Primary Care Medicine
in a Naturopathic Clinic
© Jared L. Zeff, ND
About a month ago a woman came into my clinic. She was quite crippled with arthritis and birth defects, but had come in with severe pain in her hands. She was afflicted with a developing gangrene in her fingers.
Some of her fingertips had become black. One fingertip had a small ulcer. She was in tears from the pain, and was on morphine and four medications to improve blood flow, including Viagra. The medications were not helping. I had helped her a few years ago with a digestive problem and she had come again as a last resort. What could a simple naturopath do when the best of conventional medicine was failing?
The problem was blood flow. Something was impeding blood flow in to the fingers, but the cause of that was unclear. The pain was so intense even morphine was not cutting it. First I gave her a series of homeopathic medicines to begin the process of opening the blood flow, as we were preparing a table for hydrotherapy. My nurse directed her into the hydrotherapy room and helped her prepare for a constitutional hydrotherapy treatment. She reported the pain had eased a bit with the medicine, but was still intense. She lay down into the table, and I came into the room to check on her and listen to her heart, part of the treatment protocol. As the first hot towels were placed onto her torso she relaxed a bit. By the end of the treatment, about 45 minutes later, she was astounded that the pain was gone. And her fingers appeared to have “pinked” a bit.
The pain returned within an hour, but not as intensely. As she continued to use the homeopathic medicines and had the daily hydrotherapy, her pain continued to recede and her fingers have continued to improve.
Hydrotherapy is a simple but powerful way to affect blood flow. It has no significant “side effects,” is inexpensive, quite effective for many problems, and is a cornerstone naturopathic treatment modality. It even used to be done in hospitals, but has fallen by the wayside in conventional medicine.
Primary care medicine is the medicine of first contact. Primary care physicians are those who determine what is wrong with the undiagnosed patient, and either begin treatment or refer to specialty care when that is appropriate. Naturopathic physicians are trained as primary care providers. Naturopathic primary care is similar to conventional primary care, but is obviously different in philosophy. Naturopaths not only diagnose illness, an essential thing, but look larger into elements of cause that are not generally contemplated conventionally. We look at the effects of diet, and generally recommend dietary changes. We work with physical treatments, such as hydrotherapy. We use a variety of therapeutic systems, including pharmaceuticals in some cases, but prefer those with less potential for harm. We are trained in botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture and needling techniques, nutritional therapies, a variety of physical therapies including hydrotherapy, exercise, minor surgery technique, counseling and others.
As in the case discussed above, the naturopath will respond immediately to the emergent need of the patient, but after the crisis passes will spend more time with the patient, looking more profoundly with them into their life for the deeper causes of their illness. The nature of the medicine requires that we spend more time with our patients to do all this, and so we will see fewer patients in a day, but for longer times, helping our patients understand, and helping them work through their illness to regain health.
It is a different approach to medicine, one that is very satisfying and one that can be profoundly effective.
Jared L. Zeff, ND's clinic is Salmon Creek Clinic Tel: 360-823-8121