From our autumn 2014 issue.
Prescribe or Participate?
A collaborative approach to health.
By Avril Ivory
As individuals, we can make really positive, personal decisions in how we approach our health. As it becomes clearer that lifestyle factors have a massive impact on our health, more of us are exploring different ways to wellness. Catering to current understandings, there is a new approach in healthcare called the ‘Functional Medicine approach’. This is utilised by medical doctors, particularly in the states where it originated from but it is used by many nutritional therapists and naturopaths in Ireland too. At the College of Naturopathic Medicine, we teach a Naturopathic approach but are also heavily influenced by the Functional Medicine teachings and there are shared philosophies between the two.
The key concepts are that the focus is on a wellness centred model rather than a disease centred model. The person is treated, not the disease. The root cause is addressed rather than the symptoms. The approach is a personalised one, it seeks to empower patients and engenders collaboration with the practitioner to return the person to health.
A practitioner looking from a functional medicine perspective looks at elements such as communications in the cells, transformation of food, repair and maintenance of structural integrity, elimination of wastes, protection and defence, transport and circulation, oxidative stress, inflammatory processes, absorption of nutrients and microbial balance in the gut. Then they look to see what the imbalances are in these functions to find the best ways to bring them back into balance.
When we choose to attend a practitioner who adopts this approach, we are choosing to collaborate in remaining well or recovering, we are choosing to participate in our healthcare, as opposed to only adhering to something prescribed. This choice requires more energy and effort because we may need to make changes, small or large, to the way we eat, sleep, exercise, manage stress, engage social support, manage our work/life balance etc. It can be a fantastic path to choose and evidence suggests many of us are now taking our health into our own hands in this way. The bonus of the extra efforts on your part, is that you are likely to experience more benefits than just and eliminated symptom.
If, as a reader, you are choosing this path, it can be really helpful to attend a Naturopath or Nutritional therapist. You can also start the ball rolling yourself by reading, studying, exploring and discovering all the ways to wellness and what way would work best for you.
Nutritional therapist and CNM lecturer, Anne Darcy, who practises the Functional medicine approach says, “With each of my patients, I establish what their health goals are, then find what their inspiration and motivation for change is. I help them to identify and remove any roadblocks they may have to this change and give them the information on what they need to do to be well. This will empower them to make the choices they need to make every day to be healthy. With each person, I set healthy goals and use the good feelings the person gets from achieving each goal to motivate towards the next. The willingness to change diet and lifestyle will largely determine the successful outcome but ‘People just want to be well’ and can get fantastic results working like this. I also really encourage them to surround themselves with people who will support them in their goals. The value of social support cannot be underestimated.”
For each of us, our path to wellness is as unique as we are as individuals. There is no better day than today to sit down and start evaluating your health goals, your roadblocks, the tools you need for change, who might help you with change and to begin the journey to long and healthy lives.
Avril Ivory (M.Sc) is the academic director of the College of Naturopathic Medicine. CNM train Natural Medicine practitioners to best international practise standards all over Ireland. Courses include diplomas in Nutritional therapy, Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Naturopathy as well as short courses. naturopathy.ie