Our knowledge is subject to constant change, and it is oh so necessary to stay up to date in our field for a bazillion reasons, give or take a few 😉 So sometimes we can feel like we need eight arms (for the visual amongst us) to manage and keep up with it all. However, if we ‘use the force’ together we are stronger, learn faster and can stop with the whole ‘recreating the wheel thingo’ that so many practitioners find themselves doing out there in solo practice. Like, like…well, how confident do you feel about putting pen to paper? How good are you at your inter-professional communicating?
*Cue* the release of a brand spanking new version of our
“Dear Doctor – Upskilling in Referral Writing & Inter-Professional Communications”
Referrals and inter-professional communication are just lightly touched on in the current undergraduate degrees (if at all!). But it’s actually such an important way to grow your own professional reputation while simultaneously the credibility of our whole profession. One might even argue, a pillar that stabilises the castle of shared patient-centred care & the future of true integrative health. I hear from my “New Graduates” as well as seasoned mentees about the unease that starts to creep in at the thought of writing the dreaded referral letter. I’ve been writing referral letters for 20+ years and it’s given me a lot of time to think! And refine. And refine again! To make inter-professional care a positive experience for everyone, we need to correct some misperceptions and ensure that our patients are everyone’s priority. And to fulfil our duty of care, communicating with the other practitioners on your patient’s healthcare team is fundamental. Sometimes, as you’ll learn, it’s about modelling the best kind of shared care to boot and being the bigger person 😉
Better still, positive experiences of inter-professional communication will bring collaborators out of the woodwork. Medicos and other allied health professionals you may never have been aware of otherwise, with a desire and openness to shared care tend to rise to the surface.
To get you even more excited about referral letters (you didn’t think that was going to be possible, right?!) and unlearn that Pavlovian procrastination you may have developed, Rachel has completely redesigned an older presentation to ensure it’s truly reflective of the contemporary healthcare landscape (oh yes, RACGP position statement included!). Expect to roll up your sleeves and get seriously practical advice with loads of examples about how to medico-speak naturopathic concepts, explain your role in the patient’s care, provide rationale for consideration of investigations and present ‘red flags’ with punch but minus the sensationalism. And above all else, reveal yourself as the asset you really are to the rest of the healthcare team.
“Thank you so much for a wonderful presentation yesterday, Rachel. It gave me a new perspective on how it must feel as a GP to receive incessant demands from Naturopaths/Nutritionists to order pathology for their clients. I am in awe of your integrity, desire for patient empowerment, humility and respect for other professionals in the mainstream health arena. I felt that every single naturopath and nutritionist out in the big wide world ought to have listened to your insightful words of wisdom when it comes to shared care of our clients. We are blessed to have you as our teacher.” – Michelle Blum (Mentee 2019)
If you’re interested in integrative care, want to learn the language of letter writing and follow Rachel’s SMART objectives to craft your comms and communicate clearly then you should take a listen to “Dear Doctor – Upskilling in Referral Writing & Inter-Professional Communications”
If my dispensary was on an island and could only stock 3 items, S-adenosyl-methionine would make the cut. That’s how important this nutraceutical is to my practice and has proved itself to be to so many of my patients. Regularly, I cross paths with practitioners who declare similar favouritism and then there are many others who remain apprehensive and uninitiated in its use. Often this results from 7 myths and misunderstandings, such as…
No.1 Giving someone SAMe will impair their own synthesis of it
No.2 If it’s not ‘right’ for your patient it could go horribly wrong – the risks are big!
No. 3 SAMe will increase homocysteine in your patients & shouldn’t be used if the homocysteine is high, or high-normal, to begin with
Wrong. Wrong &, you guessed it, wrong. But many of us don’t believe anything till we see it with our own eyes. Like a mentee of mine who is a seasoned SAMe savant but, like us all, continues learning more all the time through her own prescribing experience. Case in point:
“Remember when we discussed my patient with stubborn high homocysteine, who has not responded to high dose methyl factors? You suggested a trial of SAMe because other things pointed to her being an under-methylator. You were right (standard!)- it came down from 9 to 5 with 2 months of 400mg/day SAMe. She’s also been able to stop other supplements she was using for her mood and overall is much more stable emotionally, so turned out to be the perfect solution. Thanks as always :)”
So exciting to bring SAMe, together with other important CAM options in mental health management, to the attention of an increasing number of psychiatrists and other health professionals of late. It easily makes my top 3, and the other 2 supplements in my island dispensary?…well if we’re still talking mental health, Zinc and N-acetyl-cysteine, due to their versatility, potency and accessibility regardless of income. But I think you could have guessed those & likely have shared confidence, right?
This 3hr recording & resource is overflowing with case studies and the latest research relating not only to psychiatric presentations but also as a key nutraceutical to consider in liver pathology, Gilbert’s syndrome and some pain presentations. Together with this ‘literature lowdown’ we clear up a lot of misunderstandings practitioners tend to have about its prescription – busting the 7 SAMe myths along the way and giving you the confidence to know when SAMe is likely to be the solution and exactly how to prescribe and what to expect.
I’d love to continue this conversation with you…
so join me and be part of my ongoing dialogue on this and my other blogs by following my Facebook page.
Ok here’s some tough Tuesday talk..not all tests are valid. Tougher still…not all of the mainstream nor the functional pathology ones. I am talking across the board here. Each and every pathology parameter requires good knowledge about its strengths. limitations and, one of my absolute favourite nemeses, confounders. “How on earth am I supposed to learn all that and everything else I have to know too?!!” I hear you scream at your screen. Btw keep yourself nice if you’re in public while you’re reading this 😉
But rather than imagining you need to have this level of knowledge for all tests, I would suggest you set yourself a hit list of the ones you rely on most, either in terms of frequency or in terms of the degree to which they direct your decisions about patient care…can I mention (ahem) Iron studies here perhaps for us all…but maybe you have a specialist area so you use a particular investigation routinely or at least frequently…
CDSAs? Breath tests for SIBO? Oxalates?
May I please then politely suggest that you get to know these inside and out? Not based purely on the information and assistance that the test provider provides you..but you scrutinise them independently. Top to bottom. Because that’s your business, right? And your diagnoses and treatment decisions are pivoting on these results. Jason Hawrelak gave us all some great examples, including his informal experiment of sending the same stool sample to multiple labs. Don’t know about this and his findings?? If you’re in the business of ordering stool tests, you need to. I am doing this all the time with numerous pathology markers because diagnostics is my passion (alright, obsession)…and recently I put Oxalate Assessment to the test and oh boy!
Here’s something for free:
If you are measuring urinary oxalates to diagnose oxalate overload in your patients and you, 1) are using a lab that does not preserve the urine as you collect it, using acidified containers or providing additional preservatives for take home testing kits….you are wasting your patients money and you are likely getting a lot of false positives, i.e. the result infers the patient has a problem when they don’t!!
And 2) if you are simply following the labs reference ranges for what ‘healthy’ urinary oxalates look like – you’re wasting your patients money again and likely getting false negatives – a failure to show a problem that is actually there! If you’re hunting oxalates…please ensure you have a current effective hunter’s licence…by getting up to speed fast regarding accurate investigation of this. Oh yes…it’s tough-talkin’-Tuesday and I’ve come out firing…watch out this may become a regular feature 🤷♀️
Update in Under 30: Oxalate Overload – Assessment and Management
Oxalates are present in many healthy foods and in all healthy people, but when ‘normal’ levels are exceeded they can spell trouble in a whole raft of different ways due to their extensive distribution across the body. Some tissues, however, have more problems than others, especially the urinary system and soft tissue and joints but now there are also questions about oxalates’ relationship with thyroid and breast issues. We review the latest evidence about the health consequences, blow the lid on accurate assessment for oxalate excess and talk management in this jam-packed update.
Horses not Zebras. You’ve no doubt heard me repeat that quote which is famous in medical schools, something to the effect of, “When you hear a heard of animals outside your door, think horses not zebras”…unless of course you are practising in Africa might I suggest 😉 This of course reminds us all in short to think of the most likely explanations not the most exotic first. Likewise with our case taking. The number of times I ask practitioners for the ‘boring basics’ and am met with an embarrassed silence. Think:
Body Mass Index
There I said it…and yet these are like dirty words in integrative health. Why? Because we’re starting to ignore the ‘boring basics’ in favour of getting ‘fancy first up’, as I like to call it. Look I love a good bit of bioelectrical impedence assessment as much as the next clinician and I am not about to use this crude measure as replacement for that but I absolutely need to have these key landmark pieces of information to understand a very long list of things such as contribution to future health risks, current burdens from literally the weight on those joints leading to knee pain, to the weight/mass not pulling on their bones and therefore contributing to lower BMD their whole life. Even their likelihood of a leaky gut today, right, Brad Leech, our colleague and impressive IP researcher? BMI drives also the appropriateness and their capacity for any exercise interventions I might recommend, not to mention the frequently mentioned, accurate interpretation of their labs.
For many many labs that we routinely see for our clients…the reference range should actually be a sliding scale that moves with BMI…what do we really ‘expect’ and what is actually ‘healthy’ is different at different weights.
Like TFTs – this may be a big newsflash for most but I never want to see a patient with a BMI > 30 have a TSH anywhere < 2, unless they’re on replacement.
Say wha? You heard me. I promise I’ll tell you more about that soon.
But again…let’s not get fancy first up especially not in any of our paediatric patients and in spite of what their words or ‘tude may be telling you, that includes all the way up to 18 in our books! Brace yourself, I’m going to speak that dirty word again…BMI..boring basics before all else. We need to review their height, weight and BMI against paediatric growth charts. These oldies are goldies and can reveal so much about growth trajectories, puberty milestones when any other discussion is off the table, type 2 nutritional imbalances (protein, zinc, potassium, magnesium, sulfur) and flag all other sorts of concerns or reassurance…and you haven’t had to steal a drop of blood or any much hard earned money off mum and dad to work a lot out. Anyway, that’s my ‘boring basic beef’ for now…there’s a lot to be said for ensuring such ‘dirty words’ come before everything else.
Need help with wrestling all the most important patient information into a clear management plan?
As integrative health practitioners, we pride ourselves on taking in the ‘whole health story’ as a means to accurately identifying all the contributors & connections to each patient’s presenting unwellness. In the process, we gather a wealth of information from each client – pathology, medical history, screening tests, diet diaries etc. that borders on information overload and often creates so much ‘noise’, we struggle to ‘hear’ what’s most important. The management of complex patient information and the application of a truly integrative approach, requires due diligence and the right tools. Mindmapping and Timelines are two key tools to help you go from vast quantities of information to a true integrated understanding of what is going on in the case and the more time we spend learning and applying these tools, the more they will write the prescription for you. Not just for today but for the next 6-12mo for that patient.
No you’re right, it’s not long enough to be a Hemsworth’s mobile number but actually it’s more sought after 😉 If you’re up to date with reading & recognising all the different patterns of Iron Studies & the stories they tell, which is a daily business for most of us, then you will know by heart the striking pattern we call, ‘Pseudo Iron Deficiency’. You know the one where your patient’s serum iron & transferrin saturation are mischievously trying to trick you into thinking you need to give this patient iron…when in fact this is absolutely not what they need!
This is of course the result of the redistribution of iron during inflammation – iron is actively removed from the blood and sequestered in the liver instead. It’s designed to protect us from bacterial bogeymen, which is how our stone-age bodies interpret all inflammation of course.
Doesn’t sound familiar? Ok you need to start here or even embrace a full overhaul of all things iron here.
But for those of you nodding so hard you’re at risk of doing yourself an injury, this number is for you. We’ve often talked about the redistributional increase in patients’ ferritin levels in non-specific terms: it goes up..but by how much? Of course we would like to know because no one is fooling us with this transiently inflated value…but can we make an estimation as to what this person’s ferritin will drop to once this inflammation is resolved? Yes.
Write it down. Consider a tattoo, perhaps?
This glorious magic number comes from Thurnham et al paper in 2010 who did the number crunching on over 30 studies involving almost 9,000 individuals to determine the mathematical relationship between inflammatory states & markers and the reciprocal increases in ferritin. Their work is exceptional in that it also differentiates between incubation (pre-symptoms), early and late coalescence periods (if you want to differentiate your patients in this way and get even more specific then you need to read the paper), however, overall when we see a patient who has a CRP ≥5 mg /dL , we can multiply their ferritin by 0.67 and get a lot closer to the truth of their iron stores. Oh and another important detail they revealed, this magnitude of ferritin increase is more likely seen in women or those with baseline (non-inflamed) values < 100 ug/L..so generally more applicable to women than men. Thanks Thurnham and colleagues and the lovely Cheryl, my previous intern who brought this paper to my attention…you just took the guessing out of this extremely common clinical scenario 🙂
We’re not deaf…we heard that stampede of Iron-Inundated Practitioners! The Iron Package is for you!
Our recordings and clinical resources for improving your skill-set in all things iron including, your accuracy of diagnosing deficiencies, pseudo-deficiencies & excesses, plus radically rethinking the best treatment approaches for each scenario…have been some of our most popular. Because nailing iron (pardon the pun) is harder than we were all lead to believe and at least 1 ‘iron maiden’ or ‘iron man’ walks into our practice every day, right? So we’ve brought together 5 extremely popular UU30’s on Iron into one bundle for the price of 4! So if you’re more than ready to graduate from ‘iron school’, now’s your best chance!
Those ‘still-believers’ look away now. One of the great myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings in nutritional medicine is that supplementation with specific nutrients will produce change specifically in one system, or pathway, which just happens to be the one that the practitioner has determined would benefit most/is targeting. Let me explain myself a bit better. When we give patients any nutrient, in the cases where it’s not simply to correct a global deficiency & therefore improve levels all round, it’s typically on the basis of a specific desirable therapeutic benefit, e.g. some magnesium to help their GABA production…, additional B3 would improve their mitochondria. Beautiful on paper…but like sending a letter to Santa in reality (I did warn you!)
Truth Bomb No.1: There are nutrient distribution pecking orders that have nothing to do with who you ‘addressed’ it to
This dictates that when something is given orally, for most nutrients, the gut itself has first dibs. So the cells of your digestive tract meet their needs before any other part of your body gets a look in. Sometimes the digestive system’s needs can be quite substantial and leave little for any other part of the body…not mentioning any names (ahem) Glutamine!
Truth Bomb No.2: En route to the ‘target’, these nutrients get delivered and distributed to many other tissues – with possibly not so desirable or intended effects!
You may determine that a patient needs iron because their ferritin hasn’t got a pulse…so you keep giving them daily high dose oral iron to ‘fix’ this…not realising you’re making their GIT dysbiosis and gut inflammation worse in the process. Or you feel their mysterious ‘methylation cycle’, happening predominantly in the liver and kidneys, could do with a folate delivery…perhaps ignoring the very worrying fact that their colon may have already had a ‘gut full’. Literally. Hence the concerns and caution against supplementing with folate in patients with established colorectal cancer. So is bypassing the gut via IM or IV nutrients the answer…well yes and no…but mostly no. Read on…
Truth Bomb No.3: Those pathways that use the nutrient you’re supplementing, that are most active in the patient’s body currently – which is determined by many factors (genes, physiology, feedback circuits, pathophysiology) and rarely simply by the availability of nutrients – will take take the next lion’s share of that nutrient
Wanting to nutritionally support someone’s thyroid, you know tyrosine is the backbone of the thyroid hormones, so you include this in the hypothyroid prescription. Will it help? Who knows? Being a non-essential amino acid the body exhibits very complex regulation of its distribution and use – with thyroid precursor availability being only one job on a very long list! And if this was in a patient who is regularly smoking cannabis, due to upregulation of the tyrosine hydroxylase enzyme – there is likely to be more of the supplement headed for even more dopamine production and very little or none reaching in fact your intended target. And don’t get me (re)started on Glutamine – supplements of which in an anxious and glutamate dominated patient will make…G.L.U.T.A.M.A.T.E…right…not GABA! 🙁
Sorry, I know, it hurts right? But these are essential teachings, that tend to have been over-looked or under-played I find, in nutrition education, regardless of training: nutritionists, naturopaths, IM doctors, dual qualification practitioners remedial therapists. Nutritional medicine is a wonderful and potent modality when it’s done well…but we need to revisit some core truths and principles that many of us have missed out on, to ensure we’re not writing letters to Santa.
Want to revisit your core nutritional knowledge which will cover this and much much more?
Let’s start with Micronutrients. Let’s talk make sense of the over-arching nutrition principles, that will profoundly change your understanding and application of this modality Truly understanding the ‘big’ concepts, so often overlooked, or incorrectly taught, ensures you get the critical ‘small’ detail in your nutritional prescriptions right. In this 4 hour recording, together with key clinical tools, we talk about the tough stuff: dose-response curves, active versus passive stores and excretory pathways and ooh lah lah…the myth of taking ‘activated vitamins’. Even those who felt well trained – will find a lot in this critical review that is new, insightful and truly practise-changing!
As health professionals who take the time & have the incredible attention to detail to capture the ‘whole health story’ of each patient, we can end up with vast amounts of information for every client: detailed medical histories, broad systems-reviews, condition specific validated screening surveys, in-house physical assessment data, not to mention a pile of past pathology results…and that’s before we start our own investigative path! Does it sometimes feel like TMI? I see many really knowledgeable practitioners become overwhelmed right there They know they needed to know it all but now they’re struggling to hear the critical storyline above the ‘noise’, see the wood for the trees or [insert another metaphor that works better for you] 😉 What tends to happen next, though we might not realise it at the time, is we abandon systems-based thinking, because it is so challenging, and start treating superficially or symptomatically: ok well for now, I’ll just give them something for their hayfever and something else for these loose stools and then a good sleep mix for that insomnia and maybe with a bit of time I can work out the real underpinning cause and start addressing that. Just like we never wanted or intended to do!
Conventional medicine is intellectually complex but it is a lot simpler in many regards than holistic medicine.
Disease = medication. Another disease = another medication.
Versus the dogged determination of the systems-based practitioner – constantly asking ourselves: Why this person? Why now? What’s underneath it all? How do these elements connect?
Two key objectives for integrative health practitioners are 1) getting to the root cause and 2) least medicine is best medicine…these are inextricably linked, but with such voluminous information & a lot of ‘noise’ that can be very distracting, how do we stay on track with the work-up of each patient, to remain true to these principles and genuinely integrated? What tools and resources were you trained in to make clarity out of chaos? To sift the wheat from the chaff or [insert another metaphor that works better for you] 😉 And do these actually work for you in your real clinic with your (very) real patients? This is, after all, no longer about creating formulation diagrams or schematics because that’s the what worked for your clinical supervisor. This is about whether your systems for case analysis meet 3 critical criterion:
- they save you time – too many practitioners’ attempts at case analysis consist of writing out the entire case again….just more neatly…with dot points…and maybe 5 less words
- they reveal the connectedness of the seemingly separate elements & force your knowledge forward by asking you, ‘but how?’
- they write the patient prescription for you – not just the initial one, but typically, those for the next 12mo of this patient’s care
I do a lot of mentoring and it’s wonderful to help so many practitioners by sharing my integrated work up of their patient cases…but I employ just 2 secret weapons that are actually not so secret: timelines and MindMaps. Without them, I would be lost too. I’ve been thinking for a long time about how best to share these 2 not-secret-at -all-weapons…and finally my lovely shiny new grad mentees inspired me to come up with this….and boy didn’t it get us all thinking, talking, thinking some more….and most importantly…converting client chaos to clarity – here’s what others had to say:
“I really love the cases and listening and seeing how you interpret complicated presentations and methodically break them down in a way that digs down to the core/genesis of the issues. It helps me to provide more laser focus to my own complicated cases with your guidance.. Love the mind maps!”
“I loved this session and think its very relevant. I have used these tools before, but never mastered them or used them regularly. I have mostly used mind maps for study, so I love this application and with practice, think I will get used to using them for every case.”
“Most difficult is challenging existing patterns of thinking around mindmaps and training my brain to approach it more effectively (plus getting faster). This will come with practice. Most satisfying is seeing how useful they can be when done well at the start in terms of time saving in the overall case (across years) and getting to the core (s) of the case. Great session!”
As integrative health practitioners, we pride ourselves on taking in the ‘whole health story’ as a means to accurately identifying all the contributors & connections to each patient’s presenting unwellness. In the process, we gather a wealth of information from each client – pathology, medical history, screening tests, diet diaries etc. that borders on information overload and often creates so much ‘noise’, we struggle to ‘hear’ what’s most important. The management of complex patient information and the application of a truly integrated approach, requires due diligence and the right tools. This recording and associated resources will teach you to effectively perform a case work-up that does justice to the holistic framework and model & at the end of the first part, there is a practice run for you to create a MindMap and Timeline. Then part 2 takes you step by step through the same example, showing you how to build a really effective MindMap and then how to read it to show you the path of management! PDF sample case notes, MindMap and a Timeline template are included.
When I was studying my under-graduate I imagined my clinic was going to be full of them: well patients wanting to maintain or even improve upon their wellness. Turns out…not so much…all the really really sick people have taken their spots and the former has been listed as an endangered species. But I do catch glimpses of them, as I am sure we all do, in their natural habitat, with over-flowing baskets at the organic grocery store or farmer’s market, routinely up the front of the pilates class and also sometimes in our clinics. So now that naturopathy, by consumer demand, not practitioner intent, has transitioned so much into the ‘unwellness space’, do we know anymore what to do with the well ones??
I heard some great talks at the NHAA conference recently. One, in particular, was by my stellar colleague, Liza Oates, who observed that contemporary naturopaths tend to respond to these clients in 1 of 2 ways:
a) Unaccustomed to a patient who eats, exercises, sleeps and balances their work & non-work worlds better than themselves…PANIC…
b) Dig deep back through the dusty archives of their personal & family medical history until they FIND A PROBLEM THEY CAN TREAT!!! such as, ‘Once I was constipated for a couple of days’ or, ‘Once I took a course of antibiotics’.
I know…we’re hilarious…we have to laugh at ourselves 😉 Liza offered up some great ideas about how to approach our consults with these patients. Many of her tips, however, could be applied to the rest of our patients as well to gather some really valuable insights. And it’s always great to hear from someone who has been seeing patients over decades…there’s so much to be gained from those who’ve gone before us (or alongside us…in my case!) and can speak to these firsthand lessons. Here are just a few of her pearls
The ‘not stressed’ patient
We encounter a lot of people who can misreport their stress levels, not because they are trying to lead us astray but that’s that slippery slope of self-reporting & the possibility that someone has normalised their ‘load’. Liza says she likes to step away from that potential trigger word, ‘stress’ and instead ask, ” What are your tell-tale signs when the demands exceed your capacity?”
This is not so that we can fulfil option b) mentioned at the beginning…digging desperately to find some unwellness to treat – but rather as an aid for both practitioner and patient alike to understand better that individual’s response to their psychosocial environment.
Ask them to design their own health retreat
If they reply, “I would start every day with a little meditation and yoga, a chai and then a healthy hot meal”, then these can be translated into little goals we can set to bring some of their ‘best self ‘ into their every day. It also helps to better understand their values, individualised self-soothing and self-care & great prescriptions to begin with, given they’re telling you they are already at contemplation in terms of their readiness for behavioural change. They’re not going to require too much convincing – they’re already converts they just need permission and support to implement.
And if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, ‘Hey! These are exactly the patients I want my clinic full of”…then to hear more of Liza & Greg Connolly’s commentary and insights about how the wellness space has been hijacked by others and how naturopathy needs to move centre-stage in this increasingly popular trend, take a listen to this interview they recorded at the conference.
Want to Improve Your Patients’ Compliance?
This UU30 recording from our back catalogue on the behavioural change model and how it impacts patients’ response to our advice is a key element in developing a professional approach that actually works. Unless practitioners are aware of the way that patients approach changing their dietary behaviour or exercise regimes, they the mystery of non-compliance will never be solved!
Oh no, it’s her again 🙁 I mean the chick in the photostock image not the other ‘her’, me. I know. It’s the end of another mammoth year, you’re tired, worn out, used-up all your brain-power quota (a little projection?) and I can hear you begging for mercy when I start a sentence with…”So you think you know….” followed by, “blah blah blah Iron,” but hear me out.
Correctly identifying & managing iron issues is a bread & butter part of our business, right?
With Iron deficiency affecting an estimated 1 in 5 women and Iron excess almost another 1 in 5 – patients with one form of iron imbalance or another tend to be over-represented in waiting rooms.
Anyone can spot overt iron deficiency anaemia or full-blown haemochromatosis but many health professionals find the ‘in-betweens’ confusing and fail to recognise some key patterns we see over and over again, that spell out clearly your patient’s current relationship-status with this essential mineral. This often results in giving iron when it wasn’t needed and missing it when it was. If you’re imagining someone else, i.e. the person who ordered the Iron Studies for your patient, will step in and accurately interpret the more curly results can I just say D-O-N’-T...they’re often as perplexed or even more so than you. After starting this conversation a year ago with So you think you know how to Treat Iron Deficiency, & its baby sister, So you think know the best Iron Supplements, our (imaginary) switchboard went crazy. While practitioners got the message loud and clear about how to improve the likelihood of treatment success in iron deficient patients, hot on the heels of this came email, after fax, after carrier pigeon, with examples of patients’ Iron Studies, the ‘somewhere in between ones’, accompanied by the equivalent of a dog head tilt…aka ‘I don’t get it’.
And this is to be expected.
What were you taught about reading Iron Studies? Was it made out to be all about ferritin? And TSH is a solid stand-alone marker of thyroid health, right? 😉
Were you introduced to the other essential parameters included in Iron Studies, explained how they contribute to your diagnosis and reveal important details about the patient’s ability to regulate this mineral or not? About when to dose and when to hold your fire?
Nah…I didn’t think so. But it’s up to us, people, to hone our skills in Iron Study interpretation…because individualised nutrition is our ‘thang’ and more than any other nutritional assessment, this collection of markers, actually allows us to go beyond the ‘one size fits all’ model…everyone must have X of this and Z of that in their blood tests…and see each patient’s actual individualised need and relationship with this mineral. In the latest Update in Under 30, I introduce you to 3 key players in iron assessment and the insights each offers become so clear, you’ll be able to read any combination or permutation of iron results that walk through your door. To boot, I’ve included a wizz-bang cheat-sheet of those iron patterns that are frequently seen and rarely recognised, including one totally novel one that I’ve never talked about before…to make your job even easier and put you well and truly ahead of the pack in understanding iron nutrition. It’s Christmas…and as the mantra goes…we can always fit just a little more in at Christmas time, right? 😉
Overt Iron Deficiency Anaemia or Haemochromatosis aside…do you understand the critical insights markers like transferrin and its saturation reveal about your patients iron status? Most practitioners don’t and as a result give iron when they shouldn’t and fail to sometimes when they should. This audio complete with an amazing cheat sheet for interpreting your patients Iron Study results will sharpen your skills around iron assessment, enabling you to recognise the real story of your patients’ relationship with iron.
Hear all about it by listening by my latest Update in Under 30: So You Think You Know How To Read Iron Studies? For all Update in Under 30 Subscribers, it’s now available in your online account and if you are not a subscriber you can purchase this individually here.
As Britney so famously put it, ‘Oops, I did it again!’ I remember the actions on my to do list but not the intended recipients! D.O.H. I was talking with a practitioner the other day who lamented that she had never really learnt about stats nor how to assess the quality of research in her undergraduate and could I point her in the right direction towards a resource that simply explains this increasingly important basic skill-set…well I would if I could remember who you were!! Anyhoo, I followed through in my usually dogged way to the bottom of my actions list and with the help of a lovely past-intern, got directed to these free BMJ resources on how to read research…G.O.L.D.
Papers that go beyond numbers (qualitative research) Trisha Greenhalgh, Rod Taylor
Papers that summarise other papers (systematic reviews and meta-analyses) Trisha Greenhalgh
Papers that tell you what things cost (economic analyses) Trisha Greenhalgh
Papers that report diagnostic or screening tests Trisha Greenhalgh
Papers that report drug trials Trisha Greenhalgh
Statistics for the non-statistician. II: “Significant” relations and their pitfalls Trisha Greenhalgh
Statistics for the non-statistician Trisha Greenhalgh
Assessing the methodological quality of published papers Trisha Greenhalgh
Getting your bearings (deciding what the paper is about) Trisha Greenhalgh
Anyway…while I continue to ponder who this was actually intended for… it dawned on me how many people would just LOVE these & benefit from them immensely in the meantime. Couldn’t most of us do with a little more research literacy? So I thought I’d share. Don’t you love it when we work as a team. Now…who can help me find my keys?! 😉
It’s starting to feel a lot like…that Update in Under 30 time of the month!
Update in Under 30 are dynamic power-packed podcasts that will help you keep abreast of the latest must-knows in integrative medicine. Focused on one key issue at a time, Rachel details all the salient points so that you don’t have to trawl through all the primary evidence yourself. All topics are aimed at clinicians and cover a range of areas from patient assessment to management, from condition based issues to the latest nutritional research. Most importantly, each podcast represents unbiased education that can contribute to your CPE points, so if you haven’t subscribed yet…what are you waiting for??!! 🙂
That’s me…always questioning the ‘status quo’ and Iodine is the perfect example! The interview I did on this important subject with Andrew Whitfield-Cook from FxMedicine, covers a lot of key areas of confusion & underscores why it’s so critical all health practitioners get clarity on this topic. ‘It’s just a matter of geography’.
You know, I say to people, we can make vitamins ourselves, we can get all sorts of other organisms including animals, bacteria and plants to make vitamins for us, and then eat those…but minerals…our source of minerals…well it all comes down to the rocks and the soil our food itself is grown or fed on. And iodine is profoundly influenced by these factors. (more…)
I had the privilege of presenting at the Integria GIT Symposium last weekend. For those of you who attended, you’ve gone back to your clinic with a bunch of new ideas and inspiration I hope…oh and a new respect, terror and watchfulness for threadworm thanks to me! In my presentation I outlined the many presentations of this infestation, what to watch for and the risk of chronic recurrence due,in particular, to a reduced ability for some individuals to produce chondroitin sulfate which renders the GIT environment hostile to worms.
Chronic threadworm is a huge & grossly under-recognised issue in paediatrics, often presenting as behavioural & cognitive disorders (and these can be severe), bruxism, enuresis etc. of course, but another presentation typically missed is vulvovaginitis, vulval pain or UTI like sx in young girls. (more…)
Ever wondered where on earth (or Mars?!) I came from? As much as I can’t keep quiet on some topics, my personal journey to here has been a bit of closed book to many. Recently during an interview with Andrew Whitfield-Cook from FxMedicine, which was supposed to be strictly about postgraduate education paths and the desperate need for mentoring, internships etc for naturopaths, the sneaky devil got me to spill the beans on a whole lot more!
Having been involved in so many aspects of naturopathic and integrative health care education over the past 15 years, of course I do have a lot of ideas about how practitioners can best accelerate their learning and development, the need for more independent education and the importance of fostering critical thinking.
I think you already know that I feel passionately about this but do you know the whole story? Who I have been mentored by and how I continue to tread the path of the ‘student’? (more…)
Setting: Local cafe
Scenario: Run into friends of friends who join us in the sunshine for a cuppa & we’re discussing the finer details of chai (western version V the real streets of Delhi stuff), tumeric lattes etc etc. as you do. I comment on how unpleasantly strong I found the cow’s milk in those downtown Delhi chais we had when we were there.
50 something man: Oh I LOVE that – I just LOVE cow’s milk. I drink loads of the stuff. I used to drink 2L a day but now it’s more like 1L a day.
50 something man: Absolutely. Then there’s the cheese as well – I would eat at least 1kg of that a week. But it’s good for my bones, right? I have that thing, you know, before osteoporosis…brittle bones. (more…)
I am frequently asked what scientific journals I subscribe to and often by the same practitioners over and over, because they can’t reconcile my answer: “None”. Yet I constantly have my head in the scientific literature, right? The two are not mutually exclusive, it’s just about knowing which free scientific and medical news-feeds are worth their weight in gold! If you really are digging into the itty-bitty detail of things these won’t answer all your questions on all your topics but they do a great job of 1) keeping you up to date with the big headlines in general medicine, or, with the use of alert systems and filters, just the areas of health you’re particularly interested in and 2) offering you a huge highly credible resource database that is easily searchable.
Point 1, Exhibit A 😉 :
Here’s just a few examples from the last month that popped into my inbox from Medscape that got my pulse racing:
Most practitioners are pretty knowledgeable about Zinc and are quick to recognise a deficiency and the opportunities for zinc supplementation as an effective therapy and those same practitioners are often plagued by nagging questions that come up, in spite of loads of clinical experience, like:
- Are plasma and serum zinc levels interchangeable?
- What does zinc adequacy look like? Is it just a single number on a page or do we always have to factor in copper levels and get the ratio right as well?
- What can I expect from zinc supplementation in terms of changes to the patient’s plasma zinc?
- What should I do when a patient’s zinc marker is refractory to the intervention?
- Is there really a significant difference between the different supplemental forms available?
I like to fancy myself as a bit of Supplement Sleuth! I love working with herbs, nutrients and nutraceuticals rather than pharmaceuticals but I am not blinded to the fact that manufacturers and suppliers, whatever their form of medicine, are large competitive businesses that ultimately need to sell product and want to sell more. Often practitioners & patients are surprised when I say things like, ‘It’s vitamin C not something sophisticated – go buy something cheap as long as it ticks these boxes…”. In contrast, there are some nutrients and nutraceuticals at the other end of the spectrum, that evoke my compete attention around form, delivery method etc. and I would never send my patient out the door to get these anywhere else.
A few times recently, I’ve been asked by praccies, ‘What’s the deal with CoQ10 and ubiquinol V ubiquinone/ubidecarenone forms?’ and I can hear in their tone that they posses a healthy skepticism when being sold the latest and greatest supplement! ‘Should all my patients be using the ubiquinol form or just some?’, ‘Is it really worth the premium price?’. Great questions all of them 🙂 (more…)
Cheesy I know! 😉 However, recently the issue of knowing when to use Withania somnifera & when not to, came up again in mentoring so I thought it’s probably a good one to share. Withania, aka Aswagandha or Indian Ginseng, has become a favourite adaptogenic prescription for many practitioners, myself included. I remember learning specifically (about a million years ago!!) that this herb is ‘warming’ & ‘nourishing’, thanks in part to its iron content. In a traditional medicine context, it’s used for those particularly vulnerable populations such as children, the pregnant, the elderly and the malnourished, boiled in milk as a tonic. These ideas always stayed with me, and lead me to only use Withania in similar patients and presentations with good results. (more…)
Have you ever wondered what is the best way to grow your business? Not a cardboard cut-out, off-the-shelf kind of business that every business coach talks to, or somebody else’s business, your business? Business advice like naturopathy, according to Rachel, is about taking an individualised approach.
The traditional model of a naturopath was based on a one on one clinical practice model, while potentially still a path to success and satisfaction, this requires a totally fresh and contemporary perspective on what works today. In addition to this, many naturopaths feel a need to diversify their revenue stream in order to work smarter not harder. The naturopathic path is not always conventional and rarely the same for any two practitioners depending on personality, location, skill sets (including non-naturopathic), passion etc.
Rachel gets it. (more…)
It’s taken a little while for me to collect my thoughts on this one. Initially there was a little flash of anger, frustration and a good deal of huffing and puffing when I heard about the RACGP guidelines recommending GPs say no to any requests from naturopaths for further investigation of their shared patients… but I’m over that now. In an interview on 702 ABC Sydney radio last week, Stephen Eddy, the vice president of ATMS, responded to these guidelines by suggesting that a blanket directive for GPs to ignore all requests from all naturopaths about all testing didn’t really sound sensible or appropriate. Here here! Surely, in the pursuit of evidence based medicine and discerning practice decisions, each case should be considered on an individual basis. I think Stephen Eddy gives GPs more credit for being able to make these judgements than their own association! (more…)