#41: Functional Medicine meets Traditional Medicine
Hello, and Happy Sunday!
If you guys follow me on Instagram or Facebook, then you already know what I’ll be talking about today: functional medicine meets traditional medicine!
To brief you: I have an ear infection, and I am taking antibiotics for it. What?! A Holistic Health Coach is taking antibiotics?! YES! Here’s the thing. We live in a kind of extremist culture, and sometimes people think that because you adhere to “holistic” or “alternative” health practices that you do not “believe” in traditional medicine. On the flip side, people may also assume that traditional medical practitioners do not “believe” in holistic practices.
Well, I am here to bridge the gap for you.
I am both a Registered Nurse (“traditional”) and Certified Holistic Health Coach (“alternative”). It is because of my “traditional” education, training, science background, and experience that I realized things were more than mildly amiss in our healthcare system. I worked in the ER and saw the benefit of traditional medicine… in acute and emergent circumstances; however, we saw far too many patients with chronic illnesses and/or repercussions of such that could have been remedied by diving deeper into the actual causes of their symptoms and teaching these patients how to help themselves before things got worse. This was actually the majority of what we saw… in a Trauma Center, no less. It was disconcerting for many of us. I worked alongside some truly superb physicians, PAs, and NPs, many of whom tried to provide teaching to these patients (myself included, what with the captive audience, stuck in their beds while I chatted away! They found me quite amusing, actually, but I fear very little of what I taught really sank in… but, you never know which tidbit of information stuck and created a ripple effect… ‘tis my hope!). Anyway, I digress (shocking!).
So, we tried, we really did. I and my intelligent, well-meaning colleagues tried… but far too often, patients would interrupt, demanding more medication, arguing with dietary changes, lifestyle changes… and we were pushed on the other side by emergencies, time constraints, and other items that required our attention. I saw the faces of my colleagues drop as they eventually gave up, feeling defeated, placing the order, writing the prescription, or signing the discharge papers. So, please, if you think that all “traditional” medical practitioners are against holistic approaches, think again. Holistic often means simply eating healthy food and talking daily walks; it’s not this “weird” abstract practice that often gives it a bad rap. It's whole-person preventative maintenance. So, ask your doctors questions. Many WANT to be asked by their patients what they can do for their own health. If you find yourself with a doctor who doesn’t want to discuss these options, find one who does. They are out there.
By the same token, not all “holistic” practitioners are “against” traditional medicine. Remember, we teach lifestyle choices, ways to be healthy and avoid illness… and functional medicine/nutrition (my jam!) in particular is based on scientific evidence. Most functional medicine doctors will tell you, traditional medicine is VERY helpful… when utilized APPROPRIATELY. Here are a few examples: I have an ear infection. If left untreated, it could result in significant damage to my eardrum, hearing loss, meningitis (yes, meningitis!), facial paralysis (what?!)… so, how dumb would I be NOT to take the antibiotics?! Example #2: strep throat… bacterial again! Untreated strep can lead to kidney inflammation, rheumatic fever, and… wait for it… damage to your heart valves! Protect your ticker, take the Penicillin, for the love of God! Example #3: open fractures. How many grams of Ancef did I hang on trauma patients? Plenty. Was it necessary? Ummm… to prevent osteomyelitis, non-closure of severe wounds, and system-wide bacterial infection? OMG, yes!
Now… you have to be smart about your antibiotic use. Check out my IG or FB from yesterday if you haven’t already (why haven’t you?!). I stocked up on probiotics (Kombucha and sauerkraut are my go-to choices!) and prebiotics (blueberries and green bananas, yum!). See, when you take an antibiotic, it doesn’t look for your left ear, your throat, or your fractured femur. It looks for WHATEVER bacteria it was designed to kill, and then some! Many antibiotics can wipe out your gut microbiome and cause up to two years’ worth of gastrointestinal issues, which could in turn lead to severe dehydration, full-blown inflammation, autoimmune diseases, and more (no thanks!). So, the probiotics help to re-establish you “good” gut bacteria, and the prebiotics feed those “good” guys. In the meantime, help out those probiotics and prebiotics by maintaining a healthy diet, drinking lots of fluids (OMG, water!), and avoiding sugar and other processed carbohydrates (sugar and processed carbs are feasts for the “bad” bacteria!). Wait, this sounds like a lifestyle you are hopefully adhering to anyway, right? Perfect!
So, here’s the bridge: if you take responsibility for your own health by eating well, exercising appropriately, taking care of you mind, relationships, sleep patterns, and creativity, then you are much less likely to need traditional medicine in the first place; but, when you do, it is there and helpful… until you can get back on track to your healthy self!
The key is that you have to do your part. Who’s with me?!
Oh, one more thing. I am not in the ER anymore, but when I’m working at the clinic, my patients know that whenever they come in, I will be very excited to teach them something new about health… and they keep coming back to see me, so I guess they like to learn! That makes me happy 😊 They also know that if they ask for antibiotics for a virus, they will be listening to me talk for at least 15 minutes about why that’s not a good idea and why it’s not going to happen. They still love me though!
This is a nice long post for you, so I will end here, with more than a bit of gratitude: I am grateful for both the Augmentin and the Kombucha for working on getting me back to my baseline! I am grateful for my friend Natalie (PA) who is keeping my ear in check… she started to say, “Remember to take a good probiotic… wait, never mind, you do that already!” I am also grateful for my ear infection because it reminds me to be mindful of when my body feels “off” (rather than not noticing or being in denial!) and that I have the tools and knowledge from both functional and traditional medicine to fix myself right back up. It also provides me the opportunity to teach YOU! Everyone wins, YAY!
Until next week,
Be Well and Be Good!