If I could be granted 1 wish regarding all health professionals, it would be that we were all competent in reading Iron Studies. Think that’s overstating the issue? Or not a bodacious enough way to ‘spend’ my wish? I don’t. Especially when you consider the impact of GPs in this space.
This 57Y male was asked to make a follow up appointment with his doctor, to discuss his ‘abnormal’ results which he was informed constitute Iron deficiency.
Consequently he was was advised to start an iron supplement! #@!*
Your thoughts? Revoke this doctors medical licence? Insist on some very du jour ‘re-training’ at the very least? I mean, if you think this Iron pattern flags a deficiency or shortfall, then you’re as good as reading a map upside down and back to front…and written in a foreign language!! The ‘Ls’ in his latest labs flag he has suppressed transferrin, indicative of negative feedback inhibition of GIT uptake of this mineral, secondary to healthy stores or inflammation. And it’s not just that more iron is not indicated but that more iron in fact presents a patient like this with increased and unnecessary risk: to their microbiome, intestinal wall health, even according to the larger longer studies a potential correlation with colorectal cancer risk, if taken long term. Let alone the whole cardiovascular conundrum. Better still this same patient was told a few years back that he might have iron overload! Again the ‘map’ could only have been being read, upside down, back to front to reach such a conclusion!
So the one patient in just a few years by 2 different doctors has been diagnosed incorrectly with 2 different iron issues. Yep.
And sadly I have sooooo many more cases of missed and mis-diagnoses with regard to this mineral. The latest RACGP Position Statement on the Use of Iron Studies, underscores that assessment of iron status and GPs competence in knowing when to do this and how to interpret, is an important part of core general practice. Given it “is the commonest nutritional deficiency state in Australia and is significantly under-diagnosed” This succinct document offers a quick crash course in Iron nutrition for doctors and it hits all the right marks with advice about not ordering ferritin as a stand-alone because “the interactive nature of the three components allows for more accurate interpretation” and this simple but sage advice:
“Transferrin, iron transport protein, tends to increase in ID…
A better strategy (than being tricked by Serum Fe) is to report transferrin saturation.
A low transferrin saturation in the setting of an equivocal ferritin level is suggestive of iron deficiency.
An elevated transferrin saturation is the first manifestation of iron overload.“
I mean seriously, do doctors read these RAGCP resources & recommendations, or is it just me? 🤓😂
Need a rip-roaring review on how to really read iron studies? Or know another health professional who does?!! Consider this Easter Educational Gift Instead of Eggs!!
So You Think You Know How To Read Iron Studies?
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.
Well that got tongues talking!
We’ve cried, and we’ve laughed, hearing from practitioners about their ‘over-delivering donkey experiences’ for 2020. We’ve heard many memorable & relatable tales of either failures to set the best boundaries or even, in instances when we do, patients’ incredible dexterity to scale these in single leaps, ala James Bond style.
Practitioner: “On the very same day we talked about this important and ignored topic, I’d received an email at 9am from a patient asking for advice and a 2nd opinion about the prospect of surgery (first mention of this and clearly outside my scope!!!!), which they wanted before they saw the surgeon in 2 hours!!”
Sometimes it’s not patients, but professional colleagues (& friends)! I personally took an urgent call on Sunday morning from one of my psych colleagues, only because she is a dear friend, only to discover she needed help regarding a friend with mental health escalation…ah…yup…nup. Her blurred boundaries breached mine and then I bugged another colleague out of hours for further assistance…bad boundary blurring behaviour all round! We’ve been talking about the uncomfortable truth that a lack of healthy boundaries is a fast track to burn out for health professionals in group mentoring and the end of the year is always…opportune!
Mentee: “I felt challenged in a way where I was reviewing my own boundaries from an overall perspective over a period of time. I’ve worked in retail for 15 years now (as a student nat initially and then as a qualified naturopath) and I still find myself questioning how far I will go in certain respects especially when it comes to mental health (or people who appear vulnerable). When I was initially in practice I found my boundaries challenged to another degree, where I would accept every person who came through the door, whether I felt ready or not, or willing to take on the case, which essentially led me to burning out.
Now as I get ready to start again in practice, I feel more prepared to set clear boundaries from the get go (give myself permission to do that) and check in with myself if I feel they are about to be crossed or not in alignment with me. It feels like an important and healthy assessment tool to utilise as a health care practitioner.”
As a profession we need to pool some solutions.
Instead of the reflexive, ‘Just pop me an email if you have any questions’, at the end of each consult which can constitute the equivalent of a blank cheque (!!), perhaps we can say, “If you need to clarify any advice I’ve given you today drop me an email and for any other questions that arise, we can decide whether we need to bring your next appt forward or schedule a between appointment phone consult” Or if you’re a practitioner who sees the value (and there is much research to support this) in increased touch points with patients, for better compliance and improved outcomes, then structure your billing accordingly. This from one of our cluey new grad mentees, ‘If you want to offer this add-on time as part of your service then you need to account for it e.g. shave 15 mins off the actual face to face time that they’ve been charged for, so as to have this ‘up your sleeve’ for this express purpose. They breed ’em smart these days! Love it!
The end of the year is such an important time for reflection. What have you learned this year about your professional boundaries? Got some tips you’d like to share?
Shhhhhhhh(eesh)! I am confessing my sins. As part of our mentoring discussions we try to keep one another honest & in-check with, what seems to be, integrative health professionals’ innate flair for over-delivering. Name someone right now from another health modality that spends as much time on researching & working up your patients as you do. Name another kind of health professional who makes themselves as accessible as you do to their patients. See, I know
your type. And feeling like a donkey (in many regards) but especially as in the context of this evocative picture, is not something that happens just once in your career, which you learn from, adjust your load, and never repeat. I should know, I’ve had a bit of a donkey year, myself 🙄
Our old mate, Albert (Einstein), said, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
I think, for health professionals (at-times) over-endowed with care mixed with an infinite curiosity (for answers), we can find ourselves with quite the ‘heady mix’, an excessively heavy load and on a slippery slope of over-delivering. This manifests in different forms at different stages of our career. I’ve talked about some ‘so-common-I-wish-I-had-a-dollar-for-every’… ways practitioners over-deliver in the clinic before. But for those of us that are seasoned practitioners, we master the basics…no sharing of personal mobile phones or even email addresses, clear communication with clients about appropriate times and means of contact, we even commit to taking some time out for ourselves and our own wellbeing (Wowee watch us go!! Physician Heal Thyself!) but often we just find new ways to over-deliver. They sneak in and up on us. It takes us a while to realise we’re back in a familiar place of dangling donkey feet in the air, over-burdened by our load.
But perhaps we should think of this as Process (a lifetime one of becoming wise, like the other guy said) rather than a pathological problem.
And as we near the end of another year, a very taxing year for many of us, take this opportunity to pause, process the strengths and limitations of our practice model over the last 12months and adjust the load so we can proceed towards an ever more sustainable practice.
Because people need practitioners like us; full of care and curiosity, not overloaded donkeys who can’t go anywhere or carry their own load, let alone anyone else’s.
Got some tips you can share about healthy boundary setting for health professionals? We’d love to hear them 🙂
As a health practitioner, you are always actively building: your reputation, your practice and your knowledge. There’s theoretical …and then there’s applied. Some of the biggest leaps we take forward as practitioners come with being shown how (rather than told) & then being forced to ‘do the work’ ourselves, rather than being exposed to simply more information, be that about pathology, patient prescriptions or practice structure! The slogan ‘Just Do It!’, might have already been nabbed and TMed by a huge corporate beast, but this doesn’t undo the universal truth of it! Prefer your mantras to come from mystical philosophers rather than monster multinationals? How about this then?
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
This mentoring community that I am a part of, we are about applied learning. We learn by doing. We learn, not just through each individual’s patient encounters but through the collective clinical experience. We make what can otherwise be an isolating experience of constantly, seemingly, reinventing the wheel, if not many wheels (!), into one of collegiality and ‘using the force’. If you haven’t experienced Group Mentoring with me previously and are thinking about next year being your year (see below to find out more about our 2021 offerings), we put together this fun little video here to get across that mentoring isn’t about a conversation between just two people.
So….HoW dO YoU gET FroM HeRE tO tHeRe?
With Group Mentoring you’ll be learning, through the application of core clinical skills, improved patient questioning, methodical information gathering, evidence based answer finding & getting access to resources that you can apply in real-time in your own practice.
“Having the group session each month, as well as having Basecamp to bounce ideas around in, is a reassuring connection to know is there if I need it. Having just started practice this year and working in an environment without other Nats around, I have noticed the occasional feeling of isolation. So having the monthly catch up keeps me feeling connected to other clinicians and gives me exposure to other cases and perspectives that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.” – Georgie
We have a range of groups on offer to suit all levels and most types of integrative health modalities. Go to our Group Mentoring page to discover the groups and bonus extras on offer for 2021.
Going by the landslide registrations for 2020, our ongoing excellent retention rate of practitioners from year to year & our already overflowing waitlist for 2021, the reputation of RAN Group Mentoring is highly regarded and a popular choice.
So, if being part of our community excites you and if the thought of learning and applying collective knowledge from expertise outside of our own, now’s the time to put your hat 🎩 in the ring, put your hand up ✋🏼 & join the conversation 📣 through Group Mentoring.
2021 Group Mentoring Program Applications Open on 9th November!
Email email@example.com to let us know you are interested.
When you start doing this with your patients’ pathology results, you know your client records are turning into a big hot mess and more importantly your ability to see the wood for the trees is seriously under threat! Private labs don’t play nicely with one another and if your patient has been to more than 1 pathology provider you lose an enormous amount of their potential value, blindsiding you to their patterns, & the most accurate interpretations. I have a saying when it comes to getting the most out of pathology in your practice: Cumulative Data is King & Context is Queen.
Increasingly we’re in in the fortunate position of patients taking responsibility for their health and coming armed with lab results – this cumulative data helps us to clearly see their ‘norms’ (as opposed to textbook ones) and therefore also any noteworthy variations.
But even in this luxurious position of multiple results across a variety of time points & stages of their life – our ability to derive the greatest understanding from these is greatly stunted if we don’t have the context.
For example: if he was ‘cross-fit-keto-crazy’ at the time, if she’d stopped being pregnant & started breastfeeding, if in light of a major shift in thyroid hormone results, they were on biotin, or iodine, or changed their dose of thyroxine or were drinking straight from the udder of a soybean (!) these all seem like fairly critical contextual details to be across, right? All of these factors: diet, acute health context, medications, reproductive state, even season… impact the lab results we expect to see and therefore should be captured and considered to form the most accurate interpretation. But how do we pull it all together in a systematic way that SAVES us time and SAVES your sanity and can keep growing alongside your ever-growing patient notes? Cue the: RAN Patient Pathology Manager!
Systems for sorting through huge amounts of patient information help us make sense of what we’re seeing…and help us spot the source & solutions.
Systematised patient timelines for a better overview of the chronology of any case, the RAN Patient Pathology Manager not only holds all the data for you, helping you keep more accurate records & make the most correct interpretation from these, but also maps and monitors changes related to various interventions. Lastly there’s my old BFF, Mindmaps and Timelines not ancient torture tools of clinical supervisors (!) but rather what distinguishes us as integrative, enabling us a to work up a case in a truly holistic fashion instead of: symptom–> solution, symptom –> solution. These are the 3 key clinic systems I really wished I’d had from the get-go…so, me and my team created them! We’ve re-crafted them with each year and this year our RAN Patient Pathology Manager has undergone a significant evolutionary leap and it comes with a comprehensive video explaining how to easily get the most out of this resource for all your patients. We always share these tools with all our mentees but we’re frequently asked how others can access them so this year we thought those of you out there just wanting a foot up with some better systems might like to get your hands on them too! Maybe this is one very practical part of the ‘new year new you’?
and watch this presentation now in your online account.
I take my job to heart. When someone asked me recently to choose the single value that spoke most to me personally I couldn’t seem to go past, ‘Purpose’. I feel very honoured to have contributed to the learning of so many health professionals in their undergraduate and so many more in their professional careers following graduation and I know that with this comes huge responsibility. Second on my values list (again, possibly unsurprising) is Empowerment & coming in with a photo finish at 3rd: Integrity. Discernment and critical thinking (about information, about research, about reflective practice) are perhaps the eggs in this souffle, helping us all to rise up.
As part of our critical thinking we need to accept a few truisms:
Research changes Experience changes Knowledge changes
Information is not static. So we need to ask ourselves, how long ago did I learn this? How long since I’ve checked it is still correct? And just because perhaps this information came out of the mouth of our mentors or teachers, makes it no less up for regular review. I’m trying to undertake these internal audits on a regular basis. Typically they’re prompted by bloody good questions my mentees have asked me. A question I can’t answer or, more to the point, I can’t answer with full confidence I’ve double-checked my old beliefs and understandings against new evidence recently…these almost always provoke a lost night of sleep for me. Not from sleeplessness per se but due to immersing myself in the latest research and performing a mini informal lit review, bringing out all my old beliefs/evidence etc. Marie Kondo style and asking do they still spark joy✨ (in light of the latest evidence)?! And yes sometimes there’s a little bit of heartache when you have to let your old tightly held beliefs and understandings go 😢
The 1st update is about N-acetyl cysteine. Some of you may have heard me previously question the efficacy of the vegan form. Now that all but 1 Australian product is vegan, produced from bacterial fermentation or purely synthetic, I was wayyyyyyyy overdue to check the validity of my old ideas. Let the record show, I was wrong. Unlike some other nutraceuticals like chondroitin sulphate, wherein the source radically changes the overall structure of the molecule and therefore its uptake and actions – the same is simply not true for NAC.
So those ducks, & their NAC rich feathers, can all sleep a little easier at last…phew! Now the 2nd internal audit well that did cause some tears for me…
Setting the record straight: The ABC of CDG
We often identify patients who could do with a little glucuronidation first aid: marked dysbiosis, Gilbert’s syndrome, oestrogen excess, cancer risk (especially bowel, breast & prostate) and one of our nutritional go-to’s has typically been Calcium D Glucurate. While there is ample evidence that one of CDG’s metabolites: 1,4 GL – inhibits beta-glucuronidase, is an antioxidant, platelet activation inhibitor and generally all-round good guy to have onboard, new research strongly challenges that oral CDG will convert to this at levels sufficient to support this detoxification pathway. Sounds like we’re overdue for an update on this supplement and when and where it might be useful in addition to how to find the real deal in real food!
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 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.
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.
My current count is about 13. Lucky for some? Patient advocate, referral point, primary prescribing practitioner, behavioural change motivator, wise business counsel, good empathetic listener, fearless myth buster, researcher, head chef to a group of nats…that’s the toughest hat right there, right?! 🤣
While there is a concern in naturopathy and integrative health that we increase our own load due to our eclecticism – I see this as a strength & part of the appeal.
But it does warrant regular review.
I semi-regularly cry-out, “I just want a normal job, you know 9-5, clock on, clock off.” To which anyone who knows me tends to drop to the floor in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. They’re right of course, I do not have the temperament or the ability to be sufficiently single-minded to work at Coles. And the reality is I do feel privileged and satiated by wearing all my different hats bar just a couple…but this is par for the course and part of the important reflective process we should all continually undertake in our careers: Which hat no longer fits me? Which gives me a bit of headache? We can then re-orient our work and our businesses in a way that tries to reduce, or remove altogether, our time spent in these roles.
“I am completely over giving 101 dietary advice!” I wish I had a holiday for every time I’ve heard a nat with more than 10 yrs experience say that!
“Oh the never ending story of answering my inbox!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” is another one on high rotation in our ranks.
These ‘lost loves’ and potential disproportionate time wasters should never be ignored & simply endured but should instead be met…head on. The more I hear about different practice models & observe my own business over 20+years, the more I can see that when a practitioner is losing too much time or job satisfaction, wearing some of these hats that no longer fit, the less financial growth and sustainability their practice model holds. I know…them’s fighting words! Anyway, I’ll be talking about this and the delicate balance of our mild super-powers V our soft underbelly at Vicherbs monthly meet-up Sept 26th if you live in Melbourne and want to come along the join in the conversation. I think it’s a good one that we need to keep having.
2020 Group Mentoring Program Applications Open in October!
The Group Mentoring program provides integrative nutrition practitioners with monthly sessions of the most accelerated form of post-graduate education and clinically relevant skill development. Join this online 12 month program of like minded professionals and work with Rachel through real clinical cases and questions presented by each member in a collegiate setting. If you know you want in for next year already, get ahead of the queue and email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
“Rachel’s mentor program is something I look forward to each month and I feel very privileged to be one of her mentees (or mintees as she likes to call us). Each session is action packed with so much information shared that my brain gets a lot of dopamine hits! Rachel has a rare talent of teaching in a way that makes the most complicated information easy to understand, and even fun! The learning doesn’t stop after each mentor session. The group, including Rachel, will share research and continue to follow the cases shared. Amazing value for money. I know this is something I will want to do my whole career…there is always something more to be learned.”
VINKA WONG | Clinical Nutritionist, New Zealand
Breaking up is hard to do (sounds like the name of a song!) but it shouldn’t be! I got an email this week from one of my gorgeous long-term mentees in the vein of a ‘Dear John’ letter. She carefully, beautifully gently let me know… “I’ve found someone else…”
“This is not an easy decision as I have major Rachel Arthur FOMO and visions of my knowledge falling down a deep crevice and never coming back. My motivation for this decision is related to my strong interest in women’s health. I have an increasing number of complex cases around this topic and have sought extra mentoring and I am turning into a mentoring junkie. Now there is nothing wrong with this in theory and a recent post you did about all the mentoring you do and mentors having mentors I saw as sign to keep on seeking mentorship but again that was the RA FOMO speaking… Anyway, I have struggled with the perception this might relay – that I think I’ve got it all covered and I simply don’t but I do think this is the right thing for me at this time.
Thank you Rachel for the exponential help you have provided me since I started mentoring in 2017 and for the level of knowledge and commitment you bring to our profession. I am truly grateful and proud to have been a RA mentee.”
This email really made me really smile – how can this not be good news??? This type of letter or break-up email can have the sender feeling a bit apprehensive about a possible negative response but as I read the email I couldn’t suppress a smile from ear to ear! Not because I’ve got one less person to mentor and more time for lazing around Byron’s beaches with all the instamummies 😉 but for me there was nothing but good news in this development… I love witnessing this practitioner’s growth, their movement into a new field of specialisation and I celebrate this decision. I still have my own mentors…and not just one by the way, but several due to the expertise of each – mental health; herbalist; heavy metals etc. It’s always about finding the best brain’s trust for the job at hand.
I want everyone to find their best mentors to support them in each & every stage of their career
as an integrative health practitioner.
Over the years I’ve received amazing feedback on my mentoring services and often the misperception that my knowledge infinite! Yes I am a journal junkie and I do have 20+ years practice under my belt but…I believe a good mentor has their own mentors. Your mentors may change over time to strengthen different muscles or skill sets and it’s knowing where to look for answers, how to always apply critical thinking and developing your own brains trust tha.
Rachel’s hugely popular New Graduate Group Mentoring, which launched this year, is designed to help anyone who wants support transitioning from student (or lapsed practitioner!) to Naturopathic or Nutrition clinicians with a difference! This online 11 month program is a great way to develop your confidence, skills and knowledge. The bonus with these sessions is you’ll find your tribe, gain support and radically build your toolkit. Applications for 2020 open in October – you can put your name on our wait-list now for this and all other groups by emailing us at email@example.com.
Show me a nutrient that doesn’t demonstrate a U shaped curve with our health (too little produces negative effects – too much produces negative effects) and I’ll go ‘HE!’ Go on…try it now… But the way many have been taught nutrition has lead to some erroneous thinking, it would seem, about the inherent ‘safety’ of all micronutrient prescriptions. To know these vitamins and minerals well is to respect their potency in every sense – from their incredibly positive application at both physiological doses, correcting deficiencies, and in a small number of scenarios almost pharmacological benefits, when used at doses that are intended to exceed the natural physiological state (think IV vitamin C, or high dose B3 for lipid-lowering as two famous examples), to their potential for fallout when healthy levels are unwittingly exceeded, especially long-term.
Our risks of over-supplying individual micronutrients have arguably been amplified by the industry’s increasing promotion of nutritional formulas or complexes over the use of single nutrients. How often do you go through and studiously add up all your cumulative totals for individual nutrients for each prescription?
Especially those that tend to find their way into such a large number of formulas and have clear upper limits, such as Vitamin B6, Folate, Selenium and Manganese…to name a few of my (not so) favourites.
Many of you will know I am a fan of staying single 😉 I mean using single nutrients rather than all the ‘bells-&-whistles-formulas’ we’ve come to rely on so heavily. This is one key reason. But the other is that many of these formulas are someone else’s, perhaps a whole tech team’s, idea of what a ‘generic’ low thyroid patient, or an ‘average’ immune challenged patient needs. Not sure about you, but I don’t subscribe to ‘average’ and ‘generic’ when it comes to nutrition…that’s one of naturopathic nutrition’s key criticisms of conventional dietetics, right? So where does this reliance on generic nutritional complexes comes from? Is it purely convenience -yours and the patients?
Or are we insecure in our confidence in creating our own crafted formulas? Is it a need to know our tools of trade better..because if we did, might we better realise the power and potency (positive or negative) of our own prescriptions? Especially in the realm of accurate assessment and individualised requirements.
The latter is my call to action on this, predictably! 😉
I am often asked about where my ‘nutritional nous’ comes from. Which magic journals do I subscribe to that fill my head so full? What non-existent-far-superior-course did I undertake? The answer I give is the same every time. I had one solid nutrition teacher in my under-graduate across my 4 years of naturopathic nutrition at SSNT. What made her so good and why has so much she taught stayed with me? She simply taught me every single nutrient literally from the ground (soil) all the way up (human nutritional physiology) and everything in between. Once you know each nutrient that well and the big concepts that are a truism in nutritional science…you can never go back and you will practice nutritional medicine at its best. My wishful thinking? I wish that for us all 😉
Mastering Micronutrients – 4 hours & clinical tools that will seriously change the way you work in Nutrition
Let’s 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 feel satisfied with their original training – will find a lot in this critical review that is new, insightful and truly practise-changing!
With the increasing weight of evidence pointing to a potent pathogenic portal between our mouths and every other part of the body, whether that be in terms of cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, appendicitis, even a growing case for Alzheimer’s disease, we need to ensure we’re not overlooking the condition of each patient’s oral cavity. I got very excited about the recent Medscape article: A rapid non-invasive tool for periodontitis screening in a medical care setting. It’s true, I live a quiet life 😉 But seriously, a validated tool for all non-dentists to accurately pick up on the likelihood of this condition would be a nifty little thing indeed, so we can narrow down just who we quick-march off the dentist as well as understand their whole health story. But then I read the 8 actual questions which included gems such as: Do you think you have gum disease? and Have you ever had treatment for gum disease such as scaling and root planing, sometimes called “deep cleaning”? I thought, ok, this is not rocket (dental) science.
But that’s the point, I guess, right?
So while I encourage you to check out & employ this screening tool by all means, we can also be reassured that just by ensuring that when we ask about someone’s digestion (and when don’t we?!) we start at the very top of the tube, we’re doing a good job!! As my new grad mentees learnt this year…following the patient’s GIT from mouth to south anatomically, is my rather simplistic way of guaranteeing I cover everything digestive..without using formal consultation script. So in the case of the mouth, my questions include things like: last trip to the dentist; any prior dental diagnoses, number of amalgams, implants, root canals etc & their routine dental care techniques, any signs of bleeding on brushing & all foods they avoid for dental or oral reasons? Look, it hasn’t undergone the rigorous validation that the Self-Reported Oral Health Questionnaire has..but I think it’s a good start.
Whether we’re being picky about pathogens and exactly how they got access to the rest of the body (and gums make a great entry point!!) or just concerned about chronic low level inflammation, a ‘gurgling’ CRP between 1-5 in an otherwise ‘healthy adult’, picking up on periodontitis is a pivotal.
Oh and if you’ve ever wondered about possible health implications from mouth metals other than amalgams…don’t worry, soon I’ll be getting to that with a forthcoming UU30.
Want to hear more about how certain microbiota (from the mouth to the south) are being implicated in joint diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis and how we can investigate these individuals? Getting to the Guts of Women with Joint Pain is a recent UU30 instalment that gets down & dirty on the detail.
I’ve had a bit of ‘a bee in my bonnet’ this year. I heard that! Ok, arguably it extends a little further back…like my whole career! But if you’ve seen the topics I’ve been speaking on at conferences in recent months, you’ll know exactly the soapbox I’ve climbed up onto. Inter-professional communication & collaboration. My particular focus (naturally 😉 ) has been current issues regarding the sharing of, and access to, pathology results for our shared-care patients. However, in the face of several distinct threats to the practise of both naturopathy and medicine in Australia of late, especially in the form of anti-collaborative rhetoric/push affecting both professions right now (read PHI reforms, promptly followed by proposed MBA review..if you haven’t read this regressive and repressive set of recommendations you seriously must), the question of how to improve collaboration in order to ultimately serve our patients better, has never been more urgent.
Last week, at the ICCMR conference, I outlined the current barriers for naturopaths to accessing patients’ pathology results (current and historical) and the heightened risks that this results in, either because of incomplete information or because of the subsequent direct pathology referring by naturopaths. Yes, bypassing the GP and another set of trained eyes on your patients labs comes with risks. I also spoke to the opportunities that await us if we can overcome this: in terms of improved patient outcomes, reduced risk, more economically responsible public health budget spending etc. etc. need I go on?! In the Q & A following my presentation, a doctor in the audience made two very important contributions, which deserve some additional air…she said:
“Shouldn’t the patient ultimately own their own pathology results? Then it would be a case of them electing who has access to these: their GP, their naturopath, their osteopath. Rather than the other way around – after all, we are all supposed to be members of their health care team, right?”
She said it. Not me. But I applaud her. She’s right of course. Right now, under the current proposed changes, we and integrative health care delivery and patients’ right to choose and self-direct their healthcare and public health budgetary burden…are all under threat of de-evolving. Right at the time when, with the current chronic disease burden and predicted public health budget blowouts, it should be all hands to the pump! Who has ever conducted a cost-benefit analysis of what integrative health care (successful patient sharing between naturopaths and GPs /specialists) saves the government? No one is my guess and when I proposed I do exactly this for my PhD on a particular parameter some years back, I was not so subtly told, that in spite of a great application, given the primary funding of the research group was from government, and a clear conflict of interest with the head researcher who was also a government advisor, ” my proposal was not in line with the current directives”. Yep.
Last week, a dear mentee of mine mentioned that a GP one of her patients sees responded to her respectful correspondence regarding their shared patient with absolute terror, citing possible de-registration if they are seen to be collaborating or interacting with her in any way…assuming the MBA changes go through. This doctor then decided the lesser risk, was to cease communication with this other key member of the patient’s health care team, not refer the patient for any follow up investigations (including those representative of basic duty of care) and certainly not enable access to any pathology results for this patient from the past or in the future. My mentee’s exemplary response to this doctor:
“My apologies for placing you in an uncomfortable position. I do understand the restrictions and guidelines GPs must work within for Medicare and AHPRA and understand that as you are the requesting practitioner you are liable for any pathology referred for. I make this clear to all my patients and that my referrals are on a request base only and it is up to yourself or the requesting GP for the final decision. I only try and request pathology through a GP or other medical practitioner to try and minimise both risks (of only myself viewing these labs) and unnecessary costs to the patient.
…’X’ has currently been seeking medical and alternative treatment for over 2 years and yet has had no change, if not a worsening of his condition and when I saw them 2 weeks ago, it was my understanding that not even basic assessment of full blood count, liver function and other general health markers had been completed. I had advised X that not all pathology may be covered under Medicare, and to come back to me so I could send him privately for those tests not able to be completed under Medicare. My apologies this was not made clear to you at the time of his appointment.
I take pride in my evidence-based approach to nutritional health in my practice, and work frequently with other patients’ medical practitioners in supporting their health. Thank you for your time and I appreciate your thoughts on this matter”
If the patients’ best interests are no longer the primary goal, as decided by bureaucrats, both government and organisational, is it time to ask the actual health professionals to please stand up?! Is it tipi-talk time for practitioners from all disciplines? Growl over.
Want to ensure you are writing professionally to other health care practitioners? Then our recording and resource Dear Doctor, is for you!
In this 45min podcast Rachel succinctly covers the serious Do’s and Don’ts for your professional letter writing. Rachel gives step-by-step instructions and examples for key phrasing and clear medical justifications, what terms to use when in order to come across respectfully, and how to present urgent red flags without sensationalising. This podcast is will help your professional letters improve collaboration for you and your patients need.
In 1 of about 3 storage facilities for tinctures…yes they go through that much!
My career path has taken me a long way and in a very different direction from the one I started on. During my uni days I wildcrafted herbs, enthusiastically made potions and, yes as the semi-famous story goes, even misidentified one wild-crafted species and accordingly almost poisoned my mother and me. Ahhh the good old days. But seriously, I did initially aspire to become a great herbalist. Then I almost poisoned myself again with some over-enthusiastic dosing in fourth year – and perhaps like people who’ve ever made themselves truly hideously sick on a particular alcohol, have struggled consuming tinctures myself ever since. I know…right…it was as much that the nutrition path chose me as it was that herbal medicine said, no thanks!
Last week, after speaking at an event, I went walkabout around Hobart & had the great fortune to visit both the Gould’s Apothecary & their herb farm, Bronzewing and I was potently reminded of why this core naturopathic modality is so incredibly appealing & powerful – for practitioners and patients alike – when it is executed with such a high level of integrity.
You’ve heard it all before, right? Perhaps even done the taste test comparison between a ‘regular’ ginger or echinacea or…whatever herbal prep and one born from Gould’s and had that ‘Aha!’ moment? Yes, me too, but seeing it with my own eyes from paddock to…product…was even more impacting. Herbs are not my strong suit in naturopathy & never will be, that’s why I have monthly mentoring specifically in herbal medicine with a colleague who lives and breathes herbs, however, I love that it is hers and others and via collaboration, we can give our patients it all. Especially, if we are discerning regarding herbal product quality. Oops did I just say that out loud? [trouble maker!]
Drying calendula and some other green herb! LOL
Apparently, this 3 storey heritage apothecary is already firmly on the selfie-taking map among tourists (who happen to also be naturopaths) – but if you haven’t already done so, don’t miss it if you go to Hobart…that and Mona 😉
Harvesting Echinacea flowers, I know, how instagrammable right?!
The incredible Greg Whitten who runs the herb farm
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??!! 🙂
While this ABC article is written for the public it’s a great checklist to have written up somewhere to prevent against placing your confidence in the wrong sources of info.
Just recently, I had a practitioner ask about the ‘risks’ of B12 dosing…& while B12 is considered to be free of a toxicity profile in just about any textbook or in-depth review paper you can find, a ‘methylation’ expert had made mention of there being demonstrated increased oxidative stress.
My response, ‘Have you checked their references?’
I get it, right, we’re all busy people and don’t have the time for a full literature review of every claim made by every educator, ‘expert’ or company… BUT sometimes a credibility check can be lightning fast!!!! As was the case in this instance.
I did check this expert’s reference (singular). I read the full article just out of interest but actually, I didn’t need to. I had my answer just by reading the title and abstract…the study was conducted in genetically altered rats made alcoholic and injected with B12 or something to that effect. Relevance?? Which is in stark contrast to the absolute consensus from 100s of human studies concluding that B12 toxicity is NOT a thing.
That also means this particular expert’s references probably need to be checked every time of course…until you can be more confident in the quality of their claims – tough but true. Below are the 7 top Qs to try and answer to determine the quality of any claim – and remember you rarely have to complete the list to get your answer…just start with reading the title of their key reference!!!
1. Who says? (….and what agenda/bias might they have)
2. Sample size ( a response rate of 20% might mean something in a sample of 10000 & nothing in a sample of 10!)
3. Lab-bench or real world
4. Correlation V causation
5. Statistically significant V clinically significant (…if something was shown to reduce people’s migraine pain by a rating of 0.5 – but most people rate their pain at 10/10…is it actually clinically meaningful?!)
6. Does the dose relate? (…watch out for animal studies where they are using doses at mg/kg body weight…that we could never match with oral dosing in humans because they would be eating buckets of the stuff!)
7. Got some time?…then dig a little deeper…if your article has passed all the above checkpoints and you’re still dubious (and this does happen!) check out who has cited this paper (easy via Google Scholar) and whether other researchers are in agreement or not with their findings. What’s been published in this area since then?
Oh and this article is also handy for the occasional misguided patient – who’s found some incredulous online info about something that contradicts your contrastingly well-sourced & quality-checked knowledge! 😉
Our new – New Graduate Mentoring Program kicks off in late January and offers an incredible opportunity for successful applicants to develop their core clinical competencies in record time during their transition into practice. Real world research cheat tips, is just one of the many practical competencies covered across the year’s curriculum. But if you’re interested in applying, jump onto it! Applications close on the 15th November
As an avid reader of medical news I face a barrage of headlines both domestic & international everyday. I feel this is important for many reasons – not just so that I know what’s being said about their medicine but what they’re saying about ours as well! Anyone see the jaw-dropping headline last week: Could Probiotics be bad for your gut? Yep.
Now how many of you didn’t make it past the headline? It’s hard isn’t it.
There’s almost a reflexive shutdown for many of us to dismiss such a proposition as simply ‘ridiculous’, surely on par with our response to an article from a climate skeptic…as we shake our heads with ‘you gotta be joking right?’… but unless we read on, we’ll never know. (more…)
I was lucky enough to hear Jason Hawrelak’s excellent presentation at the Australian Naturopathic Summit last weekend, titled: A Case of Blastocystis Infection – Or Is It? Timely, highly valuable, immediately usable, provocative education (just how I like it 😉 ) on how perhaps often Blasto is playing the scapegoat for another condition/cause of patients’ GIT symptoms. During this case study, Jason detailed the shonky diagnostic work-up of his current patient by a naturopath 12 years prior…that naturopath was him.
There was so much to love about his telling of this case study and the discourse around it but here are my Top 3 Takes:
- None of us know everything or practice perfectly but rather we do what we do, until we know to do differently…even Jason 😉
- As there are 9 strains of B.hominis found in humans and many of these are in fact benign commensals, even perhaps important ‘apex predators’ for the microbiome, attributing someone’s health problems (digestive or otherwise) to the presence of this parasite should in fact be a diagnosis of exclusion…always asking yourself first, what else could it be?? e.g. coeliac, SIBO, food reactions etc etc
- The cost of being a ‘premature evaluator’, to your patients and to yourself, can be very high…
If you’ve not seen Kitty Flanagan’s skit on current coffee culture...it’s essential viewing. In true Kitty-fashion, she wants to simplify coffee ordering down to 2 basic lines – White or Black – says all our pretentious coffee orders; macchiato, skinny, decaf, half strength, latte etc can essentially be reduced down to a much faster 2 queue system. But she’s forgotten the line for taking your coffee rectally. Sorry – did I make you just spill your coffee? Knowing How across health trends Kitty is, she’ll add this 3rd queue soon, if the number of patients asking me about this or telling me they’re already doing it. Now, while enemas had a place in naturopathic history, my training never covered them and, consequently, I’ve never included them in my practice. But the more hype I heard around coffee enemas specifically, the more I thought we better find out as much as we can, so at least we can better inform ourselves and our patients. And of course the monkey on your back, called FOMO, jumps up and down, incessantly asking, “Are you (and your patients) missing out on an amazing therapy?”
The first patient who told me they were using coffee enemas daily was a celeb. A very anxious one. Who also told me she couldn’t possibly drink chai let alone coffee because of the caffeine. This had me a bit stumped…I knew she wasn’t inserting decaff up there and I thought…well given the colon is SUCH an absorptive surface surely this is why she reported feeling, ‘so energised, more clear headed’ etc. with every enema?
But I wanted to find out for sure (more…)