The landscape within the medical field has become a little crazy lately, leaving both doctors and patients frustrated and ready to pull their hair out. There are numerous reasons for this, but without going into an expose about all the potential contributions to the medical industry’s woes, I would like to speak about an emergence of Wellness Medicine within the system and its advantages that can satisfy both patient’s and physician’s unmet needs.
One of the commonalities that physicians and patients experience is frustration in not being able to connect within the context of their visit times. Physicians working within large networks and managed care systems have ever increasing amounts of generic information they need to gather on each of their patients to support data aggregating systems of insurance companies and governmental requirements. I am sure from a patients perspective, many times, it feels as if instead of really being heard, the doctor is performing a survey with ticker boxes, many questions even seemingly unrelated to the patient’s reason for their visit that day.
Most physicians who chose the field of medicine as their career path, did so because they are caregivers by nature and get satisfaction from helping people feel better. One of the long time sacred bonds within the medical profession has been the physician patient relationship. This is one that establishes trust between the healthcare provider and the patient, and although it is a professional relationship, like any other relationship it requires quality time with focus and true listening to grow and develop. This is part of what is being eroded in modern medicine today. If the physician, because of system requirements, is forced to divert her attention from her patients to a computer screen to complete her electronic health record, there is loss of human contact between the physician and patient and this felt acutely by both. For the patient, they might leave their appointments feeling unheard, rushed or having felt their health concerns were not addressed satisfactorily. For the physician, it takes away the most satisfying part of their job, leading to feelings of disconnectedness and burnout.
Wellness Medicine changes this equation entirely. Wellness Medicine, as I see it, is about helping patients to address health issues fundamentally by correcting dietary, lifestyle and epigenetic factors ultimately leading to an improved state of wellness as a result of their healthcare. It serves its medical function in addressing and correcting the patients health conditions. But its route to do this can help patients attain a better state of wellness and less predisposition to get sick again in the future. In my Naturopathic schooling we learned about a concept called Vis Medicatrix Naturae, this is the Latin for The healing power of nature. I define this in more modern terms as: the self repairing mechanism present in our bodies to heal from illness or injury. It is also means that nature gives us what we need to sustain ourselves: healthy foods, clean air, clean water and sunlight.
This is present in us whether we address our healthcare from a Wellness model or a Conventionally based model. Conventional healthcare all to often places emphasis on evidenced based treatments to address or manage symptoms. The problem is that it often does not consider lifestyle or environmental factors that have an immense influence on health. When the foundational factors are not considered in healthcare, we as patients internalize the message: “Well if the healthcare experts do not consider these to be important, then I guess its is not that important for my health”? This supposition could not be farther from the truth. Poor lifestyle habits erode our personal Vis Medicatrix Naturae’s ability to correct and balance our system. So as we get weighed down with controllable and correctable bodily imbalances: e.g. excess weight, toxic body burden, inflammation, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, unhealthy psychological stimulation, etc., the body starts to express “dis-ease” with a decreased ability to rebalance and self correct itself. A perfect analogy for this is taking strong narcotic medication for the pain of stepping on a large thorn and getting it embedded in your foot. All of of would agree that logical thing to do would be to remove the thorn and the pain would naturally resolve itself.
While age and poor genetics, factors we cannot control, do play a role in disease onset, there is also epigenetic factors, the influence of environment and diet on our genetic expression, which is readily modifiable by diet and lifestyle adjustment.
Wellness Medicine, which incorporates addressing the holistic psychological, physical, dietary and environmental influences in their patients lives, is a path that more and more patients and doctors are choosing because it makes the physician engaged with patients well being in much deeper way and makes the patient more accountable and empowered in influencing the direction their health takes. By addressing health from the foundations up, the patient can address and heal from many health conditions with the additional benefit of becoming more healthy and more immune to future health complications. More so than just choosing a symptomatic treatment approach.