I have a vision that the entire spectrum of healthcare providers will approach medicine using an integrative-systems approach that respects the mind/body interface. Healthcare has become increasingly specialized, focusing primarily on pharmaceuticals and surgery for symptom management. There are certainly instances where these levels of intervention are necessary. However, our society and healthcare system could be doing a better job at managing disease as well as preventing it. A more comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to address the underlying causes of disease is needed.
As a Physical Therapist, I was trained to primarily to assess and treat the neuromuscular system when working with a patient. While this is indeed my area of specialization and where I focus the bulk of my intervention, it is imperative that I consider other systems that may be influencing a particular patient’s outcome. This is where integration is so important as there are typically other aspects of care and disciplines that are additionally required in order to achieve the best results. For example, a former patient was experiencing chronic foot pain in addition to exhibiting significant psychological stress. As I explain in my Integrated Systems Model of Stress, stress (either physical or mental) in one part of the body can affect other areas of the body, and can do so in different ways. This individual’s progress was not as fast as I would have expected based on the norms of Physical Therapy alone. I inferred that her psychological state may be impacting her foot pain and referred her for counseling. This course of action resulted in a better outcome on all accounts (resolved foot pain as well as improved emotional functioning).
One of my areas of interest regarding this multi-system model is the impact the state our gut and immune system has on our neuromuscular system. This passion developed about 4 years ago when I joined a network of wellness-focused healthcare providers in my geographical area. Each month a different member would present on his/her area of expertise. One speaker in particular had a huge influence on me, a Nutritionist. Her topic was on systemic Candida Albicans overgrowth and its multi-faceted impact on the body and mind. I was fascinated by her talk and subsequently started reading more on similar topics within the nutrition realm. Based on these readings, I began making gradual personal changes to my diet. Eventually, I got to a point at which I wanted to see just how much of an impact my eating patterns had on how I felt and thus began a 3 week elimination diet/cleanse. I essentially ate nothing but vegetables, chicken, fish, minimal fruit, in addition to various supplements (see http://www.standardprocess.com/Standard-Process/Purification-Program#.VC273_ldUW4 for specific details).
The results were astounding and life-changing. First, the chronic ankle tendonitis I had been plagued with for 3 years (and could not get rid of despite various Physical Therapy interventions) completely disappeared. Second, I no longer had energy shifts throughout the day characterized by fatigue and borderline hyperactivity. Third, my skin, which had always been acne prone, completely cleared up and had a newfound radiance to it. Fourth, I no longer had abdominal bloating and gas. Fifth, I was able to tolerate increased physical activity and not get sore or fatigued. Sixth, I will stop here. I think you get the point.
Because of this personal experience, I began vehemently reading even more about the connections between nutrition, the gut, the immune system, and their interactions with the rest of the body, including the mind. For a list of my current reading list and resources please refer to here.
As a result of my self-study, patient experiences, and discussion with other healthcare professionals, coupled with the additional training and coursework taken over the past 13 years (see here) as a Physical Therapist, I have developed a model that incorporates a unifying, qualitative, integrative-systems approach (see here) from which healthcare professionals can reference with regard to patient care. Referring back to my “Reconciling Illusions, Truth, and Evolution” essay, this model represents my current truth as to the integration of body and mind. I expect it to continue to evolve with your assistance. So, I invite you to join me in this collaborative process!