Functional medicine and holistic health care: two sides of the same coin?
I am a Medical Herbalist and Nutritional Therapist. I am passionate about empowering people to take positive action to improve their health. I have a busy private practice where I work with patients to educate and support them on their journey to better health. I use herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, dietary and lifestyle guidance and education as my tools. I also teach both general nutrition courses at the City Lit in Holborn, and nutrition to the students on the four year professional herbal medicine programme at Heartwood Education.
I was an anxious child with extremely bad eczema. I saw a series of dermatologists over several years and had my face and hands photographed for NHS text books as examples of severe eczema. In desperation my mother took me to see a naturopath who put me on an elimination diet. This was the first treatment I received which significantly helped my skin. The naturopath also prescribed me calming herbal teas which helped me to feel calmer and sleep better. Looking back I think this is where my interest and passion for natural health care began.
After doing a course in Biomedical Sciences, I went on to do a four year BSc (Hons) Herbal Medicine at Middlesex university and qualified in 2000. I have been seeing patients in private practice ever since. I soon realised that you can give patients the best quality herbal medicines but if they don’t address the underlying causes and drivers of their health problems, those problems will return again in the future. I became more and more interested in nutrition, and how what we eat and drink influences our current and future health.
I have always practiced ‘holistic medicine’. In my herbal medicine training we were always told to treat the ‘whole patient’: to consider the health of all their body systems: digestive, nervous, circulatory, endocrine, excretory organs etc. We were also taught to think about a person’s fundamental ‘terrain’, or constitution. Are they naturally hot or cold? Do they have a quick and fiery personality or are they slow and thoughtful? When adversely affected do they get digestive problems, or headaches, or skin issues? We all have our own constitutional weaknesses and strengths. Treatments always need to be individually tailored to each unique individual; they should be working with and supporting the body’s own attempts to get well.
The buzz word now is ‘functional medicine’. This to me is a re branding of what herbalists and naturopaths have been doing for generations. It is the same concept as holistic medicine. It is about treating the patient, not the symptoms. It is about using our skills during the consultation of detailed questioning and physical examination to unpick what are the underlying causes, and what are the current drivers, perpetuating a person’s poor health.
The exciting new part for me is the revolution in nutritional and functional testing. There is now a wealth of sophisticated testing available that was not on offer ten years ago. We can order tests to assess not just how much of a particular hormone is in a person’s body, but how that hormone is being used in the body and which pathways are being used to break it down and excrete it. For example, how oestrogen is broken down in the body effects a woman’s chances of developing cancer and growing fibroids and also influences their menstrual cycle, menopause and associated symptoms.
We can now use advanced stool and urine tests to see exactly what nutrients are being absorbed in the gut, whether there is inflammation there, what nutrients are missing and much more.
We can do finger prick blood tests to find out exactly which omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are needed and to discover if we have an excess of a particular type of fat.
We are still using the same concepts and overarching principles, the science has just got better, allowing us a more detailed and accurate insight into the inner workings of the body. This gives us additional information and clues on how best to support a person.
I feel privileged to be working in such an exciting field of healthcare.
For more information or to book an appointment visit www.hollyhealthcare.co.uk or telephone me on 07949463288. I offer a free ten minute telephone consultation for you to ask questions and find out more nutritional therapy and herbal medicine.