So often the people who become the experts in their fields have come to it through their own personal struggle with that exact problem. They were looking for self-resolution and dug deep into it. I, myself, just like so many of my colleagues, suffer from IBS. It all started with a dairy intolerance. I noticed in high school that I was often constipated and had a great deal of gas. I suffered in silence. During my biochemistry class at University, I learned about lactose and lactase enzyme. This got me thinking. I began drinking lactose free milk, but my issues were not completely resolved. I ended up removing dairy from my diet completely.
A few years ago, whilst practicing in Moncton, New Brunswick, I had a conversation with a compounding pharmacist and during which we discussed the possibility of me being sensitive to gluten. I chose to remove gluten from my diet. Although this furthered my treatment, it was not the ultimate solution. The true healing from my gut issues really came forward when I took a firm hold of my lifestyle choices: I started doing what I really wanted to do. I focused on myself and my own healing journey. This is when I noticed a big improvement in my bowels. Admittedly, I have a few relapses here and there, but it’s because I consciously did something that I know that would bother me. I’m still sensitive to dairy. So, for example, if I am at a friend’s house and they order pizza. I enjoy pizza, so I might choose to eat it. This is, however, a conscious decision. I will say most days are great days now, which is way different than where I was at the beginning of my practice.
Ironically, my patients were telling me about their gut issues, and I was going through the same thing myself. It has definitely been a learning journey for me, and it’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of reading, but I’m happy with where I am right now.
In my Western medicine trained med school and in residency, I was given tools that I had tried myself. I saw that they were not giving me the long-term results that I needed. I am happy to be able to convey that story to my patients so as to give them a bit of the real-world experience that I’ve noticed. I see over 2000 patients a year in my clinic and through my procedures. I am also able to give them a perspective If I have tried a procedure on 50 patients and it works about 75% of the time, we can try it, and if it doesn’t work, then we can try something else.
Patients come into the office expecting it to be a transfer of responsibility. Both the patient and the physician are expecting all of the results to come from the magic of the prescription. Doctors are empathetic, highly trained, highly intelligent individuals with a great working memory. You wouldn’t be able to get through medical school if you didn’t have a great working memory. As a Doctor, you are trained to go down the grocery list of symptoms and that result in a clinical diagnosis. Do you have celiac? Do you have Crohn’s? Do you have colon cancer or ulcerative colitis? If you don’t fit into that diagnosis, doctors aren’t sure what to do with you. Doctors also take acute care principles and apply them to chronic care. That doesn’t necessarily work because many chronic diseases are actually lifestyle driven.
Unfortunately, doctors are reinforced because the acute care principles work so well: Feeding a wire into a coronary vessel of the heart and inflating a balloon and lifting a blood clot is a miracle. Sadly, we do not have these miracles in chronic care. Cholesterol, dyslipidemia, cholesterol problems, blood pressure problems and sugar problems are mostly lifestyle driven and you can’t use these acute care principles, the wire wiring, the balloon, to help these patients. Doctors do empathetically want to help the patients and they truly believe in their prescriptions, but it doesn’t translate into real-world or lifestyle experience.
I understand that changing habits is incredibly hard when I start addressing lifestyle modification with the patient. You do, however, have to be ready for and open to it. If the patient is not ready for it, sometimes I will give them what they’re looking for and what they’re expecting. I’m watching for the non-verbal cues and if they are ready for it, then I’ll deliver it to them, and I’ll help them with it.
I delivered babies in my residency. I’ve taken out gallstones. I relieved colon cancer obstructions with colonic stents. Honestly, there is, nothing more rewarding than a patient coming back, having sustained lifestyle modifications and telling me that they’re feeling way better. That is what puts a skip in my step.