It has been interesting to be asked to do an article about what the old-timers are doing in naturopathic medicine. Overall, I don't feel that different than I did when I first came to Portland at the age of 28 to found the acupuncture program as part of NCNM. That was back in 1981 and I have learned a lot since then. I was so excited to find a medical school that I would attend in addition to starting the acupuncture school, which held my values. The following is some of what I've learned between then and now.
Part of what I've learned is to stay humble, because our information is evolving. We are merging the techniques of "old" time healers with new data and technology every day. I study new information, double-blind studies, and clinical studies daily in order to keep apprised of what's going on and I know I don't even scratch the surface. I teach pediatrics, neuroendocrinology, biochemistry, gastroenterology, immunology, psychoneuroimmunology, Chinese medicine and so on. Every year it seems like a new topic to me, as there is always so much to learn. I also find it is very important to collaborate with all kinds of other practitioners as they often know things I don’t know. Collaboration has become one of my favorite words. So I am humbled.
Gathering Data: What do I do when a patient comes in? I watch them. I watch them walk. I feel their handshake. I look at their face and look at their skin. I look at their color and their hair. I evaluate their blood, qi, yin, yang and Jing... all those Chinese terms, plus their vital force in naturopathic terms. I check their western medical vitals. I often know what I want to ask as soon as I see them. I do labs that check ferritin, Hgba1C, get a complete thyroid test and a GI panel and whatever else seems appropriate. When I order a CBC, I include a differential by hand, because it gives me so much more information. I do G.I. testing and gene testing to find out why they're getting sick and then I do nutrient testing to find out what's missing and what I need to give them. Sometimes I will order heavy-metal testing and sometimes allergy testing, although I usually ask the patient to do an anti-inflammatory diet instead. If a person can't afford testing, we can usually figure out what's going on anyway. But finding the subclinical infections and the nutrient deficiencies is really important.
I also ask them about their lives: Who were their parents, where were they born, what was that like, were they sick as a child, how was their childhood and of course why are they coming to see me. And then often I will say “Why else are you here?” There are usually reasons beyond their superficial symptoms. Sometimes they cry and say, "Well my husband has left me.” Then I know the other levels that I need to treat. It's like planting a flower bed or garden; I dig and explore and find what's there and what I need to do to make that soil fertile and produce optimal health for the plants/patient. It's really good to dig as deeply as possible and find the underlying difficulties. Such gardening is a great gift and I have so much fun and gratitude when I have the opportunity to help these people. I always learn the lessons of health with them.
Our base should be clean air, food and water, and good relationships; plus, a sustaining spiritual belief system.
Then I do a mixture of things after I've worked with the gut. I consider neurotransmitters and lifestyle and endocrine systems, musculoskeletal imbalances, check for infections and immunology- inflammatory problems, toxins and genes and I call this plan “PINGGET” (psycho, immuno,neuro, genetic, Gastric, endocrino, toxicology…) Or ”the multiple paths to vitality”.
Treating the flora and fauna is vital.
-Finding abnormal flora and treating it is essential (gut, lungs, ears, bladder, teeth...).
-Removal of allergens and poor food choices, as well as GMO foods, which I think is very destructive to individuals as well as our planet.
-Find the best foods for that particular individual. This is a long arduous process a lot of times because we are all different, but there are some basics: clean food, air, and water and relationships are the base. I usually go Paleo diet these days. Not a lot of grains because they're toxic for a lot of people. Organic is best, whole, fresh, unprocessed local foods are ideal.
Click here for an example case to understand my treatment methods: http://www.sunnysidecocare.com/#!Case-Study-Patient-with-Interstitial-Cystitis-By-Satya-Ambrose-ND-LAc/c10pw/3
Overall, I’ll support patients to be more self aware of their health and surroundings and avoid radiation, genetically modified food, pesticides and herbicides in their neighborhood, and make sure they have a source of clean water. I’ll also try to investigate the quality of their air and help them reduce their exposure to toxins. If they have enough money and motivation, I do gene testing, allergy testing, G.I. testing and nutrient analysis.
Being a Naturopathic Doctor and Acupuncturist continues to teach me that what I do matters. It is rewarding to see the impact we can have on an entire community by treating just one person well. If anything, being an old-timer has taught me that the basics still work. I will always gather data by watching, looking, listening and asking all the pertinent questions. As “alternative” doctors our patients appreciate the time we take to get to the root cause of their illness, rather than give them drugs to cover it up. I appreciate knowing I am making a difference in the lives of my patients and the public. By remaining humble I keep in mind that there will always be more to learn and more research papers to read. It is my hope that we all continue to help educate and treat people who are in desperate need of our services and each other. I feel like I have an obligation to reach out to as many people as I can. I hope you feel this way too.
Satya Ambrose, ND, LAc