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.
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.