NEW Dear Doctor – Upskilling in Referral Writing & Inter-Professional Communications

 

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”

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.

 

 

 

Are You Being Foxed By An Ox…alate Result?

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.

How Many Hats Have You Worn Already This Week?

 

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: admin@rachelarthur.com.au

“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

 

There’s Someone Else

 

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 admin@rachelarthur.com.au.

 

 

 

Nutritional Medicine: A Place For Science Not Wishful Thinking

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!

 

 

 

 

It’s Not Rocket (Dental) Science!

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. 

Time for Some Tipi Talks?

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.

 

Finding the Inner Herbalist

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

Someone’s Lost Might Be Your Found!

 

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??!! 🙂

Spotting an ‘Off’ Claim in Record Time

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?’
Their response,’No’

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

FAKE NEWS!…or just uncomfortable?..Read On

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…)

Are You a Premature Evaluator?

 

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:

  1. None of us know everything or practice perfectly but rather we do what we do, until we know to do differently…even Jason 😉
  2. 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
  3. The cost of being a ‘premature evaluator’, to your patients and to yourself, can be very high…

(more…)

How Do YOU Take Your Coffee??

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…)

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.

The Blame Game

Quite the month for it, I hear. My inbox has run hot with practitioners deeply concerned about some serious finger pointing that’s been going on.

The fingers in these instances have belonged to medical practitioners and the direction they’re all pointing, is seemingly at any complementary medicine their shared patient is taking.

Here’s a couple of good examples: “Your high blood pressure is the result of the combined mineral formula you’re taking!”   These were the words of a GP to a 50 something female patient when he discovered she was taking a calcium, magnesium, potassium containing formula.  The patient was hypertensive at the initial appointment, at which time the naturopath encouraged her to actually seek review, assessment and prescription of an anti-hypertensive, however the patient declined.  The nutritional prescription was recommended in response to high acidity (raised anion gap) and prematurely low GFR (impaired renal function). Patient’s HBP continued to be problematic so the next doctor she sees, points the finger and says, it must be this product!

Would anyone like to explain that to me? In fact, that was my advice back to this very concerned and understandably rattled practitioner…just to cordially request the GP to outline the mechanism by which this might occur.   (more…)

A Mum, Dad & Their Son Walk Into Your Clinic

They’ve just come from the immunologist, having presented with extensive vitiligo in dad and early stage vitiligo now in their primary school aged son.  The immunologist, without running a single blood test, told them, ‘Bad news, you both have autoimmune issues and watch this space because the vitiligo is just the first presentation, there will be more to come’.  Slightly unsatisfied with this dead-end conclusion and non-existent management plan, the family then presents at a long established naturopathic clinic to see Anna Sangster, a fabulously sleuth-like detective, who takes her patients’ health very seriously and has the knowledge and skills that make her one of the best at what she does. I can say that because I’ve been mentoring Anna for a long time & she is one of the clueiest practitioners I know.

For example, she knows about the substantial research demonstrating the overlap between thyroid autoimmunity and vitiligo and, in addition to comprehensive case taking, decides some blood tests may provide valuable insight that would help to understand the degree of self-attack from their immune systems, identify if there are in fact already concurrent autoimmune targets and perhaps even provide a clue as to underpinning drivers. Well, look what she found! (more…)

Is Your GP Doing it Tough Right Now?

If you receive the free Medical Observer newsfeeds you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Here are some recent headlines:

I stand accused of rorting Medicare.  This is what it’s like

A GP is sued after doing everything right — except her notes 

After-hours funding shakeup

‘We’re becoming unviable,’ says GP hit with $22K e-PIP repayment

This Christmas I wish for doctors to feel valued again

So the answer is, probably.  Tales direct from the trenches that I hear from GPs, suggest it is increasingly difficult to make a living without adhering to a crazy volume of <10min appts, without being sued (too often) or dragged in front of AMA or APRHA. I hear them and know that the increased pressure is coming from multiple angles and I think it is very sad that previously such a respected and valued role in society appears to be ‘losing its value’.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t agree with the old ‘Doctor as God’ model and think it ‘s very unhealthy actually for patients, but I feel like GPs with all their extensive training, knowledge and expertise are in urgent need of an Oprahesque ‘new dawn’!  (more…)

The Rachel Arthur Mentorship Program Honour Roll for 2017

Recognise your own name or someone else’s on this list?

Dear 2017 Group Minties aka Mentees.   I have always struggled with the term, ‘mentees’…seems too American or something and this morning when I was out walking, I had a light-bulb moment – I am proposing a re-branding to something much closer to home (!)… I propose we rename you Minties!! Because you are always fresh and you give me & your fellow Minties always something; cases, questions, clinical conundrums, ethical dilemmas,  every month to seriously get our teeth stuck into!  Cheesy but true 😉

Congratulations on completing your full year of group mentoring – and if this is your 2nd, your 3rd even your 4th year then I bow to you even more deeply.

Thank you for including me on your support team and entrusting me with helping you grow & develop as exceptional practitioners.

You should  be celebrated for your commitment to your own learning & your endeavour to always improve your knowledge and skills. (more…)

Two Women Over 70 Walk Into A Room…

No this is not a joke. The room they enter happens to be the clinic space of a practitioner I mentor.  The older women are friends, both originally from the UK and they sit in on one another’s consultations sharing many of the same experiences: grief over loved ones lost, memories, laughter and both describe waking in the morning with a sense of dread, because they’re tired, feel they’ve lost their oomph, their motivation, their chutzpah…that’s mostly why they’ve come today.

But know what else these two have in common?  (more…)