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…)

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…)

Working on the Edge

thin teen

May was the month of teenage girls presenting with severe digestive problems, especially ‘food intolerances’,  leading to avoidance of specific foods and at times significantly reduced food intake overall.  As integrative health practitioners,  validating and creating insight for clients on the nature and source of their food reactions is our bread and butter, right?  Is it wheat?  Dairy? Gluten? FODMAPs? Salicylates? Oxalates?  We are not surprised by how many ‘sick’ patients we see in spite of a theoretically ‘healthy diet’ – healthy for others perhaps but not  for the individual in front of you, right? But what if I told you that each of these teenage girls had a BMI < 18 kg/m2, does that change your opinion about your role?  Would you assess, monitor and manage these teenage girls differently? You should.

Take the example of one of my clients: 14yo female with a BMI 16.3, who had her first confirmed food reaction under 2yo with failure to thrive, which was attributed by a paediatrician & dietitian at the time to severe salicylate sensitivity.  She underwent jejunal biopsy at 3yo for suspected coeliac disease, due to ongoing concerns and a primary relative with CD but it was NAD.  In the 11 years since, there have been a couple of other digestive diagnoses based on solid evidence, such as mainstream stool PCR testing. So surely, the fact that she is underweight & that she skips lunch at school due to digestive discomfort is proportionate and explained by her organic digestive issues. Or is it? (more…)

Elusive Integration?

integration

Just back from a truly wonderful Australasian Integrative Medical Association (AIMA) conference in NZ.  I don’t know what it is about the land of the long white cloud but they seem to produce some of the loveliest, most earnest health practitioners and this conference reflects this, setting itself apart each year as a result of its very organic mix of speakers (general practitioners, naturopaths, nurses, specialists) who are all equally embraced and lauded. To boot we had medical students invited to attend this year and guess what, these 20 or so med students…they stayed for the full weekend much to everyone’s surprise(!), loved it and want more. Really.  At the AIMA NZ conference, on the two occasions I have spoken, I feel a sense of coming home…no I don’t mean I am about to move there (too cold!!) but I mean coming home to integrative medicine. (more…)

Taking Care Down There

picture1Often we assume our patients know at least the basics about health – especially about things soooo seemingly basic…that we fear mentioning them would offend and make us look like someone trying to teach grandma anything!  But there are some instances where I’ve found I have simply assumed too much.

I think the issue of what I affectionately call ‘Vag Care’, is right up there as an example.

Soapy water?  Female deodorisers, daily panty liners, re-enacting bad movie scenes with soapy suds sex…what the???  It’s been my astonishing discovery that women of all ages, but especially a frightening majority of younger females (<30 yo), in this time of increasingly unreal ideas about sex and sexuality, feel inclined or pressured to adopt these practices in order to erase all trace of natural odour and healthy discharge. The abnormal has become normalised.  (more…)

Mental Health Assessment for the Integrative Practitioner

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I became interested in working in mental health not entirely of my own free will.  I guess you could say, it had made it’s way into my world via family members and friends as well as my own problems when I was younger. So when I was at uni and I came across any information about mental illness, whether it was pathology or prescription, it was when I undoubtedly resonated most strongly with what I was learning. I’ve had some great opportunities throughout my career to feed my interest, met some wonderful mentors and some other powerful teachers who were often my patients. It’s now become a running joke among my teenage children that all my friends are either psychologists or have some sort of mental health diagnosis, ‘…and what does that say about you?’ they love to add teasingly.  Well it says a lot probably: that I enjoy people who are comfortable talking about the psychology of our lives and ourselves, that I deeply appreciate that to be human is to suffer and we all suffer it’s just a question of degrees and the bravest of us share that with others.  Lastly, I think it tells you that I live in the real world with real people 🙂 (more…)

Anti-Epileptic Medications & Nutrient Interactions 101

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Ok here’s a gripe I’m having currently.  I have a number of patients who are taking anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) and most of these are children who require them for seizure control.  Naturally, working alongside such serious pathology and these critical medications requires a conservative and evidence based approach to ensure the safety of any added intervention.  Fortunately, this is something I would like to think is one of my strengths.  When these patients present seeking nutritional support, I typically refer them for investigations that can help to clarify what, if any, nutrients are imbalanced because of their long-term AED use or perhaps because of other independent reasons that may compromise they’re overall wellbeing.  I feel that in such a vulnerable population I need to confirm nutritional deficiencies to check my assumptions, prove a need for supplementation and prevent against any excess or creation of further imbalance…and by doing so, I can adhere to my motto of least medicine, is best medicine.

The fact is AEDs are notoriously associated with a long list of potential negative nutrient interactions and the evidence to support this is extensive, this includes but is not limited to: folate, B12, B3, B6, zinc & vitamin D and the deficiencies potentially produced by the AEDs can be quite severe depending on a range of individual factors.  For many of these nutrients, the research goes further and has shown that correction of the deficiency leads to better drug efficacy – therefore adjunctive nutritional monitoring and correction would seem like a real ‘win win’ situation.

(Stargrove,MB. et al. Herb, Nutrient & Drug Interactions – Clinical Implications & Therapeutic Strategies. 2008) (more…)

What Does the new RACGP Guideline re Naturopathic Requests Mean?

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It’s taken a little while for me to collect my thoughts on this one. Initially there was a little flash of anger, frustration and a good deal of huffing and puffing when I heard about the RACGP guidelines recommending GPs say no to any requests from naturopaths for further investigation of their shared patients… but I’m over that now. In an interview on 702 ABC Sydney radio last week, Stephen Eddy, the vice president of ATMS, responded to these guidelines by suggesting that a blanket directive for GPs to ignore all requests from all naturopaths about all testing didn’t really sound sensible or appropriate. Here here! Surely, in the pursuit of evidence based medicine and discerning practice decisions, each case should be considered on an individual basis.  I think Stephen Eddy gives GPs more credit for being able to make these judgements than their own association! (more…)

A Duck Called Homer? (HOMA-IR)

Duck called HomerMost of us know that measuring a fasting blood glucose to assess how well someone is managing their glucose levels is about as crude and insensitive as waiting for the smoke detector alarm to tell you your dinner is cooked!  If we wait to see an abnormal result here we’ve missed a prime opportunity for patient education and prevention long ago.  Much the same story if you’re looking at HbA1c results.

To explain this I always use the analogy of a duck.  A duck will always be able to swim but the question is how much effort does it have to exert to swim the same distance?  If your blood glucose is within range after an overnight fast that’s as good as saying, ‘this duck can swim the length of the pond’.  What it doesn’t tell you is how fast its little legs are paddling in order to achieve that.  Measuring a fasting insulin at the same time, however, tells us some additional important information.  It tells you how fast the duck’s legs are paddling just to keep its head above water!  The more insulin you’re having to secrete to just maintain normal blood glucose levels, the more alarmed we should be! (more…)

The Inclusive Specialist?

 

Lots of great conversations with practitioners following my recent post on the need to specialise – really thought provoking & clarifying ones which makes me think it’s been a good conversation starter. Key things that have come up for people are:

  • How do I choose my area of speciality…e.g. is a spin the bottle approach required?
  • Is specialisation sensible when you’re only just starting out or should you be taking everyone and anyone to begin with?
  • Is specialising even naturopathic given we have a holistic approach to health?? …e.g. I might say, I only do gut but for my IBS patients there’s a whole lot of stress management & mental health stuff that needs addressing along the way

Great questions 🙂 Now remember, all I’m offering here is my opinion, I don’t think there is a definitive answer to these but I think we should keep the conversation going as a way of keeping us thinking about the way we choose to practice rather than assuming there’s only one way to be a naturopath in clinic. (more…)

Bad Patient Days (BPDs)

I was chatting with a colleague today about a complicated & interesting case of hers, severe hypothyroidism coupled with overt hypercortisolemia (salivary cortisol up to 230!).  This is a distance patient & she’s sharing care with a couple of other health professionals with conflicting ideas…tricky!!

So when my friend received an email last week to the tune of… “things are bad, everything is terrible if not worse”, then naturally she starts worrying: What has she missed? What’s gone wrong?  What more could/should she have done? Is this some sort of aggravation to the treatment she’s recommended?

This is the place our minds naturally go when faced with these scenarios however one of the things I have really learned over years in clinic is that patients, like me, like everyone else I know, are labile, in the moment kind of creatures & we’re all vulnerable to having BPDs. (more…)

Nutritional Science & Debate in Action

 

Last weekend I attended the Science of Nutrition in Medicine Conference in Melbourne https://nutritionmedicine.org.au/enews/2015-02-06-Program.html and for those of you that didn’t make it I can tell you, it wasn’t your regular CPE event.  I’m not sure if the debate inside the presentations or outside in the breaks was more interesting but I can say that I haven’t seen this much stimulated thought, heated discussion and passion at company run events.  Why? (more…)

Top 10 Investigations in Mental Health Patients

One of the most common questions I’m asked is whether I have a ‘set list’ of tests that I request for every patient.  Of course there is no ‘one size fits all’ in health & each patient presents with their own novel combination of issues & investigative challenges, however, years of clinical experience have taught me which pathology parameters are the most clinically meaningful.

Asking yourself, ‘Will the results of this test determine my thoughts about treatment & therefore ultimately the clinical outcome for my patient?’, before referring for any investigation is a good habit to get into.

Many of us are increasingly aware of the changing environment around pathology testing, which includes reduced access to some tests in mainstream pathology.  Rbc folate has had its subsidy withdrawn which means if we request this we’re now likely to receive a serum value or nothing.  But does this matter? (more…)

Do you mind if I record our appointment?

I read an interesting news item in Medical Observer this week about the increasing number of patients either overtly or covertly recording medical appointments on their smart phones.  Have some of your patients already asked if they could do this?  Mine have and I’m also aware of some patients getting into hot water when asking their ‘old-school’ medical specialists if they could do the same thing. For me, I have always understood the patient’s desire to do this, as the information they’re being given might be complex, considered critical and they may need to hear it several times in order to grasp the details, instructions etc. In other situations I’ve experienced it’s because the patient needs someone else, who couldn’t be present at the appointment, to hear the discussion ‘firsthand’ e.g. another parent, a partner.  In my mind this all makes good sense.  Does it make me speak differently, think more carefully about my words etc…You bet it does!  (more…)

Another Piece of Naturopathic Nutritional Wisdom Goes Mainstream

Over 20 years ago (ouch!) while studying at Southern School of Natural Therapies, I heard for the first time that calcium perhaps had a ‘dark side’!  At the time, and still to a large extent now, calcium is publicly portrayed as something you simply can’t get enough of and 20yrs ago this idea was almost heresy! Certainly in the eyes of the dairy corporation at least 🙂 Yet there had been a long-standing concept in naturopathic nutrition that the distinction between calcium’s healing and harm all came down to where it resided in the body, e.g. bones Vs blood vessels.  Last week Medscape ran an editorial espousing the same concept. (more…)

End of Year CD Clearance

As we head rapidly towards the change over of our calendars we would like to offer you a special on the very best educational recordings from 2014 – buy 2 CDs before Jan 31st and receive one complimentary Premium Audio Recording of your choice  OR purchase 4 CDs and receive a 3 month Premium Audio subscription for free

It’s been a busy year during which Rachel has delivered 7 very successful new seminars in the area of mental health and  beyond, most notably fortifying her role as a leader in the field of diagnostics and pathology interpretation.  This has included collaborations with ACNEM, Biomedica, Health Masters Live, MINDD and Nutrition Care, however, each recording is classic Rachel – full of fresh perspectives on diagnosis & treatment, colourful analogies  & humour.  In case you missed some of these this year or want a copy for keeps – here’s a quick summary of the 2014 recordings included in this end of year offer: (more…)

Mental Health – The Real Story

“Two great speakers – inspirational in the first half and bang on in the second – I now know how much I don’t know”

Just out now in time for Christmas…no seriously though… this year I had the good fortune to team up with Biomedica and in particular Rachel McDonald and we delivered a 3 hour seminar called Mental Health in Holistic Practice.  The intention behind this collaboration was to shift the education focus for practitioners from a prescription based approach, to one really about the clinical reality of managing mental health clients.  Probably most of you will agree that the ‘treatment’ counts for only a portion of the positive outcomes in your patients and this is particularly true in clients challenged with mental health issues. After more than 20 years in practice working in this area, I’m keen to share what I’ve learned so other practitioners can get there much much faster! (more…)

When I grow up

When I grow up I’d like to be a few different things, forget any ballerina or astronaut aspirations, my list includes a clinical psychologist, an integrative psychiatrist and last but by no means least, an endocrinologist.  I’m fascinated by hormones, their regulation & incredible interconnectedness and the longer I’m in practice and the more patients I see with hormonal issues, the deeper I dive into the endocrinology texts (Endocrinology by Greenspan & Baxter is an absolute favourite of mine and you can now purchase this as a download to your computer which is super handy).  I think (more…)

But doctor, what about nutrition?

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

I’m coming to Sydney!

So far this year I’ve been doing most of my presenting online which has been fantastic because we can all be in our PJs and no one’s the wiser (except now!!) but I do miss the face to face seminars where sometimes the real magic happens thanks to the two-way dynamic between you and me!

So guess what?  I’m coming to Sydney on the 31st August (and then Brisbane 6th September and then Melbourne 13th September) to touch base with many of you again.  I’m joining forces with Rachel McDonald from Biomedica to talk about the real world application of naturopathy in mental health conditions.  (more…)

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