Let’s face it: Many healthcare practitioners, certainly those in conventional medicine, are dis-empowering, uncooperative, and non-collaborative. You want to avoid those. You can waste an awful lot of time and health with such practitioners, so it is important to seek out a healthcare provider whom you can count on for advice, assistance, or just confirmation when you need it.
Here are some guidelines to follow…
To identify an effective healthcare advocate, it is important to identify just one individual, as once you identify this one person, she will usually know like-minded practitioners in other specialties. Identify a functional medicine practitioner, for example, who willingly collaborates with you, and he can suggest a like-minded gynecologist, gastroenterologist, or endocrinologist, should the need arise. So we tap into networks of empowering practitioners by just starting with one. (The vast majority of specialists in these fields, by the way, do not fit your bill of needs. So being able to weed through the unhelpful ones by starting with a promising referral can spare you plenty of aggravation and time.)
Empowering practitioners can be found in a number of fields, but the most productive areas to start your search include:
Functional medicine. Practitioners of functional medicine use biochemistry, physiology, and nutrition to understand health issues, and they are more likely to use nutritional or natural solutions to health. They are also more likely to draw from “integrative” or “alternative” strategies and not jump immediately to prescription drugs or procedures. Practitioners can be found from a number of backgrounds and areas of expertise, including medical doctors (MD, DO), chiropractors (DC), naturopaths (ND), nurses (RN), and nutritionists. A listing of functional medicine practitioners certified by the Institute for Functional Medicine (functionalmedicine.org) can be found by selecting the “Find a Practitioner” option on the institute’s home page.
Integrative health. Like practitioners of functional medicine, integrative health practitioners are more open-minded and, as the label suggests, tend to integrate methods from various sources, including nutrition, nutritional supplements, chiropractic, and biofeedback. The Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (aihm.org) maintains a listing of practitioners in the United States at aihm.org/find. Practitioners include medical doctors, osteopaths, chiropractors, naturopaths, physician assistants, nurses, and psychologists.
Naturopathy. The practice of naturopathy has come a long way over the past 20 years, from a sketchy past to a modern approach in which practitioners are educated through a rigorous process and practice a natural, integrative approach that favors, but does not exclude, conventional medical care. Having spent a fair amount of time with many of its practitioners, I have developed a new respect for the scientific integrity but open-minded attitude that their training and experience cultivates.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians maintains a listing of practitioners accessible from its Web site, naturopathic.org, by selecting “Find a Doctor” or by going directly to naturopathic.org/AF_MemberDirectory.asp?version=2. While many naturopaths are general practitioners, an increasing number of specialists are emerging, also, searchable on this directory. Naturopaths are unable to prescribe, change, or discontinue prescription drugs, but many collaborate with medical physicians to do so. One uncertainty: Many states do not yet license practitioners of naturopathy, allowing some with minimal education to declare themselves practitioners. Fully trained practitioners have an undergraduate education, a 4-year period of education and training in a college of naturopathic medicine, and a variable period of postgraduate training and are listed in the association’s directory.
Chiropractic. While most chiropractors focus on musculoskeletal and neurological health, an increasing number have expanded their skills into nutrition, biochemistry, and alternative methods. Most chiropractors cannot stand alone as a sole healthcare provider, but they can be very useful advocates, as well as a starting place to tap into provider networks of likeminded practitioners. The American Chiropractic Association (acatoday.org) maintains a listing of certified practitioners under “Find a Doctor.”
Undoctored U–certified practitioners. I am in the process of providing training to doctors, nurses, personal trainers, and others interested in delivering Undoctored principles to their clientele. Certified practitioners will be listed in coming years on the undoctoredhealth.com Web site.