Shifting the Focus of Health Care: Local practitioners spearhead a new,
integrative approach to wellness
Dec 31, 2011 04:29PM
● By Linda Sechrist
There is good news for Southwest Florida Natural Awakenings readers that have supported a movement in health care which has evolved in language, sophistication and credibility from holistic to alternative to complementary and currently, integrative medicine. Here in our tropical paradise, a number of the natural therapies that have been studied and given credibility by the National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine are now accepted by several area physicians.
Adam Perlman, M.D., is the executive director of Duke Integrative Medicine, in Durham, South Carolina, where conventional medical and natural therapies are used to complement one another. He notes that as the Western medical community has studied the research on complementary therapies and the public has learned about their healthful benefits, there has been a growing desire among some doctors to integrate appropriate therapies. “Western medicine is moving in a more cost-effective direction of prevention and wellness,” says Perlman. “Now, all we have to do is educate the patients to do the same.”
Perhaps with growing local support for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), the Duke Center for Living Campus model can soon be duplicated somewhere in Southwest Florida. Duke’s model of care is pioneering efforts to transform the way health care is delivered in the 21st century. Informed by academic research and education, providers integrate the best of Western scientific medicine with proven complementary therapies that address the body, mind, spirit and community. The model also includes long-term, personalized, comprehensive support; multi-day health immersions; annual membership; and a broad array of clinical services, classes, workshops and trainings focused on healing.
Creating a Customized Network
Individuals seeking an integrative approach to wellness need not wait for a health network to form under one roof. “Establish your own, by finding open-minded practitioners willing to work with one another,” advises Dr. Carol Roberts, a medical doctor who practices at the Perlmutter Health Center, in Naples. The author of Good Medicine: A Return to Common Sense, Roberts recalls her experience in operating an integrative/holistic practice in Tampa Bay with several complementary health practitioners. “When several practitioners work together under one roof, it’s challenging to keep them all busy, which is why a loosely formed network works better for practitioners and patients,” she explains.
A key factor affecting communication between practitioners and patients is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), enacted in 1996. Amy and Rick Lademann, founders of Beyond Motion, emphasize that this privacy rule is for the benefit of the patient; it specifies a series of administrative, physical and technical safeguards to ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic protected health information. “The HIPAA authorization form allows us or any of our staff to consult with or review records from any of the chiropractors, orthopedic surgeons or physical therapists that we work with,” say the Lademanns, who are certified performance consultants specializing in Pilates, athlete performance, customized fitness classes and nutrition.
Trained at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Christina Mitchell, owner of Christina M. Mitchell LLC, is a medical massage therapist who receives referrals from plastic surgeons, dentists, chiropractors and doctors of internal medicine. “No one practitioner has the only answer to a patient’s health challenges,” advises Mitchell, who specializes in medical massage for cancer patients, orthopedic assessments, lymphatic drainage, sports massage, active isolated stretching and Somato Emotional Release.
Developing a Partnership Approach
“Information from scientific research on integrative care is advancing so rapidly that traditional medicine can’t keep up with everything,” says Joel Ying, a medical doctor who isboard certified in internal medicine and medical acupuncture and certified in craniosacral therapy, energy medicine and wellness coaching. In his private practice, Joy, Health & Wellness, he provides integrative alternative holistic medicine and sees a new breed of informed patients that are taking responsibility for their health and seeking to create a 21st-century model for the doctor-patient relationship. “My patients’ personal research inspires me to follow up with my own, so that I am continually learning about the benefits of new modalities,” advises Ying, who notes that this new doctor-patient relationship should be a partnership approach.
Terri Evans, an acupuncturist, doctor of Oriental medicine and owner of TAE Healthy Aging Center, agrees with Ying’s approach. “Patients are surprised to hear that I don’t treat disease, but rather act as a partner, to help them magnify the importance of their health,” explains Evans, who sends first-time clients to LabCorp, in North Naples, where blood and urine samples are taken for evaluation. She reviews the results of a nutritional blood analysis with her client along with providing them with a customized educational booklet that she compiles in order to specifically address their needs. “It covers everything from the functions of particular organs and glands in need of balancing torecommended lifestyle and nutritional changes,” she says, emphasizing that patients should take an active role in improving their health by adopting preventive measures and becoming knowledgeable about complementary and alternative options.
“Few individuals realize that acupuncture can play a preventive role in a wellness program focused on reducing the susceptibility to disease,” notes David Martin, an acupuncturist, doctor of Oriental medicine and owner of the Lotus Blossom Clinic. “Western medicine sometimes has the right answer; however, I think more often, it’s better to work in concert and integrate the best of both worlds.” Martin frequently works with area chiropractors and on fertility issues with Jacob L. Glock, an M.D. who is board certified in fertility and reproductive endocrinology, as well as in obstetrics and gynecology.
Like Martin, James Goldman, a doctor of chiropractic, acupuncturist and owner of Goldman Chiropractic, refers patients out for needed services if he cannot provide them. “Because every individual’s problem has many components, Goldman Chiropractic has two on-site massage therapists,” Goldman advises. “I like working hand-in-hand with them, because they are well educated in structural reintegration techniques like St. John’s Neuromuscular Massage and Upledger CrainioSacral Therapy.” This collaborative attitude serves the patients as much as it sometimes does the traditional medical community. “If a patient isn’t showing a 50 percent improvement in their condition within four weeks,” notes Goldman, “I refer them out for whatever they need—an orthopedic surgeon, physical therapist or neurologist.”
A crusader for patient edification, as well as for his own continuing education, Jim Occhiogrosso is a master herbalist and natural health practitioner who stays up-to-date onintegrative medicine in order to advocate for his clients’ health, maintain his informative websites (ProstateHealthNaturally.com and HealthNaturallyToday.com) and provide an educational monthly newsletter. “I read articles on many reputable websites, such as Medscape.com, Medlines.com, ScienceDaily.com, NaturalHealthScience.org, BioMedCentral.com, NaturalNews.com, and Mercola.com,” says Occhiogrosso. “I also read volumes of books, such as those written by Bill Gottleib, the former editor-in-chief of Rodale Books and Prevention Magazine Health Books.” The author of Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life: Natural Solutions for Common Prostate Problems, Occhiogrosso specializes in male and female health and helps men and women be proactive in finding natural solutions for health issues including but not limited to erectile dysfunction, hormone replacement and sexual issues.
Focusing on Functional Medicine
A major CAM trend is functional medicine; personalized health care that emphasizes primary prevention and underlying causes, instead of symptoms, when dealing with serious, chronic disease. Pioneered by Mark Hyman, a medical doctor and bestselling author, functional medicine is based on cutting-edge science and offers a new way to understand and treat chronic illnesses ranging from diabetes to depression; heart disease to hypertension; autoimmune disorders to autism; and Alzheimer’s to anxiety. Its core concept posits that chronic illness results from imbalances in the body’s key physiological systems. When inflammation, blood sugar imbalance, insulin resistance, oxidative stress, hormonal problems and other systemic upsets occur, the body spirals out of balance. Such imbalances, in conjunction with poor diet, lack of essential nutrients, emotional stress, environmental toxins, lack of exercise and other lifestyle issues, set the stage for the development of chronic disease.
Functional medicine provides a method for rebalancing the body’s underlying systems and addressing lifestyle issues that contribute to health challenges. The process unleashes the body’s inherent healing forces, and chronic disease is often resolved naturally and quickly, frequently without the need for costly pharmaceutical medications or invasive surgeries.
Traditionally trained doctors, health practitioners and chiropractors such as Robert Gilliland, D.C., founder of Southwest Florida Natural Health Center, attend Hyman’s functionalmedicine conferences to learn how to help patients achieve vibrant wellness. “Functional medicine is now the foundation of my practice,” he says. “I’m focused on helping my patients to achieve optimal health, which is why I’m not focused on disease care,” remarks Gilliland, who likes to suggest that his patients with thyroid issues read the book, Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal: A Revolutionary Breakthrough in Understanding Hashimoto’s Disease and Hypothyroidism, by Dr. Datis Kharrazian. Using functional blood chemistry tests that identify six patterns of low thyroid function, Gilliland applies Kharrazian’s clinical approach, considered outside the traditional model, to assess and support patients with thyroid disorders.
Deborah Post, a board-certified advanced nurse practitioner and owner of Wellbridges, Inc., also practices functional medicine. Post’s 25 years as a nurse practitioner in primary care medicine and psychiatry and 10 years as an ICU nurse in several Boston hospitals led her to focus on physiology, rather than a disease or syndrome. “Working within an integrative medical approach and using a variety of complementary techniques, including medicinal herbology and nutritional and health education, my clients and I work together to achieve maximal individual learning and approaches to health,” says Post, who believes that her patients should be educated.
“I recommend several books: 7-Day Detox Miracle, by Peter Bennett, Sara Faye and Stephen Barrie; Testosterone for Life, by Abraham Morgentaler; and What You Must Know About Women’s Hormones, by Pam Smith. I also recommend websites, such as Mercola.com, EWG.org (Environmental Working Group) and ConsumerLab.com, where clients can quickly get a good education from credible sources.” Post also lectures at Hodges University, Food & Thought and The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Naples, which has created spa development classes that reveal secrets to a longer, healthier life.
Emphasizing Ongoing Education
Integrative health care providers agree that continued education is a necessary component for both patient and practitioner. John Patton, an acupuncturist, licensed mental health counselor and owner of the Healing Arts Center, spent many hours researching formulas for his private label supplement line. “I started thinking about it 10 years ago, because I found such inconsistencies in the over-the-counter commercial formulas my patients were taking. I needed a true, therapeutic-grade supplement that could help me get the results my patients expected. I rely on a blood chemistry analysis to assess what is going on in a patient’s body and to determine nutritional deficiencies, which we balance with supplements and diet,” explains Patton, who shares his office three days a week with Phyllis Weber, also an acupuncturist, who receives referrals from several area chiropractors and neurologists.
Weber, who owns Gulf Coast Acupuncture, with offices in Naples and Fort Myers, suggests that her patients visit a doctor when she thinks it’s necessary. Occasionally, a patientcomes back to say that the doctor won’t work with them if they use the services of an acupuncturist. “I can’t call the doctor to discuss the patient unless the patient signs the HIPPA authorization form and gives written consent,” says Weber, who notes that she has worked with patients receiving care at the Whittaker Wellness Institute Medical Clinic, in Newport Beach, California. “It’s the largest alternative medicine clinic I know of, where 19 of the most widely recognized complementary therapies are offered under one roof,” she advises.
Another board-certified holistic health practitioner that relies on blood chemistry tests to personalize treatment and wellness programs is Germain Tarquino, one of the experts at the St. Paul’s Holistic Institute, based in Bonita Springs. At the institute, Tarquino works closely with a board-certified integrated/alternative medicine and naturopathic physician, as well as a doctor of chiropractic. If patients show high levels of mercury toxicity, he refers them out to biological dentists that can safely remove their mercury fillings.
Mercury-free dental services are a specialty of William Lovett, D.D.S., who says many of his patients are referred by physicians. “Many also do their own research,” adds Lovett, whobelieves in treating patients, rather than just the teeth in their mouth. Taking a whole-health approach to restorative dentistry, he takes time with each patient to learn about their lifestyle and health concerns and educate them about the connection between their mouth and overall health. “The more my patients know, the more likely they are to practice preventive measures that reduce bacteria levels in their mouth, which is directly tied to the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes,” he notes.
From Lovett’s perspective, mercury-free restorations should be an integral part of aligning oral health with whole-body wellness. “It has been known since the1960s that mercury was dangerous in an aquatic environment with sediment, and that’s a perfect description of the mouth,” says Lovett, who suggests that patients havetheir mercury fillings removed prior to seeing a chelation doctor, such as Gary Gallo, medical doctor at the Chelation Center of Naples.
“Mercury attacks the nervous system, kidneys and heart,” says Gallo. “The presence of heavy metals in the body also helps free radicals to form. This can lead to the build-up of plaque in the arteries, as well as irregularities in heart rhythm, arthritis-like joint pain, chronic fatigue, motor dysfunction and the decline of mental acuity.”
Shifting to Preventive Strategies
Other preventive health measures, such as intravenous and injection vitamin therapies, became accessible beyond a doctor’s office in Southwest Florida when Dr. Bret Agin opened the Naples’ Trim Wellness Café in 2010. A physician that specializes in wellness and anti-aging medicine, Agin authored Healthy Aging for Dummies and Superfoods for Dummies. He suggests wellness programs that include the benefits of nutrition for the body via intravenous and intramuscular therapies that produce 100 percent absorption. Agin’s specific formulas for vitamin or hormonal deficiencies are based on intracellular analysis blood testing; customized treatments are created to meet specific needs.
Madeline Ebelini, founder of Integrative Mindfulness, teaches an eight-week intensive training in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) and works in concert with several area physicians, including James V. Talano, M.D., and Sajan Rao, M.D., cardiologists at the Southwest Institute for Cardiovascular Fitness & Treatment (SWICFT). “The physicians at SWICFT practice conventional medicine, but they are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the health benefits of MBSR, and have invited me to participate in SWICFT’s wellness education program for patients,” says Ebelini.
MBSR, based on a need for active partnership in participatory medicine, is a preventive and wellness meditation practice offered in more than 200 medical centers, hospitals and clinics around the world. “The patient/client takes on significant responsibility for doing a certain kind of interior work in order to tap into their own deepest inner resources for learning, growing, healing and transformation,” advises Ebelini.
Arriving at Integrative Solutions
A forerunner in neurological medicine, David Perlmutter, M.D., is a board-certified neurologist, medical director of the Perlmutter Health Center, and author of Power Up Your Brain:The Neuroscience of Enlightenment. An adjunct instructor at the Institute for Functional Medicine in Gig Harbor, Washington, Perlmutter has seen firsthand how his patient outcomes are improved with functional medicine. At his health center, he uses a variety of complementary techniques—vitamin therapy, nutritional supplementation, herbal preparations and massage therapy, among others—to provide a comprehensive, fully integrated treatment plan, specifically designed for individual needs.
“In contemporary medicine, treatment is a reflex action—this is the illness and here is your prescription. With functional medicine, we understand that it is the patient who has an illness,” says Perlmutter, who offers an example of how functional medicine looks at Alzheimers’s, as well as factors that could play a powerful role in the disease. “We ask, ‘Is this preventable, and what is the basic physiology that has gone awry and caused the production of excessive free radicals that damage the life-giving neurons?’” he explains.
“Medical students leave school instilled with practicing reflex medicine, which means they wait for the problem to begin, and then treat it with an FDA-approved, standardized protocol,” clarifies Perlmutter, who notes that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is an illness plan focused on how to best afford to pay for the maladies befalling humanity, rather than on preventing illness. “Functional Medicine is a far more effective and comprehensive model, focused on prevention and a whole-body system, which looks beyond the individual to the community and the world,” he advises.
Leize Perlmutter is a senior staff member of The Four Winds Society, a graduate of the Healing the Light Body School and an Eidetic Imagery coach, Reiki practitioner and Pan GuSheng Gong instructor, as well as an ordained minister in The Circle of Sacred Earth Ministry. She works one-on-one with clients and also teams up with her husband, David. “When we team up to do healing intensives at the center, David does consultations with patients and has them do intravenous glutathione treatments (which allow dopamine in the brain to be more effective) and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
“Patients also spend time with a nutritionist,” continues Leize, who explains that the combination of therapies assists the brain in creating new neural pathways. “The energy medicine allows the individual to shed negative belief patterns and lay down new, life-enhancing neural networks; and the practice of Eidetic Imagery helps them access and shift unconscious life patterns,” she says. Thes groundbreaking mind-body-spirit approach to medicine helps psychological and emotional issues rise to the surface, changes the energetic body naturally, and aids the healing process.
Here in Southwest Florida, it is truly time to celebrate the good news that alternative and complementary therapies are being recognized by and incorporated within integrative medicine. When used in concert by practitioners that network with the patient’s best interest in mind, these modalities can foster cures and healing once unimaginable to traditional practitioners.
For more information, contact Duke Integrative Medicine, Duke Center for Living Campus, 3475 Erwin Rd., Durham, NC, at 866-313-0959 or 919-660-6826. Visit DukeIntegrativeMedicine.org. Also visit the Bravewell Collaborative at Bravewell.org.
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