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by Dr. Jeff Clark, Naturopathic Physician

My one sentence definition of "true health" is that it means feeling well, looking well, being of moderate body weight, and being physically able and active, all achieved without dependency on medications.

The name of our group medical practice, "True Health Medicine", is intended to be provocative. No physician nor school of medical thought can guarantee that everyone will always be able to achieve and maintain true health as I've defined it above, nor can we. Striving to achieve and maintain true health is the goal that I hold out for myself, my family members, and the patients who choose me as their licensed primary care physician. Choosing one's goal is the most fundamental first step in health care. The goal we choose to pursue affects the lifestyle choices we make, the treatment paths we follow, and the amount of effort we are willing to put into creating and maintaining our own well being.

If the goal is not true health and is instead to simply have symptoms go away from our awareness, that goal is frequently achievable at least temporarily with prescription pharmaceutical drugs and even with herbal medicines. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2004 that almost half of the entire US population is taking at least one prescription drug and 1 in 6 are dependent on three or more prescription medications. In the segment of the US population 65 years and older 5 out of 6 are permanently prescribed at least one prescription drug and almost half take three or more drugs1. Many people appear to be either pursuing a goal other than true health or have become compromised in their ability to achieve true health.

Is prescription drug dependency a way to achieve true health? I argue that it is not. Indeed, drug dependency may be necessary and life saving in some situations and better than the alternative. But it is always a compromise to the goal of true health. In many cases prescription drug dependency is not the only viable approach and yet all too often is presented by conventional physicians as the first and only therapy.

By its economic and political nature in the USA a prescription drug is required to be synthetic in order to achieve patent protection and the means to pay for FDA drug testing. During the patent protected period a drug is sold at a very expensive price in order to meet the profit goals of the pharmaceutical company that produced it. Permanent drug dependency to control symptoms, whether willfull or not, is a medical model that sustains the pharmaceutical company's drive for maximum profit from its drugs over time.

The synthetic and concentrated nature of prescription drugs means their effects are seldom subtle, gentle, nor without the risk of serious side effects. Nearly every prescription drug has poisonous properties at relatively low doses and their prolonged use comes at a physiological cost. Drugs produce oxidative stress which increases your rate of aging, weakens your immune system, and breaks down your body's healthy structure and function. Pharmaceutical drugs frequently deplete the body of essential nutrients that are required to sustain true health. Pharmaceutical drugs need to be detoxified and excreted by your body, putting additional stress on your liver and kidneys.

In Naturopathic Medicine there is a concept called "therapeutic order". There is an ancient yet common sense wisdom in always starting with the least invasive, least risky and least expensive treatment options first. In my approach to therapeutic order I attempt to always start with examining and optimizing lifestyle. If there are things you are actively doing that are adversely affecting your health you should look for ways to avoid or stop those practices.

Ideally a healthy diet together with regular moderate exercise will greatly assist in achieving your desire for possessing and maintaining true health. Not everyone can manage to eat a robust diet of extremely fresh organic foods grown on trace mineral enriched soils. Consequently malnutrition creeps in gradually over time. We often think of famine and hunger when we think of malnutrition, but that is an incomplete picture. Malnutrition is more simply stated as not having a sufficient intake and bodily reserve of the nutrients one requires to be healthy. Malnutrition may also describe excessive intake of unhealthy substances such as trans fats or refined sugar. In the US we are well supplied with inexpensive, calorie rich, unhealthy substance laden, yet nutrient poor foods.

Supplementation of high quality micro nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals is the next consideration in my therapeutic order when complete nutrition from diet alone is not easily obtainable nor reliably understandable. Dependency on concentrated nutrients also found in food sources is only a small divergence from achieving complete nutrition by a diet of extremely fresh and high quality foods. Nutrients can also be used therapeutically to correct imbalances that have accumulated over time.

When people think of exercise they often narrow their understanding to the need to go to a gym and work out vigorously, and this image becomes a barrier to doing any exercise. The most healthful exercises are often those that are of moderate effort and are easily incorporated into the activities of daily life. For example walking or bicycling whenever possible instead of using an automobile is good for both the ecology of the planet and your true health! Humans are meant to walk and regularly performing this movement creates measurable benefits to both health and longevity.

Eventually everyone becomes ill or somehow falls out of true health. It is at those times when the temporary use of supra physiological nutritional therapies, both herbal and pharmaceutical medicines, physical manipulations and surgery can become quite appropriate treatments. The strategy that holds the goal of true health in mind is to always tailor and intend such treatments to be of a temporary duration. They should be used only until normal physiologic structure and function can be restored and once again maintained by lifestyle and dietary intakes.

Creating a permanent dependency on herbal or pharmaceutical medications in order to control the symptoms of a condition is always a compromise away from true health. Medication dependency does not achieve the true health goal, though it may be the best that can be achieved in some health circumstances. Permanent dependency is a state we arrive at only after alternatives leading back to true health have been exhausted and the only other choice is a devastating outcome. Permanent herb and drug prescriptions in my opinion should always be last in the therapeutic order.

If true health is your goal, my colleagues and I have the proper intention, scientific and medical educations, and nature's best tools to professionally assist you in that pursuit.

 

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1 http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/04news/hus04.htmhus04.htm

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by Dr. Bijana Devo, Naturopathic Physician

"The physician's highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy."
Samuel Hahnemann, Father of Homeopathy

True health medicine is medicine that is health-centric and not disease focused. Allopathic medicine, the convention in our country today, is a practice that is based on managing disease. This management generally results in the treatment of symptoms with medication or surgery, as for example, medicating a person to keep their cholesterol levels down and surgery to remove a tumor. Though these interventions can be valuable and even life-saving, they fail to address the cause of the condition and are often merely palliative, hence the rebound high cholesterol when drug therapy is discontinued and the metastasis of cancer. One of the basic philosophies of naturopathic medicine is to find and treat the root cause of disease, so naturopathic physicians will not only prescribe treatments to relieve symptoms, but will also recommend appropriate lifestyle modification and treatment to address the cause with the goal not only to relieve disease symptoms, but also and primarily to restore one to a state of true health.

This state of true health is one in which you wake up energized, spend the day engaged in meaningful work and restful recreation and retire for a night of comfortable sleep. A person in a state of true health does not require medication or treatment to perform their normal bodily functions of digestion, elimination, movement and sleep. The healthy person is aware of and responds to their body naturally when hungry, thirsty or tired by eating, drinking and sleeping, rather than denying their physical needs, enhancing their ability to deal with outside stressors. True health results in freedom to experience the broadest range of human emotion, physical experience and psycho-spiritual enlightenment and of the body to react to stress and its environment without the development of symptoms or disease. This allows the individual greater personal choice in their habits and lifestyle.

True healing begins from within and has far-reaching effects. Human beings do not exist in a vacuum ­ we exist in the context of our families, communities and our environment. Individual, community and environmental health are interwoven in complex and interdependent ways. It is far too easy to see how environmental toxins or a violent community affect the health of the individual, but perhaps harder to understand the relationship of one's personal health with the community and environment. Through the freedom of true health, one can make responsible personal choices that affect not only one's own health but also the health of family, community and environment, like for example, doing kindnesses for fellow community members and working towards more sustainable economics. A person in a state of true health is cognizant of their effect on the world around them and strives to effect positive change.

True health is a personal, achievable goal regardless of your current state of health and we at True Health Medicine look forward to helping you develop yourself and your lifestyle towards a greater experience of true health.