Is A Diagnosis Always Helpful?

 

If you know me, you may wonder if I’ve recently undergone a personality bypass.  I am passionate about diagnostics, pride myself on ‘making the invisible visible’ through better understanding of pathology markers and confirming the true nature of the underpinning problem in order to be most effective in our management of every client. And I absolutely see that for the majority of patients ‘ knowledge is power’, so what on earth is this all about?  Well, while I stand by my stubborn commitment to diagnostic sleuthing for ‘most patients most of the time’, there are occasions when I’m left wondering about the value and the likely outcome should we finally catch that elusive diagnosis by its tail…case in point:

Recently I’ve been aware of a bit of  spike in ‘diagnosing’ Ehlers Danlos Syndrome for patients who present with myriad problems – from the text-book connective tissue issues (loose joints, hypermobility etc) to the seemingly more far flung like mast-cell activation syndrome and overactive pelvic floors.

Just so happens this ended up being a thought-provoking 3 way conversation.  Got to love having so many wise women’s email ear..and especially such generous ones.  First, I ran this case and the differential past the wisest dual qual physio/naturopath I know Alyssa Tait who specialises in pelvic conditions and any and every other bizarre – no-one-else-could-name-it, kind of conditions. And her response, breathtakingly comprehensive and punctuated by copious journal articles throughout as always, proceeded to flesh out the evidence for and against the more unusual patient features and the possibility of EDS from bladder irritability (maybe) to functional GIT disorders (definite maybe) to the dysautonomia link (patchy).  But it was what she said next that struck a deep cord for me:

“This happened recently to me when I referred a very difficult  Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS) patient to a GP – suddenly she had EDS as the answer to all her problems. But we can’t change genetics. All we can change is the function, and I have seen a worrying pattern of blaming the unchangeable (EDS) at the expense of looking for the changeable (e.g. an EDS patient of mine who actually had low thyroid function which had been over-looked.)

My feeling is it’s better to evaluate and treat what we see. As soon as we start giving our patients a litany of all the possible horrible ways their health is/will be pervasively affected by a completely unchangeable genetic reality (EDS), it’s a major “thought virus” that can both reinforce the “sick person” self-image and negatively impact their health-seeking behaviour – either by making them give up, ‘cause it’s all too overwhelming, or to follow an infinite journey through rabbit holes that make health their hobby rather than experiencing their life and relationships to the full.”

So back I went to the original practitioner who was contemplating chasing this EDS diagnosis in her patient and she was not short on some of her own wisdom.  Like many people who end up working in health Gabby battled her way out of her own ‘no-one-cold name-it’ health crisis before training to be a naturopath. So understandably she sees both sides:

“As a terrified 20 something who kept ending up in the emergency ward with flares – I desperately wanted to know what was wrong with me, why it was happening, why I was in so much pain and why at the time no-one could tell me. I remember being about 28 asking my Prof (of immunology) whether what I had was going to kill me. He said ‘If you want me to be honest I’m really not sure at the moment darling but I’ll do my absolute best to take care of you’. That answer changed my life. Now as a Nat with a history of chronic conditions – I can see managing the symptoms is probably really all you need plus regular monitoring. Which is what I do for myself and many of my clients. The hurdle is getting over the lack of trust these clients feel after years and YEARS of being misdiagnosed and fearing for their lives.”
So..I’m asking us all again..is a diagnosis always helpful?  Perhaps with each patient we need to think this through afresh? Thanks wise women 😉
There’s a significant increase in the number of women in their 20s to 50s presenting with ‘atypical’ joint pain, that seems hard for specialists to diagnose and therefore, hard for any of us to know how best to treat. If we listen closely to these patients, however, they are often telling us that their, ‘gut isn’t right’. It doesn’t tend to grab so much attention but maybe it should! We examine 3 ‘atypical’ arthropathies that can have GIT symptoms and arguably may represent a key driver of their joint pain. The different clinical pictures & targeted investigations for these big 3 together with some key papers are covered in this audio.

 

 

 

Special offer for RAN subscribers…

Not long ago, Kathryn Simpson and I were sharing a hotel room on yet another work trip to somewhere. The lights were out, it was way past our bedtime and we were just gasbagging incessantly like a couple of teens, when a thought pops into my head:

“Hey Kathryn, back when you were my student, did you ever imagine this scenario in the future – you know us being colleagues and friends and having slumber parties full of laughing?”, she replied, “Well no, but you know what I REALLY never could have imagined in my wildest dreams…the Australian Naturopathic Summit and you inviting me to be a co-founder of something that’s had such a big impact! That one I just didn’t see coming!”

Well to be honest, neither did I but sometimes I just have an idea that won’t leave me alone and is too important and too promising to ignore. Three years ago when I shared one of these, the vision of a national naturopathic conference by naturopaths for naturopaths, that would lift us all professionally, offer collaboration over competition and provide us the highest level of non-biased education, with Nirala Jacobi, turned out she’d been visited by the same thought bubble.  Then I approached Kathryn, who was working for me at the time and pretty fresh out of uni but full of passion and drive about building a better ‘new’ naturopathic career path, one that supported rather than splintered those emerging out of great courses into a harsh, challenging professional space.

Time-travel forward to now, we are just 10 weeks(ish) out from erecting the chai tent, marquees and lanterns, for the second inception of this extraordinary thing called the Australian Naturopathic Summit 24-26th August at Lennox Head.

This is the culmination of 3 years of work from us, one paid project manager and the exceptional generosity of over 25 of our naturopathic idols, thought leaders and torch bearers who are donating their time to present plenaries, workshops, case studies, panel discussions… because they believe so strongly in the cause and the need for such an event. 

If you think I am running out of breath between all these words..I am. This thing…has taken on a shape and life much greater than even we had envisioned.

If you follow the work I do – you’ll know that I am passionate about collaboration over competition.  I could never have come to this place in my career without the input of many (some who remain on speed dial even now!) and through my mentoring programs, the infamous RAN internship and hopefully times we’ve come across each other…I’ve encouraged you to do the same and by doing so, grow bigger together.  So just imagine the value of collaborating face-to-face…over 3 days…at a festival in Lennox Heads… ? And not just for 1 hour, but for 3 full days with 100’s of other practitioners from all areas, specialities and locations. Oh and if you’re thinking you’ll just have to wait ’til the next one’…SPOILER…there is no guarantee of a next one! Being a passion project that we 3 donate our time to, for you, it requires your support to keep it going.

So with saying all that…..(cajon roll…that’s a drum for you non-hippies)….It is with great excitement and enthusiasm that today I can announce a special deal for RAN subscribers. Yes….that’s you! Just like myself you all see a need to grow and build skills, knowledge, competence and confidence in the practice of naturopathic medicine. Come join the very best of your profession and take up this special offer to attend the second independent Australian Naturopathic Summit held in Lennox Head on 24-26 August.

To get 15% off a full 3 day pass enter Festival at the checkout

Book your tickets before they run out at  www.australiannaturopathicsummit.com.au.
For information or questions about this special email hello@australiannaturopathicsummit.com.au.

This summit is unprecedented in Australia for the following reasons:

  • It is free from commercial bias
  • It is about professional development, improving our practices and career paths, not products
  • The primary objective is to support the Australian Naturopathic community, celebrating our diversity and creating a platform for our own Naturopathic torch-bearers in various areas (Practice, Research, Herbal Manufacture, Corporate Health, Entrepreneurship etc.) to help light the way for the broader professional community

This year our theme for ANS 2018 is ‘Coming Together On Common Ground’
Naturopathy has many different practices and paths,
but we all work for the same purpose, guided by the same principles.

The ANS 2018 program has three distinct themes across the 3 days…

  • Friday 24 August: Custodians of the Vital Force
  • Saturday 25 August: Upskilling Your Clinical Practice
  • Sunday 26 August: The Business of Business Development

The morning of each day consists of plenary sessions followed by a lengthy lunch break that allows for networking, beach walking, guided outdoor meditation, perusing the vendor village, or simply enjoying the festival atmosphere in the beautiful outdoor location that our summit is surrounded by OR for those die-hards some amazing case studies presented by the likes of Jason Hawrelak, Dawn Whitten and Sandra Villella.  Afternoon sessions are workshop-style, designed to be more interactive. There are plenty of workshops to choose from to keep you riveted and inspired.

We have created a jam-packed program to do just that.
Download your copy of the full program here!

ANS 2018 – come join the very best of your profession.

Book your tickets before they run out at  www.australiannaturopathicsummit.com.au.
To get 15% off a full 3 day pass enter Festival at the checkout.
For information or questions about this special email hello@australiannaturopathicsummit.com.au


Enough said.

‘Take Me To Your Master!’

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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:

(more…)

But doctor, what about nutrition?

Just this week Medscape featured an article arguing there’s a need for all doctors (GPs & specialists) to undergo nutritional training.  It follows on from a commentary in the September issue of the American Journal of Medicine which criticised the deficiency of nutrition education in medical training, particularly in the context of the 2013 report on US health that “identified dietary factors as the single most significant risk factor for disability and premature death”. An interview with one of the lead authors of this paper, Stephen Devries, a cardiologist with 25 years’ experience, forms the basis of the article.  (more…)

You’ve got mail!

I’ve received so much lovely feedback (fan mail!) recently I just had to share some with you (note I look much more excited than Meg does when I get mine!). It’s so exciting to be a part of our burgeoning naturopathic & integrative network.  From Alyssa Tait a Brisbane based naturopath, clinical nutritionist & physiotherapist: “I am so appreciative of your mentoring and your professional development (e.g. recent Health Masters Live webinars). You make me really enthusiastic about being in this field, and you actually help me feel like I sort of know what I’m doing…most of the time!!” (more…)

Highlights from Science of Nutrition in Medicine Conference 2014

What an absolute pleasure to attend this conference this weekend just gone, where the presenters were researchers, most of them internationally acclaimed in their respective area and to find what they had to say SO clinically relevant and to find the presenters SO unafraid of bucking the norm (be that the NHMRC dietary guidelines, folate fortification, the use of broad TSH reference ranges, the refusal by many medicos to use urinary iodine testing of individual patients etc. etc.).

Then to boot – to be able to ask them questions!  Want to know about N-acetyl cysteine? – How about asking Dr. Michael Berk the Australian researcher who ran the first human studies in psychiatry and is the most prolific research of NAC yourself?!

I’d attended the inaugural conference some years ago in Sydney and, while there were less attendees this time around on the Gold Coast (must be our horrible weather! ;) ), I thought the format and quality was just as good.  While I certainly saw some familiar faces – I would have loved to see more – I think we’ve got to make the most of these independent sources of information, because, while we can get some great ideas and tips from company seminars – there will always ultimately be a barrow to push and some bias. I found this to be true, most disappointingly even at last year’s NHAA conference where so many of the main speakers ultimately had a vested interest and a product to sell the audience. Given that’s supposed to be independent that was even more appalling I thought.  The Science of Nutrition in Medicine Conference is of course not free of all sponsorship but I  didn’t see any bias permeate into the presentations from this.  So major congrats to the organisers of this one (ACNEM, CSIRO & NSA), mark it on your calendar for next year as a probable must-see and over the next few weeks I’m going to bring you some of the key highlights from what I heard – that might just change the way you practice!  Very inspiring 🙂