Ever since my medical school days in Seattle, Wash., I have missed the lively and interactive setting created when students of naturopathic and Chinese medicines immersed themselves together to train in the healing arts under the same roof.
It was in the fall of 1998 that I first discovered how rich the possibilities were for integrative medicine, when students and teachers bounced healing ideas off one another, complementing the best of their healing arts to benefit patients the most. For my part, I discovered how acupuncture, Chinese herbs and naturopathic medicine helped me through the rigors of medical school (physician heal thyself) as I learned how to care for patients.
We had discounted rates at the natural health clinic, and I took advantage of the services that were available because it worked. I eventually set up practice with several acupuncturists over the years because of how well these medicines worked together to support the body's ability to heal itself.
The key to why so many people are helped by an integrative approach is that no one healer has all the skills that a patient needs. Just as an acupuncturist may help chronic pain so successfully, a naturopathic doctor may identify a food allergy or cycle of inflammation, so that removing the "obstacles to cure" may help the needles to work more effectively. Wouldn't you want to combine healing methods or modalities, so that your best chance for healing can occur?
An advantage of putting Chinese and naturopathic medicine together is that they both approach the body holistically, instead of treating each part of the body or symptom as separate from the rest. For example, five people with heart disease have five different causes, needing an individualized treatment plan. One person may have a family history and be a chronic smoker. Another may be eating junk food and have a history of chlorine exposure. Another may not be exercising and had chemical exposure from the military. And yet another may have all of these causes present. Looking at the big picture allows for a flexible approach, with each person getting the customized treatment they need.
So, what kind of conditions can be treated with this approach? For starters, anyone who has an acute sport injury can be receiving the immediate benefits of acupuncture and chiropractic medicines, while a naturopath works on the supportive nutrition that will speed the body's recovery. Colds and flus can be treated with herbs and special hydrotherapy (water therapy) that work in synergy to stimulate the body's ability to heal itself. Or, someone with diabetes could be receiving acupuncture to help the pancreas work more effectively, while using supplements like chromium or B vitamins to balance blood sugar.
It is important to look for a network of qualified providers when putting together your team. In states that license providers - such as acupuncturists - this can be simple, as a licensed acupuncturist has the highest level of training possible.
For naturopathic doctors, it is important to look further than the title, as Colorado does not yet license this profession. The highest level of training is a graduate four-year accredited institution such as Bastyr University in Seattle where I was educated. Here doctors are trained in a supervised, rigorous setting with required board exams at the completion of the training. Currently, I maintain a license in Utah, which is not required. I do so because I want my patients to know the level of training that I completed.
Sometimes it becomes absolutely necessary for people to receive care from conventional and holistic providers, as when a surgical procedure is needed to remove a tumor or set a bone; a custom nutritional plan will also support the quickest recovery from the operation. Additionally, sometimes people need an antibiotic or anti-depressant, so they have the best chance of recovery in the short run.
There is a place for all forms of medicine, and I have found that it is this combined approach that helps people heal most quickly, especially with chronic health issue like asthma, high-blood pressure or arthritis. Whatever your health need, I encourage you to put together a dream team of skilled, effective healers to support your most vibrant expression of health.
This article is for information purposes only and is not intended as specific health advice.
Dr. Christopher Lepisto graduated as a naturopathic doctor (ND) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. Lepisto practices downtown near Fourth and Main. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.