This week marks the last week of my alternative family medicine rotation. Being an osteopathic student, I thought I had a pretty good grasp of holistic medicine until I stepped foot into my current rotation. My preceptor is an osteopathic doctor but was inspired to practice naturopathic-like medicine after he experienced a change in his health twenty years ago. Naturopathic medicine is described as a “whole person” holistic philosophy that combines different treatment modalities such as: botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine (including naturopathic manipulative therapy), homeopathy, and acupuncture.
I have to admit, the first week of this rotation was eye-opening because it challenged the traditional medicine philosophies I’ve been taught. Instead of diagnosing patients with imaging or ordering treatments to cure symptoms, my preceptor looked for causal factors of their symptoms. Exactly why are they having fatigue? What in their environment or diet is causing them to have brain fog? How do we lessen the toxic load these patients have so that we can decrease the amount of medications they are taking? How can we create a timeline of events to find these causal factors?
Each patient encounter ranged from 30-90 minutes depending on whether they had lab follow-ups or if they were a new patient. This was incredible! To be able to talk to patients without worrying much about time allowed us to get a very complete history. This helped guide us through alternative and more natural treatments. Many of the treatments were the same for patients and involved prescribing various vitamins and supplements. My preceptor based many of his treatments on lab values and it was really great seeing patients improve in their symptoms.
I also learned a lot about how to become healthier, myself. I didn’t realize how many toxic things I had in my life from plastic water bottles, hair dye, lack of vitamins, to using entirely too many wireless devices. At first, I didn’t know how I was going to feel about learning such a different philosophy of medicine but at the end of the day, I am glad I did this rotation. I think that we can be so stuck on one point of view that we fail to consider other possible paths to the same outcome. I highly suggest doing an alternative medicine rotation to allow yourself to be open to other forms of treatment. I think all in all, it will help you become a better physician for your patient!