Why Our Current Healthcare System Isn't Enough
I am a holistic health and nutrition coach. I believe that all areas of our lives work together to influence our health and manifestations of disease. I believe tangibly reducing stress levels and eating nutrient-dense foods to be just as prescriptive as pharmaceutical medications at times. I believe in the power of food as medicine. I’ve experienced healing through acupuncture, therapy, meditation, reiki, and herbs and witnessed these effects on countless others.
I am also a critical care trained registered nurse. I believe that conventional medicine is awe-inspiring and important. I have seen people who were terminally ill get new hearts transplanted from another human being that died. I have cared for these people and have seen how these miraculous surgical interventions conducted by supremely skilled doctors gave them new life. Personally, I owe my life to pharmaceuticals that worked to quiet my immune system when it was on overdrive during my first flare up of autoimmune disease. And should I suffer a stroke or break a bone, you better believe I wouldn’t be reaching for herbs or meditating on it.
One might think that these two beliefs and occupations of mine go hand in hand and complement each other nicely. But in reality, it’s almost as if I work within two different worlds.
When I am working as an RN at the hospital, I help identify if there are blockages in the coronary arteries through stress testing and interpretation of electrocardiograms. If there are, patients are sent to get stents or bypass surgery to open up the blockages and preserve their heart function. I don’t talk to anyone about why they actually have blockages in their hearts in the first place or what they can do in addition to surgery and pharmaceutical medications to help heal themselves. Some doctors do have these conversations almost as an afterthought about the effects of diet and lifestyle, but most of the time patients don’t even know there are alternatives to consider.
It’s easier to just prescribe a pill than to spend time investigating underlying causes of disease which can be complex and multifaceted. And often times it’s what patients want or are used to - the quick fix
When I work as a holistic health coach, I look at all areas of clients lives to see where things are out of balance and together we explore ways to get back to health, mainly through diet and lifestyle modifications.
Sometimes, moving towards a whole foods diet to feel better in our bodies can be considered an alternative or complementary approach.
Alternative. That’s the loaded word I really wanted to talk about.
Our Western medical establishment typically defines alternative medicine as any practice that doesn’t come from evidence gathered using the scientific method. And while I believe standards and regulations to be crucially important when creating guidelines to treat human beings, (do you want your surgeon doing anything other than the gold standard?) I do believe this labeling creates a very limited viewpoint.
In our Western medical model it is currently considered an “alternative” notion that the food we put into our bodies has a direct effect on manifestation of disease states and, generally, how we feel. Honestly, it really is. I see it every day. When treating someone with an autoimmune thyroid condition the current recommendation from a conventional standpoint is a replacement of thyroid hormones. Rarely is there any further investigation into underlying cause (a thyroid problem is not simply a deficiency of thyroid medication) or the very real and detrimental effects of stress on the adrenals and thyroid, or the possibility of a poor, sugar-laden diet contributing to inflammation and the disease state.
What I’ve come to know over time is that the best solution lies in the middle. Complex illness requires a mix of conventional, pharmaceutical or surgical treatments as well as attention to diet, digestive health, stress, relationships and our environment. We are doing ourselves a huge disservice to limit ourselves one or the other. It requires a team approach to be able to address all of these underlying factors, each bringing their own unique knowledge.
As Danielle Laporte, self-help guru says, “There is a time and place for everything. Knowing the right time and right place is how you become your own healer.”
In terms of healing and treating disease in a real and effective way, truer words have never been spoken.
A branch of medicine called Functional medicine is emerging to better address the health care needs of our current world. Functional medicine works to tie together conventional and alternative healing modalities to add as many tools as we can to our toolkit. It works to find the underlying causes of disease rather than simply masking symptoms using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both the patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership.
This is the approach that is needed for true healing to occur. The current model we are working in is not enough. If we’re being honest with ourselves we know this to be true. We need both advanced technology and ancient wisdom. We need open minds and a broader acceptance for what is considered “alternative.” If we are in the alternative or natural healing world we need not shame those who require pharmaceuticals and conventional interventions to heal. There is a time and a place for each and we need to call on both for true healing to occur.
If you want some more information about Functional Medicine or about how you can get connected to a pracititonor, feel free to email me . If you want to chat more about how to incorporate healthy whole foods into your diet successfully and how you might benefit from one-on-one health coaching, click the button below to book in a free 30 minute discovery session to chat. I'd love to hear from you!
Christina Tidwell, MN, RN, CHC