Healing the Healers By Nathalie Fiset I do not plan in any way to criticize the medical profession, as I am very proud to be a family physician. I just want to point out some ways that we can do a better job at helping people heal and take care of their health. First and foremost, we have to realize that doctors are humans too. This may sound simple but it plays a big role in our flaws and sometimes inability to help our patients to our best knowledge. I know many doctors who are frankly obese and battling their yin and yang to get to their ideal weight. I know some doctors who hide in their car in the parking lot in the middle of winter to smoke a cigarette. I confess to my own numerous weaknesses and never lecture my patients, as I too do not always eat well although I am on a pathway to better health. I was attending a seminar and the speaker was talking about the patients making their own health decision and choosing their treatment and I did not agree with that. After all, doctors do have a complete background in human physiology and anatomy and their training is among the longest and most serious ones. I experience the danger of people making their own decisions by just going on the internet and reading some misinformation almost everyday in my practice. I often see my patients walk into my office with panic in their eyes. I ask them in a smile if they went on the internet and what they read. I then have to re-inform them and explain that they stressed themselves for nothing, as the situation is not what they thought it was. It is true that medical science is an ever-changing truth. Since I started practicing medicine twenty years ago, much of the knowledge we held for true has changed or even been proven false and that is a good thing. If medicine held a very tight position and said that all that we knew 100 years ago is still true we would still be using leaches! The ideal healthcare model will be one where doctors will help people understand that prevention is their best option. Unfortunately, as physicians, we are bombarded with messages from the pharmaceutical companies trying to make a buck (or billions of them) pushing their drugs. When I go to medical conventions I am often despaired by the time spent discussing pill options for problems that could either be prevented or avoided by a healthy lifestyle. Such problems could be high blood pressure, type II diabetes and obesity. These problems are all linked and often caused by the so- called metabolic syndrome, which is nothing more than obesity and lack of exercise. I think that medical doctors should and always will be at the entrance of the health care system. After all, the curriculum of a physician is very wide. We should also recognize our flaws and lacks. During our medical training the hours we spent learning about nutrition could be counted on the fingers of our two hands. This is the reason a nutritionist or a nutrition specialist is better equipped to help people understand and apply the best nutrition choices. As doctors we are very well trained to diagnose chronic pain. We often can precisely say that a person’s chronic back pain comes from a pinched disk between the L4 and L5 lumbar vertebras. The problem arises when we are faced with helping this person relieve her pain. We either offer potent drugs that can have side effects and do not remove the cause or we offer surgery that also carries its risks. What if, in an ideal world, the doctor was able to diagnose the back pain problem and then refer to the other specialists who have the ability to fix the physical problem? As doctors we should be able to call in help from all the other caregivers who have been trained for years, sometimes, in removing the cause of the pain, instead of offering potent drugs that only address the symptoms and can in the long run harm the patient more with its side-effects. We unfortunately live in a society, which is very fast paced and wants a quick fix to all its problems. Such solutions as having a liposuction instead of eating right and exercising regularly, when you think of it, is near insanity. I have often heard of people saying that gastric bypass was their last resort but I question that reasoning. So many obese people at one point experienced that bliss moment when they got habited by the certainty that they would lose their excess weight and get in good health and they did. I have a patient (let’s call her Katie) whom I considered also to be a friend, who consulted me because she had trouble getting pregnant. I saw her after her second miscarriage and gave her health advice and did some blood tests which all came back normal. A year went by before I saw her again. She walked into my office with a big smile on her face and asked me if I noticed anything. To my shame I must admit that I could not figure out what she had changed. I ventured a timid: “Did you cut your hair?” She answered, a little upset: “I lost 110 pounds!” She had a gastric bypass and lost all the weight. Although I congratulated her on the weight loss, I was worried from all the studies I had read about gastric bypass’s side effects. After all, there is major mal absorption of the digestive system caused by such a bypass. A couple of weeks later one of my other patients, who is also a friend of Katie, came into my office. She asked me: “Did you hear about Katie?” and I answered, “No, did she have another miscarriage?” My patient answered, ”No. She is dead!” The news hit me like a giant rock. After all, she was only 37 years old, my age at the time. Apparently she was suffering from pneumonia and had a cardiac arrest in the scan machine and they could not bring her back. You do not die of pneumonia at the age of 37. This shows that her body did not react well to being cheated by the gastric bypass. I went on the Medline website and researched the side effects of gastric bypass and my mind was blown by all the potential hazards and proven health problems caused by this procedure. So if anyone tells me that gastric bypass is their only solution I will always fight for the other more natural options in the name of Katie. As physicians we play a crucial role in what our patients choose as treatments and we should be very careful about what options we offer them. Most pills, if not all, are only aimed at treating the symptoms, do not remove the cause and have potential side effects. The medical community needs to be exposed more to complementary medicine and know what it has to offer. It is true that some complementary medicines are crossing the line between proven efficient treatment and wishful thinking. The task of traditional medicine in the very near future will be as a gateway to these complementary treatments, sorting out the good from the non-proven. We have to get on board and realize that more than three quarters of our patients are using complementary medicine even if they do not tell us. We should accept this fact and move on to understanding what complementary medicine offers, and play our important role in guiding patients in their choices when we have used all our resources. Some people might get upset that I place the medical doctor at the center of all the treatments but we have to face the fact that medical training is a thorough one and should be recognized as such. I also think that medical doctors are best placed to diagnose problems and diseases. This being said, we also have to recognize when we need to use complementary medicine, such as when all traditional treatments have resulted in a standstill. Let us not forget that the human body has the natural ability to heal itself. Voltaire said it best when he said: “The purpose of the doctor is to entertain the patient while the disease takes its course.” Most people trust and believe in their doctor and that plays a major role in the patient’s recovery and well being. This fact might be the reason why so many people want to call themselves doctor even though they do not hold a medical license. I was attending a very important hypnosis seminar a couple of years ago and many people called themselves doctor. Most, if not all, were not MDs. When people asked me what kind of doctor I was, I did not get that most “doctors” at this convention were not MDs and I answered: “a kind and caring doctor!” Until I met someone who called himself doctor and then during our conversation told me he was the muffler doctor. In seeking complementary treatment a client should not be told that the caregiver is a doctor if he does not hold a medical license. This can be confusing and even misleading to the patient, thus compromising the bond of trust. As a doctor I have often seen that patients can be stressed by just entering our office and need to be reassured. For example, there has been an interesting study in a delivery room. Some researchers studied the rate of caesareans, complications or natural childbirths according to which nurse followed the patient in labor. They were very surprised to realize that some nurse’s patients had a very low complication rate while others, followed by another nurse, often ran into complications and interventions such as caesareans. It is understandable that at such a vulnerable time during labor, a woman will rely on the support she is getting and her outcome will reflect such a choice. I admit being guilty of my share of negative programming towards my patients. Fortunately, my certification as a hypnotherapist and my studies in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) has helped me realize some of the mistakes I was making. I now pay more attention to the non-verbal language of my patients and watch more carefully what and how I say things. For example, I had a patient who asked for a pain killer during her labor. After explaining the effects and side effects of the medication, she chose to take it. Just before injecting the medication the nurse mentioned that in general, the effects last between thirty to sixty minutes. Right after she received the medication my patient went floating on a peaceful cloud. After a while her well-intentioned sister asked me, ”How long did the nurse say the medication would last?” Sure enough my patient opened her eyes in panic, like a deer in the headlights. I looked at her sister and answered calmly, “The medication will last until the baby is born.” My patient closed her eyes and instantly went back into her very calm place. And you know what? The medication did last until the baby was born way more than an hour later. Nathalie Fiset, M.D., C.H. has been a family doctor in Montreal, Canada since 1990. She started with a broad family practice and then narrowed it down to the follow-up of pregnancies and attending births. She completed her initial hypnotherapy certification in 2004. www.a1hypnosis.com; www.hypno-beginning.com.