts of unhealthy thought patterns.  We all know that most of these “resolutions” don’t stick and it’s because they tend to be rooted in unrealistic expectations and stem from faulty assumptions that we are “broken” in some way.

There is nothing wrong with resolving to remember to do good and be good whatever “good” means to you, but please remember that goodness is a natural inclination.  So, really, you’d be resolving to be more of who you naturally are.  If anything, we should all take a moment to reflect on what is keeping us from letting our optimal potential and natural happiness surface.

When the attitudes shift from a place of self hatred to self love and acceptance the natural flow of wellness is allowed to resume.

Let’s embrace what is and who we are just as we are.  You don’t need improvement this year or any year. You are perfect just the way you are.

Now go do something healthy just for the love of it!


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Meeting Dr. Joseph Pizzorno

Meeting Dr. Joseph Pizzorno

Last month I was in San Diego attending a week long conference of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). What a refreshing gathering of so many different health specialists and generalists, truly representative of my ideal in holistic and integrative care of patients.

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Dr. Joseph Pizzorno at the AIHM conference 2016 – Looking dapper as ever despite three consecutive lectures without break!

One of the highlights for me was to attend a set of lectures given by Dr. Joseph Pizzorno and then to meet him for the first time. He is one of the founders of Bastyr University. I’ve been in touch with him for the past couple of years now because of his kind willingness to pen the foreword of my first book in the Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain series, Volume One – Put Out the Fire. Until now we had only corresponded remotely and so this was the first chance I’d had to meet in person this man I’m so grateful to.

I was in disbelief for quite some time that this natural health care giant was willing to associate his name with a project like mine – very much still in its infancy.

What I’ve learned about him during the process is how generous, gracious and humble he is and all of this was just confirmed by our in-person meeting in San Diego. He was practically mobbed by eager attendees after his lectures and despite being worn out from travel and an unusually long consecutive series of lecture hours without a break, he responded with patient kindness to everyone’s questions.

The topic of Dr. Pizzorno’s most recent research and writing work is environmental health.

The area of study referred to as “environmental health” concerns itself with the effect that inorganic compounds in our environment  exert on our overall well-being, whether those be naturally occurring or human-made.

It is an essential piece to the puzzle when considering the three possible triggers of everyday pain.  Exposure to these compounds can be one of the significant influences responsible for triggering an imbalance in our biochemistry – the precise factor that can add to our inflammatory toxin load and set us up for pain.  When chemistry is out of balance it can profoundly change our emotional coping and in turn our mechanical stressors as we translate emotion into posture.

Environmental toxin exposure is an awesome topic demanding supreme command of the research which Dr. Pizzorno clearly has with unique affinity.  He is in the process of preparing for the release of a new book on the topic:

The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health, and What We Can Do to Fix It

And there is another book in the works for a few years down the road of a more didactic nature.  I’m very excited to see both and will be heavily referencing this work for Volume Two – Fix the Fire Damage of my pain book series.

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Gratitude Heals …Holiday Stress?

Gratitude Heals …Holiday Stress?

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“Thank You”

Studies show that remembering things in life to be thankful for, has a positive effect on our health. This year these health benefits will apparently have to be belated for me since I did not make it in time for Thanksgiving this year.  Often by then I’ve got my newsletter together to send out to my patients with news of the year to come but also reminding folks how much I value the kindness and trust they bring my way. It looks like it will be more of a New Year newsletter in a few more weeks….

 Joking aside about it being “belated”, gratitude is something I feel and reflect on all year long but especially around the winter season when I find myself warm and dry in stormy weather, under a roof I can call my own and one that sustains my life’s mission at the same time. I often feel mind-blowingly lucky considering the haphazard way I’ve found myself on a path to this point.  Anyone with business acumen would have vigorously shaken their heads at many points in my journey (and still today most likely).  I am truly lucky and thankful for that, all times of the year.

American Thanksgiving was early on, easily my favorite part of living in the US. My first year as a student at the chiropractic college in NY, we were given a whole day off on Wednesday to drive home for the holiday – in my case to friends’ houses. That travel day followed by a  four day weekend struck me as the greatest surprise gift ever at the time. What is this holiday magic that gives us FIVE days of time off??  Canadian Thanksgiving usually coincides with Columbus Day weekend in October. It’s generally just a Monday holiday – three day weekend and that’s it.   Canadians barely skip a beat that weekend and quickly get busy thinking about Hallowe’en costumes and parties next.

Here, the mania seems so much more urgent between Thanksgiving and the New Year because that time span is quite a bit shorter.  I see people suffering from the added strain and expectations.  There seems to be more pressured travel and disruption to our routines.  There’s also less daylight.  None of that bodes well for our health but just maybe, pausing those 4-5 days to “give thanks” in whatever way we do, is how we’re meant to balance  the stress of the season’s frenzy.

Just in case that’s not enough, I’m purposefully easing up expectations of myself in all areas this year but especially making sure not to push exercise and instead prioritizing sleep.  It’s hard not to feel guilty and torn by the things on our ever growing to-do lists or to fall into  emotionally beating ourselves up for “slacking off”.  But this is the time you need most of all to include on your list of tasks, things that give you joy and peace.  Don’t let that just be some seasonal slogan that loses meaning for the repetition of it.

Be kind and be loving with yourself.  In Chinese Medicine traditions it’s not actually until early / mid February that our energy “sap” is ready to flow again with slightly more vigor.  For some of us it begins with the Winter Solstice.  You’ll start to feel your energy return slowly with the daylight.

December 21st!By Peter Trimming, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14383009

Let’s welcome back the light.  With the light comes hope.

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What IS “Integrative” Healthcare?

What IS “Integrative” Healthcare?

By The U.S. Army (2012 Warrior Games) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Integrative medicine” is a term that has become very trendy in the health and wellness industry.  It’s an approach inspired by some of the leaders in the Functional Medicine movement.  As soon as it became evident that patients demand it which means there are big dollars at stake, even mainstream medicine is coming on board.  Cleveland Clinic has opened a dedicated wing for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine  as has Johns Hopkins with their Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.

So, what is it exactly?

It’s healthcare designed to treat the whole person (shocker). Many of us in the natural healthcare industry who have been practicing with this mindset for decades can’t help but roll our eyes a little bit at this “new” movement, but it is one to celebrate.

It feels to me like the general public is just catching up with how I’ve been living for most of my life personally, and now professionally for close to 25 years.  What we see in the integrative circles of healthcare is a coming-together of East and West, an acceptance of the interdependence of both sides.

“Integration” refers to the coordination of care between mainstream Western medicine and traditional or “alternative” methods including but not limited to acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, yoga, meditation and other lifestyle modifications. You can find “Functional Medicine” on Wikipedia defined as: medical practice or treatments that focus on optimal functioning of the body and its organs, usually involving systems of holistic or alternative medicine.  

The functional medicine movement was started by a chiropractor with a PhD in biochemistry – Jeffrey Bland.  He bravely championed the long held old-world wisdom of viewing health and disease not as a linear process between one cause and one effect, but rather a complex symphony with multiple orchestral sections that all depend on each other for harmony.   Now people like Mark Hyman MD and a slew of others, straddling mainstream and traditional methods, have embraced this much needed common-sense approach.

Integration? Or Collaboration?

What we are seeing and hearing increasingly from numerous medical centers and hospitals, as many of them move to offer these kinds of approaches under one roof, is validation of this kind of wisdom-medicine for use in the Western model.

This week’s national news headlines on ABC’s GMA morning programming included a story highlighting the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients at all stages of care.  The use of acupuncture, movement therapy like yoga, massage and meditation were given as examples of treatment methods used to address the emotional, spiritual and physical needs together.

Some of you who follow this blog know that, just a few weeks ago, I attended a conference held by the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) where I met medical doctors, physician assistants, nurses, naturopaths, acupuncturists and other chiropractors.  All of us together acknowledging the role of each other’s specialties in the full care of a patient while remembering to also live the path that we advocate for by indulging in some reflective self care.

In conversation with someone over breakfast at this AIHM conference I shared that I am a chiropractor in solo practice. I was met with “So you don’t actually practice integrative medicine…”

This took me aback a bit because I believe I actually do the ultimate integrative practice.   This exchange made me consider that perhaps the confusion is with the concept of “collaborative” vs. “integrative”.  Solo practice means I run a one-woman-show but does not preclude my patients from receiving collaborative (or “integrative”) care.  In my opinion collaboration is essential to integrative approaches.

This meeting of two worlds, in my opinion, can happen just as effectively in a more expansive community setting and not just under one roof. Successful collaborative care for the whole person is much more about the attitudes of providers than a physical facility with a name. I see my job as more of a healthcare traffic cop of sorts.

With the training that every chiropractor receives – to serve as a primary / portal of entry provider  – we are charged with the responsibility of knowing when chiropractic will serve our patients and when other modalities are more appropriate or needed in conjunction with our work.  Who better then, to assess and help patients prioritize treatment methods and direct them to the right practitioners?

I am extremely comfortable with my limitations as a practitioner and for true whole-person healthcare I think it’s essential to beware the delusion that any one of us can be everything to everyone.

For patients who don’t yet have a healthcare team, I regularly bring their attention to physiatry, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, psychotherapy, and whenever needed, direct them back to their mainstream medical provider or any  number of medical specialists.

Do you have a healthcare team of alternative and mainstream providers?  Are you enjoying the integrative medicine movement?  You deserve to.  Status quo is changing.  Expect more.

 

 

 

“Garden Yourself Back to Health”

“Garden Yourself Back to Health”

IMG_6206.jpgThe image of our body as a garden is one that originates in traditional medicine.

This phrase is a quote from a physicist by the name of Larry Smarr who spoke at last week’s annual conference of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM).   Science is slowly catching up to centuries-old concepts and people like Mr. Smarr are at the forefront of getting the word out, beginning with decades of tracking and de-coding his own microbiome health data.

The hope is that this sort of information-gathering will one day be a tool easily available to all of us so that we can make targeted pro-active choices about our wellness.

Imagine: instead of “weed-wacking” or clear-cutting our way out of illness, with this kind of data we all have the potential to be the master gardeners of our own health. Intentional self care with our own personalized data can help us strategically plan against the overgrowth of invasive species.  We are learning increasingly how much our gut microbiome has to do with our overall health.  It may be that our gut is in fact the forest floor.

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Alternative and traditional health care is based on creating and fostering a healthy and balanced “garden”.  Now these concepts are going mainstream.

Collaboration and True Health

It’s impossible to fully convey what an exceptional week this was with the AIHM in San Diego and Mr. Smarr’s presentation was only a drop in the bucket.  This was a gathering of roughly a thousand health care practitioners from 19 different professions and 23 different countries.  We were there to stand for a trend in healthcare that not enough people are talking about.  That I myself didn’t realize was in such full force.

Integration of “mainstream” Western medicine with alternative and traditional healing methods is happening on a global level. Did you know: that the World Health Organization (WHO) has, since 2014, been calling for member states (countries) to submit standards of care specifically to include alternative and traditional methods?  This is known as the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014-2023 . It’s the first I’d heard of it and it blew my mind just a little bit.

People are noticing at the institutional level that alternative and traditional methods of healthcare are indeed effective and in fact, corner an enormous part of the market with literally billions of dollars spent by patients out of pocket just in the US alone.  It makes good governing sense to embrace it and bring it to all people – not just the financial elite.

Walking the Talk

Politics aside, this conference served as the perfect primer for me to return to my own health again.  If you know me or some of my writing, you know that I am liberal with the concept of “beginning again”.  There is nothing more human than hopping on and off the proverbial wagon – whether your wagon is about reigning in addictive behavior or simply an ongoing quest at self improvement.  There is no shame nor failure in falling.  It just is.

Getting up and starting again is where it’s at.

Another speaker at this conference addressed that very same concept in a different way.  Not only is there no shame in it, the falling is where we do our growing and learning – literally. Research has shown that neuro-chemical brain changes associated with  meditation happen not from staying focused, but from practicing repeatedly the act of choosing to: re-focus, return to the task or get back on the “wagon”.  Just like strength training in the gym.  You need repetitions to get stronger and build muscle. Why wouldn’t then this concept of starting again and again hold true therapeutic benefits for us in all aspects of life?

Is Your Idea of Optimal Health Falling Short?

Each day of this retreat style conference, I noted to myself: “Oh, NOW I’m really relaxed.” And yet each day my senses were reminded of even greater relaxation potential that I forgot I was ever capable of.  Not unlike this progressive shift in perception of my actual relaxation level, I suspect the experience of our own health status might be similarly more skewed than we can know. It’s not until we find relief from a health crisis that we remember what it’s like to not be sick or in pain.

But how many of us strive to go farther than this?  Do we all think that “not sick” or “not in pain” is the best we can hope for?  Have we all forgotten what optimal health really feels like?  I suspect the answer is yes more often than not.  As a practitioner, I find myself unwilling to accept mediocrity on behalf of my patients.  Part of my role is to hold the space for and reflect to them their full potential health and yet apparently I let the awareness and memory of my own true optimal health slip away. How easily that happens and especially when my “out of balance” self is, in comparison to so many others, the epitome of well being.  d6

By the fifth day of my time away, with my eyes newly re-opened to true ease of mind and body (albeit temporary), I believe I started to glimpse something I hadn’t felt since I was a child; a sense of remembering deep well-being,  a cellular belief that everything is as it should be and will truly continue to be okay within my cells and every electromagnetic energetic connection outward.

It’s easy to get lost in our struggle to exist in the attempt to get through the minutia of our day-to-day. But let’s remember every so often to get back on the wagon, re-focus, rejuvenate in even the smallest of ways.  Every little bit really does count.

Tending our physical, emotional and spiritual gardens is the way to optimal wellness.  It’s not a straight path, it may require help from others and at times it may veer far off course.  Reach out. Reach within. Begin again and again and again.  Therein lies the cure.

 

Stay tuned in weeks to come for more musings and reports about my time with the AIHM crowd…


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