Treating chronic disease: Why I look at the whole body
While I am trained as a primary care provider, many of my patients have chronic conditions that don’t respond to conventional medications, surgeries or treatments. This does not mean that the physicians they have seen are bad doctors. In fact, many of them have skills in diagnosis and treatment of acute illness and injuries far superior to mine. But my training, as a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist taught me to look at the whole person. I consider a person’s health from birth onwards, major illnesses, traumas, stressors, emotions, diet, exercise, home environment and sleep. I look for causes, for imbalances.
In Chinese medicine, a healthy person has balanced energies of hot/cold, dryness/moisture, yin and yang. Stress, trauma or genetic factors can upset these energies and make them go out of balance. In Naturopathic medicine we look often look at diet or sources of chronic irritation or infection, scars, lack of sunlight or sleep as causes of imbalance
Acute disease has a beginning, middle and end. There are changes in energy production and metabolism. The body shifts its sleep patterns to help conserve energy to fight the infection or heal the trauma. Eventually, with proper treatment and care, the sickness or injury heals and things return to normal.
But in chronic disease, this process is altered. The illness does not resolve. It affects multiple systems, changes genetic expression and often impacts the health of the gastrointestinal microbiome and energy production. The body gets stuck in an altered state.
A person might ask me, “What do you think I have? Is it fibromyalgia? Is it Lyme disease? Is it Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?” In a way, it doesn’t matter. It’s true that if there is an infection or an exposure to some toxin, or a nutritional deficiency, it needs to be treated. But I look for other things that need repair, addressing the patient’s whole body, her lifestyle and environment in order to bring her toward to a state of health.
I’m not seeing a disease, I’m seeing a person. My work is to help them get back into balance.
By Dr. Jennifer Means who, along with Elizabeth Elliott welcome you for Primary Care for the whole family: Nutrition, IV Therapy, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture. Contact us at 503-641-6400.