Look to Complimentary Healthcare for Cure
So as the lockdown measures begin to relax and the behaviour and severity of what we are facing becomes clearer, many questions are being asked in many sectors. Politics, Media and Healthcare are at the front of the cue for scrutiny, and hopefully within due course we will all be able to understand some of the glaring inconsistencies, distortions and shortcomings that will undoubtedly have far reaching consequences, and quite possibly a more devastating effect on us than the virus itself.
As a Healthcare Professional, over the last three months I have watched as millions of people have been plunged into fear, economic instability and even greater health risks as a result of the response to Covid 19. I have also witnessed friends with severe symptoms being denied care, and being told that their conditions are unworthy of further consideration at this time!
Now we can argue for days about the necessity of the lockdown measures and the cost/benefits they are having or have had, but that’s not the subject of this blog. This is a ‘call to action’ and a rally for us all to act on some of the most important conclusions that have arisen from this unprecedented crisis.
The Elephant in the Room
It is now quite clear to see that this opportunistic virus is most severe in people with underlying comorbidities- the most prevalent of these being Diabetes. At the beginning of May, approximately 94% of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the U.S, occurred in people with at least one underlying health condition. In addition to this, it is estimated that 85% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese, which is also a risk factor for more severe symptoms.
As an Osteopath and Naturopath, I have spent most of my working life studying the healing capacity of the human body in the context of our most prevalent non- communicable disease pandemics. Non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory diseases are by far the greatest cause of death worldwide, and in developed countries, the burden of infectious disease pales in comparison to these conditions, which are strongly influenced by the way we are living our lives.
In both the US and UK, almost half of the population regularly take prescription medications. Some of the most prescribed drugs such as statins, anti-depressants, anti-acid and blood pressure medications, not only reflect how our lifestyles are harming us, but also how our healthcare systems are failing to address the underlying causes of these modern-day epidemics. At the same time as we are getting fatter, sicker and more medicated, our pharmaceutical driven healthcare systems are failing to fully embrace more holistic or complimentary medicine, which is now regarded as the cornerstone of treatment for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and all of their subsequent complications.
The Mismatch in Modern Medicine v Modern Disease
Our healthcare systems are experiencing a mismatch between the ever increasing and complex diseases they are being overburdened with, and their method of care, which is traditionally designed around a ‘single disease model’. Both research and medicine typically focuses on treating single disease processes, which is unsuitable in the face of complex conditions that involve an array of symptoms and contributing factors such as type 2 diabetes. Multi morbidity, or the co-existence of 2 or more long-term medical conditions is now commonplace, with research suggesting that more than half of GP appointments in the UK and over 70% of prescriptions are given to people suffering from 2 or more conditions.
The most recent health crisis has clearly shown us that we are not achieving better health through our healthcare systems and that we need to embrace a more integrated, preventative and less medicalized approach in order to protect vulnerable people against opportunistic viruses. We may be living longer than ever before but we are also taking more prescription drugs and living with more non-communicable disease than ever before. As the adage goes:
It’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.
As an Osteopath and Health Coach I am regarded as a ‘Complimentary Therapist’ and despite extensive training in Pathology, Differential Diagnosis, Anatomy, Neurology etc, we are still barely recognised in the majority of primary healthcare settings, and also disregarded by the majority of Medical Doctors. GP’s like to scoff about safety, efficacy and evidence of complimentary therapies, whilst they prescribe pharmaceutical cocktails with numerous side effects that are responsible for the death of literally hundreds of thousands of patients each year. In 2016 the leading Danish Physician and Medical Researcher Peter Gotzsche regarded prescription drugs as the third leading cause of death in the UK behind heart disease and cancer.
Now I am very aware that this may sound like a disparaging attack on pharmaceutical medication, however I am deeply grateful and respectful for the advances of modern medicine whilst being well aware of its flaws in the treatment of modern disease. I am merely trying to create context for the unnecessary ignorance and arrogance of our modern healthcare systems and doctors, who are generally quick to disregard other forms of effective and relatively harmless healthcare.
Research has shown that over 70% of Doctors in the UK reported having less than 2 hrs of training in nutrition, and 74% gave nutrition advice less than once per month!
Is your Doctor Open-Minded towards Complimentary Healthcare?
After working as an Osteopath in numerous GP practices for 3 years, it is fair to say that a territorial mindset exists amongst General Practitioners, which in many cases prevents and actively discourages patients from seeking more individualized and holistic treatments outside of their care. I have also had the pleasure of working with very supportive and open-minded GP’s but they are most definitely the minority, and unfortunately not enough to address the ‘them and us’ culture that can ultimately deprive patients of better care.
As well as claiming that pharmaceutical drugs are the third leading cause of death, Peter Gotzsche also states that a life without pharmaceutical drugs is possible for most of us, most of the time. It is frightening to think that we live in a reality where many would regard this assertion as unusual, and the long-term use of pharmaceutical drugs as normal!
Whether it’s back pain or childbirth we are allowing ourselves to be overmedicated and over medicalized by a paternalistic healthcare system that may be well-intentioned, but is also a deeply institutionalized system of care, delivered at the coal face by an army of hard working, sincere, yet highly stressed, professionals. In an ideal world, our healthcare systems would invite more evidence-based complimentary therapies in with open arms to relieve some of that pressure and stress. Unfortunately the further up the hierarchy and further away from the frontline of healthcare you look, the more it is negatively influenced by profit driven pharmaceutical companies, who influence everything from education and research to clinical practice.
Complimentary Healthcare Practitioners are constantly trying to gain recognition in the hierarchy of modern medicine, where Doctors are regarded as the gatekeepers and arbiters over our healthcare. Unfortunately, the majority of these gatekeepers simply do not have the time or skills to best treat the root causes of our biggest disease epidemics. Primary healthcare is being delivered in a time poor, reductionist and pharmaceutical driven model that is far more effective at supressing symptoms than actually resolving disease.
Modern Disease needs a more suitable model of Healthcare
Many doctors and healthcare workers blame the system they work within, however there are many doctors who have chosen to forego the stress and regular wage of the current ‘disease management’ model of healthcare, to pioneer and promote more curative, integrated and effective healthcare approaches ( The stuff that complimentary therapists have been practicing for decades). The likes of Dr Rangan Chaterjee, Dr Aseem Malhortra and Dr Mark Hyman are a few examples of prominent Medical Doctors that have had the passion, open-mindedness and courage to step away from a broken yet powerful system, challenge the dogmas they have been taught and practice in a more integrated, patient centred and effective way.
We all have the right to choose how we practice and engage with healthcare, however our recent experiences have clearly demonstrated that if we want to successfully adapt to the inevitable health challenges that include opportunistic and ever evolving pathogens, we need to embrace a more holistic and individualised approach to medicine that focuses on building our natural defences rather than supressing symptoms and dealing with the end-stages of disease.
In the same way that we can vote for the food we want to see in the stores by what we choose and pay for at the till, we also need to vote for the healthcare we want to receive by supporting and choosing to interact with Health Professionals such as Health Coaches, Osteopaths, Naturopaths, Functional Medicine Practitioners and Nutritionists, who are arguably more effective than General Practitioners at treating the root causes of our modern day disease epidemics such as Type 2 Diabetes, Obesity and all of their subsequent complications.
10 minute consultations, symptomatic drugs, and general advice on diet and exercise just doesn’t cut it, and should no longer be the first port of call for the majority of patients seen in primary healthcare.
If we want to be able to thrive in the face of inevitable challenges to our health, we need complimentary healthcare on the front line of primary healthcare. Practitioners with expertise in nutrition, functional,manual and psychological medicine are now essential to help people resolve the cause of their disease as opposed to just reduce the symptoms.