It is something I’ve thought about doing for a long time, but was conflicted. I’ve been disappointed with conventional healthcare for as long as I can remember and am a lifelong believer that food is the best medicine. Yet even when I was a trainer and taking nutrition science classes, I couldn’t seem to shake the stigma that envelops the holistic field. Then there’s the expense. How do you justify the cost of going to a doctor that does not participate in insurance networks? Then my perspective changed. Anger is a great impetus to change.
About five years ago, I had a bone densitometry that revealed low bone density. To make a long story short, doctors convinced me to try a pharmaceutical that ended up being useless. A few months ago, I saw a specialist who told me there’s been no significant change for the better or the worse, but recommended toxic remedies nonetheless. Here are the options he presented: Continue with the same ineffectual drug, take a stronger drug with more severe side effects, or take an even stronger drug with even more severe side effects. I don’t know if my countenance was transparent, but after careful consideration of this advice for about one millisecond, my thinking was, “Do I look stupid to you?”
So that’s the background. I’ve been under the care of a holistic M.D. for about two months now and I’m hooked. Before the first visit, I was given homework: a 21-page questionnaire that encompassed medical history; diet and exercise; family life and family history; childhood and childbirth; and everything in between. Before I even walked in the door, this doctor knew more about me than any traditional doctor ever wanted to know. Integrative care includes tests conventional medicine does not. The goal is to find underlying causes of existing and potential ailments rather than treat issues after symptoms become unmanageable. Specialty test results capture energy production; inflammation levels; nutrient deficiency; and proportionate cellular fluid. Traditional doctors look for pathology to save lives. Holistic practitioners look for overall well-being and quality of lives.
As far as the cost goes, well, I admit the initial expense of the consultation was painful. Follow-up visits are not as pricey. Supplements are expensive, but then so are co-pays, deductibles and loss of work from illness. Overall, I can’t think of a better investment.
There are also advantages to health care outside the governance of insurance companies. Much of what standard physicians do is directed by insurance: time spent with patients (or lack thereof), medicine prescribed (or over-prescribed) and tests (overly) administered. I always dreaded going to the doctor – being poked and prodded – in and out after five minutes. Integrative medicine is a personalized hour-long discussion about test result interpretation, putting concerns into perspective, customized guidance on foods and supplements, practical solutions to integrate good habits into daily life, and resources to learn more on my own. Insurance companies would never tolerate doctors giving patients that level of attention.
Much as I would like to eschew traditional medicine, a primary care physician is still needed. Holistic medicine is not for emergencies. But I feel like I’m giving myself a great gift by learning what keeps my body well and taking control of my health. It’s been an interesting journey so far. We’ll see where it goes.