Rad Wellbeing

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Conventional Primary Care Physicians spend an average of 18 minutes on a patient visits.

Eighteen Minutes. In that 18 minutes, it would be virtually impossible to go through a meaningful intake and health history, to understand all the factors that could contribute to the patient’s symptoms, or to educate the patient in an impactful way on what changes to make and how to make them.

Let’s say a patient came in needing to address their insomnia, weight gain and family history of cardiovascular disease. Those are three BIG conversations to have. An 18-minute appointment would provide six minutes of conversation for each topic. With time restraints like this, there is so little opportunity to accomplish anything of meaning. It is no wonder patients walk out the door with three new prescriptions to pick up on their way home and few other suggestions of changes to make.

I remember visiting my PCP in my early 20’s, shortly after I had graduated college. For months I had been feeling exhausted and “off”- “I just don’t feel like myself anymore”, I told her. At this time, I had also experienced a handful of panic attacks and was concerned the loop of worry, fear and panic would start to become a common experience for me. This was before the word “anxiety” had taken root in our society, and long before I had the tools to observe and better identify what was going on in my body and mind. After some very basic bloodwork in which “everything looked fine”, I was sent on my way with a prescription for an antidepressant.

No conversation was had about my lifestyle or what underlying causes (which there are an infinite combination of) might be contributing to my experience. At that time, I was far from the picture of health. I was living on Dunkin’ Donuts sandwiches, binge drinking 3-4 nights/week, averaging 5-6 hours of sleep a night, exercising to excess and moving a hundred miles an hour to prove myself in my new career and find my way in the world post-college. I was out of alignment in every sense of the word. Knowing what I know now, anxiety, panic attacks and depression were a completely appropriate response to the life I was living and the signals my body was receiving.

I was existing (without awareness) in our constructed, conditioned, stress-laden American culture and starting to feel the effects, but deeply believing that “something was wrong with me” because I couldn’t keep up. Additionally, no conversation was had about the process of getting on or off an antidepressant- the latter of which is a gnarly, uncomfortable process when not done intelligently- and what this would mean for my well-being long-term. I left, filled the prescription, and unbeknownst to me was starting a long, hard, yet extremely fruitful road to where I am now. (The rest of that story is for another day!)

I don’t think this system is any specific clinician’s fault. Most are doing their best to exist in the pressure cooker medical institution that has been created in US society and economy. See 20-30 patients/day (!), provide a diagnosis, write them a prescription for their ailment, and get them on their way. I believe most physicians start out with earnest intentions of helping their patients get well, but over time inevitably succumb to the flagrant challenges our medical system has created.

Most conventional physicians also have a clear understanding of the critical role that lifestyle plays in getting patients truly well (nutrition, sleep, exercise, stress management, community, connection, etc.) I worked for a warm and caring physician years ago that humbly admitted, “I know how important nutrition is for my patients, but we took one class on it in med school, and that was 25 years ago- I’m not equipped to have those conversations”.

Many clinicians have a desire to talk about these things with their patients, but their schedules simply don’t allow for conversation above and beyond “you need to eat healthier and get more sleep”. Broad strokes suggestions like this, void of the customization that is absolutely required, will ultimately lead patients down the road of “Dr. Google” or receiving guidance from listicles and Tik Tok videos to guide their health decisions. These resources can certainly introduce truths and valuable new practices for health. However- they still miss the mark on creating plans, practices and suggestions that account for the entire individual, in all their uniqueness, history and goals.

Almost every client I work with comes to find the “alternative” system of healthcare because of their frustrations with the conventional medical system. People become exasperated with not getting the answers they want, getting handed another prescription that they don’t want to take, or being told they are “perfectly healthy” when they can barely function. Because of this, countless people exit the conventional system knowing intuitively that they deserve more when it comes to their health. I hear “I know there is a better way to do this” from almost every potential client I connect with.

There is indeed a better way.

As more and more patients have dug deeper to seek answers for their health, a paradigm shift has gradually been happening over the last 10+ years. There are now a handful of different branches of “alternative medicine” outside of conventional western medicine. Most have quite a bit of overlap, but each has its own unique lens and approach, as well as pros and cons. Integrative, functional, and holistic healthcare are the three approaches that have emerged as major players when it comes to seeking a different type of healthcare.

The Integrative Approach: The Mayo Clinic states that “integrative medicine combines the most well-researched conventional medicine with the most well-researched, evidence-based complementary therapies to achieve the appropriate care for each person”. This approach brings together multiple modalities (such as pharmaceutical tools, psychotherapy, nutritional therapy, acupuncture, etc.) versus relying on one single thing for symptom resolution. The beauty of this approach is that you get a “panel” perspective versus the perspective of just one single modality, and a multi-faceted plan for healing. For some, having access to pharmaceutical tools can also make a difference versus just the “natural approach”, as there is a time and a place for intelligently leveraged pharmaceuticals.

The one downside of this approach is that unless a patient finds a practice that is already structured with multiple types of providers that have an established communication system, they can end up spending a great deal of time (and stress) trying to coordinate care and get their practitioners on the same page.

This approach acknowledges that health and healing is ultimately about interconnectivity, and as the name implies, integrating multiple perspectives and tools.

The Functional Approach: The Institute of Functional Medicine defines functional medicine as “a catalyst in the transformation of healthcare, treating the root cause of disease and restoring healthy function through a personalized patient experience”. Two key phrases here are “root cause” and “restore function”- hence the name functional medicine. After working in the field of functional medicine for seven years, I witnessed both the pros and the cons of this approach. Functional medicine can be life-changing for many, and I have seen outstanding outcomes whether that is full disease reversal or drastic symptom improvement.

However, the “root cause” mindset can at times feel like a wild goose chase- a pursuit of certainty that simply isn’t attainable. In the body, there are an infinite number of ways that cells/tissues/systems can break down and dysfunction can happen. The functional approach can provide well-informed ideas about what might be happening, but in pursuit of finding the “true root cause” (which is a rare luxury), I’ve seen patients spend thousands of dollars on lab tests and supplements which can sometimes only provide clues, or one piece of the puzzle. Over time, this process can ultimately create disempowerment.

The long, short: the root cause isn’t always identifiable or certain, and is more often a combination of imbalances, deficiencies and breakdown that is manifesting as symptoms. When broader strokes are taken and general health principles are applied, I typically see greater success of restoring function to the body, which is what this approach aims to do.

The Holistic Approach: The Pacific College of Health and Science states that “the word holistic means “dealing with the whole.” From this definition, we understand holistic healthcare involves the wellness of the whole person. A holistic practitioner will treat not only the physical ailment or condition, but also the emotional, mental, and even spiritual aspects that aggravate the condition”.

With a holistic approach, the entire constellation of someone’s life is considered, and the aim becomes to align every factor of well-being to support healing and health. While there is still great emphasis placed on the physical level of healing, I’ve found that this approach typically pays more respect to the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person. It peels back the physical layers to reveal the deeper layers of what it means to be human. We have thousands of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and emotional states swirling around over the course of the day. There isn’t a chance these things do not affect the biochemical system in which they exist, and equal importance must be placed on creating awareness and working skillfully with these other inputs.

One of the common misnomers of any of these alternative types of care is that they don’t fall in the category of “science-based medicine”. The conversation of science-based medicine is an extremely nuanced one, because it is often under the influence of ego, conditioning, and ironically, uncertainty. When something is touted as “science-based”, it can convey an underlying message that “this is absolutely right/correct”.

There is often a sense of knowledge superiority that comes with the stamp of science, or even a study that backs something. While the field of health must be built on a strong foundation of science and research, (and there are absolutely areas of science and research that provide nearly irrefutable information to work from) there is always gray area, and a space of uncertainty when it comes to health and wellness.

There is not a single drug, natural therapy, type of diet or procedure that can be guaranteed to have the same result, or even a positive result, every single time it is utilized. Pretending that something is absolutely right or correct just because it’s “science-based” is an egoic mechanism that leaves no space for the fact that we are all completely unique beings, and all subject to a degree of uncertainty.

It is also imperative to understand that there is “good vs bad science” as Dr. Peter Attia shares. Not all studies are created equally or performed with the rigor needed for reliable information. Not to mention that some of the science that provides the scaffolding of our medical system is built on studies funded by pharmaceutical companies or other organizations that have economic motivations at hand- this is where conditioning comes into play.

So, contrary to the belief of some, whether functional, integrative, or holistic care, each does have its strengths when it comes to being science-based. But, by nature, the pool of data and experience to draw from is smaller because these are simply smaller systems of care versus the Goliath of conventional western medicine. Many people incorrectly assume that all forms of alternative healthcare are based on unsupported “pseudoscience”. While there are certainly areas of alternative medicine that are lacking substantiated scientific data, or may fall on the “woo” side of the fence (there is a time and a place for woo)- this doesn’t mean that the underpinnings of these systems aren’t still rooted in a deep understanding of the human body, foundational physiology/pathophysiology, and the interplay of the body/mind and greater dimensions.

When it comes to the approach that is taken at Rad Wellbeing, you could visualize it as a Venn diagram that has overlap in functional, integrative and holistic perspectives, with a hair greater emphasis on the holistic lens. In the work that I do with clients, I absolutely draw from functional health principles. This part typically involves lab testing to identify weak links or dysfunction in the physical body, and includes the aim of restoring function in certain physiological processes and biochemical imbalances.

I also believe in the power of integrative care and working as a team with other practitioners and modalities. If I think a more conventional therapeutic tool will best suit you, I will tell you, and we will work to integrate that into your well-being plan. There is a time and a place for conventional tools, and that is the beauty of the integrative approach. Conversely, if you are already working with an integrative-minded practitioner, the work we do can be a beautiful compliment to your work with them and can allow you to dig deeper into the day in, day out changes in your lifestyle that will most help you with your outcomes and goals. I lead with the word holistic at Rad because this word has always strongly resonated with me; it feels logical (and is my personal experience) that the whole person and every aspect of their life, even outside the physical, must be considered and aligned for truly optimal well-being.

Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical or psychological advice, nor does it aim to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any condition or disease. Before implementing any changes to your health, consult with your personal healthcare provider.

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