Today, I spent the day at an assisted living facility, working with a colleague of mine. He is a medical doctor who practices conventional medicine, and was interested in learning a naturopathic perspective to patient care. (How cool is that??!!) It was also an amazing learning experience for myself, as I was reminded of how things are in the medical realm.
The age of the patients at the facility ranged from the 70’s to nearly 100 years old. Most of them had chronic diseases – like congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity – it was one big soup of diseases of civilization, really.
My heart went out to the patients, and I found myself fighting back tears at times to witness such suffering. Many of them appeared very lonely. Most of them were on 10+ medications. It was refreshing to witness my colleague at work – he is quite the minimalist and he always takes patients off of unnecessary medications whenever he is given the chance – quite the role model for conventionally trained doctors these days.
It reminded me how desperately naturopathic medicine is needed in this country, and it re-affirmed why I do what I do. So many of the treatments that these patients were on could be switched out with natural options quite easily and they might avoid unnecessary side effects. After all, many medications originate from natural sources, before they are altered, patented, and sold, like aspirin from white willow bark, digoxin from foxglove, and morphine from the opium poppy.
I made many observations today, but the biggest one that jumped out to me was the way the patients ate – these incredibly depleted, and debilitated patients.
One woman had a diagnosis of congestive heart failure and Cushing’s syndrome. She hadn’t had a bowel movement in nearly a week. When we walked into the room to check up on her, she was eating a bowl of rainbow sherbet. That’s what was served to her by the medical staff. Another patient had a diagnosis of GERD, IBS, interstitial cystitis – all of which are highly associated with gluten sensitivity, and her favorite meal was pasta, which she consumed regularly. She had never once been tested for any sort of gluten reaction. Sort of a no-brainer, yes? Seeing that 60-70% of people are sensitive to gluten, and her symptoms were quite glaring. A therapeutic diet was a non-issue.
Now, I know I’m jumping the gun and putting a lot of emphasis on diet. After all, these are VERY sick patients. I mean, isn’t it too late to talk about a healthy diet once a person is debilitated with a chronic illness or even terminally ill? Aren’t dietary changes too weak to make much of an impact in someone so severe?
In my view, it’s too important to NOT change the diet – especially in someone who is advanced into his or her illness. You literally ARE what you eat. To take it a step further, you are what you absorb. A pristine diet is pretty pointless if a person has digestive problems and doesn’t absorb their nutrients (ie – acid blockers for example). To take it even further than that, you are what you don’t poop out. The woman, who wasn’t pooping for five days, was circulating five days worth of poop back into her system (Yes, you do reabsorb a portion of what is not excreted). No wonder she felt like crap. She literally was made of it.
Why isn’t it obvious to put these patients on a healthy diet?
After all, they are in a healthcare facility! (It should probably be re-named disease management facility). The answer to this is multi-factorial, and would require another blog, but it truly comes down to a lack of education, and the education that IS provided (ie – food guide pyramid) is inaccurate and highly influenced by people who care more about making money than keeping you and yours healthy.
My experience today at the assisted living facility was a TOTAL 180 from what my weekend was like.
Over the weekend, I attended the first ever, Ancestral Health Symposium in Los Angeles. It was a collection of doctors, fitness trainers, nutritionist, bloggers, chefs and the like who live by a Paleolithic diet and lifestyle. (Paleo = cave men). The diet consists of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wild meats, and seafood. Basically the opposite of what I observed today. REAL FOOD. Not a can of Ensure.
I have to be totally honest, before attending the AHS, I had never seen so many fit and healthy-looking people under one roof. It was clear as crystal that whatever these people were doing was WORKING. I remember glancing across the hall at the other attendees just in awe. Skin was glowing. Guys and gals were trim, yet muscular. They just looked GOOD. I hate to say it, but they didn’t look American.
The proof is in the organic, coconut pudding.
Ooh! Maybe THAT should be served in hospitals.
Have a happy, healthy week!
Dr. Lauren Noel
The Ultimate 28 Day Detox
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