Safflower Chinese Medicine Clinic

Opening  a GP practice at Safflower Chinese Medicine Clinic. 

I’m pleased to announce that I will be joining Safflower Chinese Medicine Clinic as an Integrative GP. I will be starting on Monday August 20th and consulting three days a week on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.

The services I will offer as an integrative GP at Safflower are as follows –

  • Long consultations (history, examination, referrals, conventional and alternative treatment options)
  • Shorter follow up consultations (results, feedback and follow up treatments)
  • Routine appointments (for short general practice issues and laser acupuncture)
  • Routine appointments will be bulk billed for health care card holders and pensioners

I will offer longer consultations where I will spend time listening, taking a history, examining the person and ordering investigations where necessary to arrive at a shared understanding of the person’s health issues from a holistic perspective. I will then work with the person to explore both conventional and alternative treatment options considering the mind, the body and the spiritual aspects.

I have an interest in complex problems that may not have an easy diagnosis and I enjoy working long term with patients to explore their health issues and help them find ways to heal. I am also interested in all mental health issues and will explore with people the psycho-spiritual aspects that lie behind many mental health problems.

I will also offer routine consultations and advice on any general practice issues however the practice is not set up for emergencies or acute injuries. The practice is also not currently equipped to provide vaccinations, removal of skin lesions, suturing, ear syringing or pap smears.

I have an ongoing interest in laser acupuncture and will be able to incorporate this as one management option. I will work closely with other members of the team at Safflower to provide both a Western and an Eastern perspective on health issues.

I am currently studying a Masters in Applied Science in Chinese Herbal medicine at RMIT but am not yet able to prescribe Chinese herbs; for herbal prescriptions patients will need to see Brigitte, Eryn or Vicki.

More details about prices and booking an appointment will be available soon on the Safflower website.

 

 

The trouble with conventional medicine

I began this blog because I was disillusioned with conventional general practice and medicine in Australia. This disillusionment was part of the reason I recently retired but is it all the fault of general practice or a more global problem of contemporary life?

After all conventional medicine saves many lives and has made great advances in the last few decades. If you have a heart attack or a stroke or serious bacterial infection, medicine can, in many cases, save your life. For many cancers now the treatments can prolong life and sometimes cure. So what do I have to complain about?

I have been a GP for over thirty years and in that time I’ve seen many changes in medical therapies yet chronic diseases continue to have a major impact on many peoples lives and mental illness seems to be at epidemic levels. Obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, hypertension and other chronic illness all seem to be increasing at alarming rates.

Why are we getting sicker?

Why is medicine failing to make us healthier?

Of course there are many reasons for this but the primary one is that medicine generally looks for the quick fix to treat our illnesses. Give the patient a pill or a combination of pills and that will fix things. Cut out the offending part or bombard the body with toxic drugs. Of course these treatments often work in the short term but for mental health issues and other chronic diseases they rarely make a long lasting difference. What makes us sick is often our lifestyle yet medicine has failed to address most of our lifestyle issues.

Some of these issues are related to social concerns that doctors feel powerless to address. Problems of loneliness, isolation, lack of community and too little contact with the natural world are difficult to solve. Together with poor diet, busy stressful lives and lack of activity these issues shape our health in dramatic ways. Yet many patients aren’t willing to look at these issues preferring instead the quick fix of a medication. And many doctors go along with this because there is so little time to address the core issues of why so many of us are sick.

The most significant problem is that we have not yet adapted to modern life, which leads most of us to be under chronic stress. Our diets are nutrient poor and we just don’t do enough physical activity or sleep enough. Many of us work in jobs we dislike for enough money to maintain our over consuming lifestyles. We eat too much, we do too much and we have forgotten about the importance of good relationships and community ties. We also have forgotten about our connection to the natural world and about finding joy in our lives.

So why is medicine meant to address these greater issues?

I believe that doctors should be interested in changes that lead to better health and medicating patients rarely leads to permanent change. It just greases the wheels of a huge pharmaceutical industry. Doctors need to name the problem and in many cases the problem is our addiction to our modern lifestyles. It is our contemporary lifestyles that are leading to much of our disease. There are no quick fixes but changing our lives can lead to much better health outcomes and much happier patients.

Of course people don’t need doctors to make their lives better and healthier. Everyone can make changes to their lives that will improve their health and I will write about these in a future blog. But changing medicine to help people address these issues is important. Naturopaths, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, chiropractors and other complementary practitioners do not fail to address lifestyle issues with patients yet GPs and specialists too often just pay lip service to changing lifestyles while medicating the problem. A colleague of mine has started a clinic to help people try to cure their Type 2 Diabetes. Another clinic I have worked in has long appointments and tries to address the patient’s health holistically. Yet these are the outliers; most GPs spend 10-15 minutes with a patient and this time pressure leads to many of the problems.

The issue of course is how do we change a system that is so entrenched? I think we need to try a multi pronged approach.

First, patients need to educate themselves about lifestyle issues and their importance in treating disease. They need to demand this knowledge from their doctors.

Second, patients need to stop expecting quick fixes for chronic problems; people need to take responsibility for their health and make appropriate changes.

Third, the Medicare billing system needs to change so that there is not a financial disincentive to spend more time with patients. The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) could spend more of their time and energy lobbying for these changes.

Fourth, the influence of pharmaceutical companies over doctors needs to be identified and discussed by the community and the media. Further regulatory changes need to be made to counteract the influence wielded by these goliaths.

Fifth, medical education needs to focus more on the importance of lifestyle issues. Nutrition and preventative strategies needs more emphasis in both under and postgraduate medical education.

Finally we all need to examine our own lifestyle choices and acknowledge their dramatic impact on our health and wellbeing.

 

 

#medicine, #general practice, #medication, #lifestyle

Transformation 3 – the physical body

Transformation 3 – the physical body.

Transforming our whole self can begin anywhere but I chose to begin with transforming my physical aspects. Decluttering my life was the initial step but then I had to look at transforming my physical body into something healthier. I had let myself go in my middle age, becoming rounder of belly and quite unfit. This was affecting how I felt about myself and I decided that what I was learning about in my nutritional studies I should put into practice and see if it made any difference.

I read and researched about what a good diet should be and came to the conclusion that although I have always had a relatively healthy diet I needed to clean up my act. I had not been eating meat for many years except for fish – so I was not a complete vegetarian. I decided initially to try the low carb high fat way of eating. In this diet, which isn’t really a diet so much as a different way of eating, the carbohydrates are kept to a minimum – mostly just vegetables and the occasional fruit. Protein and fats make up the bulk of the food. I cut out all sugar, bread, pasta, rice, root vegetables and began to eat more nuts and cheese and fish. I ate a variety of vegetables and occasionally some berries.

I managed to stick to this for some months and then went on holidays and it all went out the window for a while. When I returned to it I wasn’t as strict. I felt I had more energy on this way of eating and I avoided the swings in energy that a high carb diet causes. However I lost very little weight and it was quite a hard diet to maintain.

Further research then led me to the Paleo diet – the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. This was very similar to the low carb, high fat diet but it didn’t restrict fruit as much. It did however mean no dairy. I lasted about two weeks on a vegetarian and fish form of Paleo but found the food choices too limited without meat. After all our Paleolithic ancestors were not vegetarians; much of their diet was meat based.

Not to be discouraged I made a major decision – to start eating meat again. I had been vegetarian partly for health reasons and partly because of the poor treatment of animals. The health reasons seemed a little unclear now. So I began to eat meat again – mostly organic free range or biodynamic.

I definitely think a Paleolithic type diet is the healthiest diet and the diet we have evolved to eat. This is the type of food I eat:

  • Vegetables – preferably organic
  • Fruits – preferably organic
  • Meat and fish – meat should be organic, free range, grass fed. Fish should be low in mercury and sustainably fished
  • Eggs – organic free range
  • Nuts and seeds – preferably organic
  • Good oils – olive, omega 3, coconut
  • Legumes – preferably organic
  • Herbs and spices – preferably organic

These are the types of food I avoid:

  • Highly processed foods especially those containing sugar and fructose, artificial colourings, preservatives and artificial sweeteners
  • Sugar
  • Dairy – many people lack the basic enzyme for digesting dairy, others are intolerant to the proteins. I have recently been reintroducing a little dairy into my diet in order to get a little more calcium.
  • Most grains – especially gluten containing grains. Some cultures have eaten grains for centuries and have ways of preparing them that decrease gut problems but for most of us grains should be avoided
  • Soy – although I may eat fermented soy sometimes
  • Processed meats – these have been shown to increase our risk of cancer
  • Foods containing chemicals, preservatives, colourings, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, artificial sweeteners
  • Alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, other drugs

I do still drink coffee although less than I used to and I have alcohol a couple of times a week and I’m still deciding whether either has an adverse effect on my health.

Overall I feel less tired. I don’t have those slumps during the day when my blood sugar starts to plummet because I’ve eaten too much sugar or carbohydrates. I can go for longer without food if I have to without feeling hungry or cranky. I have lost 10 kg so it seems to be working, and without too much effort. As long as I eat paleo type foods I can eat what I want so it’s not really a diet but just a different way of eating.

As well as good food I have started taking extra vitamins and minerals. Through my nutrition course and research I am taking a multivitamin and mineral that includes most of what I need. In addition I take vitamin c, magnesium and if I feel like I’m getting rundown I take an immune booster with herbs and zinc in.

I think extra vitamins and minerals are important because even though I eat mostly organic food it still probably doesn’t have as many micronutrients as our ancestors’ diet. Certainly we’re probably all lacking vitamin C. I don’t think there is any evidence to suggest that taking vitamin and mineral supplements has adverse effects. It is possible to overdose on fat-soluble vitamins but in the doses in the average multivitamin pill this isn’t going to happen.

In addition to eating much more healthily and taking the extra vitamins and minerals I decided it was important to exercise more. I began walking almost every day and bought an online yoga membership which I actually began to use.

So healthy!

Exercise

Exercise is worth focusing on for a moment. Most of us aren’t active enough in our everyday lives so exercise becomes an important component of keeping ourselves healthy. The more active we are the better although too much exercise can have adverse effects on how health with joint problems and overtraining issues. The secret is always to listen to our bodies and pay attention. If we have been leading sedentary lives then a gradual increase in activity and exercise is best, paying attention to how our body reacts to new exercise and adjusting accordingly.

Each exercise program and increase in activity is individual. It’s important to do activities and undertake exercise that is enjoyable. We want to bring more joy to our lives, not more suffering. Sometimes we do have to go through some initial reprograming of bad habits to come to a place where we enjoy the increase in activity.

A good exercise physiologist or personal trainer can help us develop healthier habits and sometimes we need a medical check up prior to undertaking exercise – again it’s an individual thing. Tailor your physical transformation to your own particular needs.

Changing our outer body, feeding it better and moving it more, not only makes our body healthier but it makes our mind healthier. Our cells rely on good nutrition to do their job and if our cells are healthy everything works better.

Sleep

The other aspect of good physical health is getting enough rest. Sleep is really important for our health; it is essential for healing and restoration. Research shows that adults require eight to eight and a half hours every night for good restorative sleep and the optimum hours are between 9 pm and 5 am. Delta wave sleep, which is the best restorative sleep, has been shown to occur mainly between 9 pm and 2 am. Restorative and healing hormones are produced in this time. Poor sleep patterns over the long term lead to an increased risk of degenerative diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Tips to establish a good sleep pattern can be found on my website –  Sleep

Healthy environment

I’m going to write more about our relationship to our environment in a later blog but our physical environment is important to our health. Most of us don’t realise how much we are exposed to chemicals and radiation in our everyday lives. Compared to our grandparents’ lives we are exposed to myriad chemicals and toxins and higher levels of radiation. These can all cause illness so it pays to decrease your exposure any way you can. Clean living is more important than ever.

Ways to improve your environment and exposure to chemicals and radiation

  • Reduce cleaning chemicals. Use microfibre cloths to clean with and use only vinegar and bicarb soda. We have become obsessed with killing germs which is altering our microbiome and potentially leading to increased rates of allergies and asthma. Avoid bleach, solvents, strong detergents, air fresheners and fragrances.
  • Avoid chlorine and fluoride in drinking water – use a good quality water filter.
  • Avoid all pesticides and herbicides in the house and garden – these contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other toxins, they are designed to kill animals and plants and should be avoided.
  • Keep electrical appliances at least one metre away from where you spend a lot of time- eg bed, couch, dining table. Avoid prolonged use of mobile phones.
  • Avoid storing food in plastic – use glass, stainless steel and lead free ceramics. Plastics can contain hormone disrupting chemicals and other nasties.
  • Open your windows and air out the house on a frequent basis.
  • Eat more organic and unprocessed foods. Avoid the chemicals involved in processing and conventional farming methods and as much as possible eat organic or home grown produce (pesticide and herbicide free of course).

 

When our body is healthy it is more in alignment with our higher self. Sometimes our health is influenced directly by being out of alignment but if we can look after the physical aspects as well as we can this helps our spiritual journey. Diet exercise, good sleep and living clean are important elements of transforming our physical self into a more healthy state.

Skills for living an authentic life 6

Cultivating our community.

An important part of our life is our relationships with other people. Certainly to live an authentic life it is necessary to have authentic relationships with others and be a part of a community. Our community or tribe gives us a place to be ourselves and to support others to be true to themselves.

Community doesn’t just mean the local neighbourhood although some of us do embrace the local community, however this is becoming less common with large cities and busy lives. Our community may be a local church or a local gardening group. It may be our meditation or yoga circle or our bridge club or local school. It is important to have places where we feel we belong and we can act ourselves rather than being who we might be expected to be. For some people their work provides a community but for others the work environment is not always a place where they can be truly themselves.

Cultivating community is about having good relationships with family and close friends but also involves extending our circle beyond those we are closest to. It is a place where we can have relationships with others through finding common ground. Communities are invaluable for times when people are in need; they support their members through good and bad times and people often become even closer in times of crisis or tragedy. In fact tragedy can bring both small and large communities together in an outpouring of grief and support.

Ways to cultivate our community

  1. Talking more to people we meet in our everyday lives enhances our community. Even small conversations can bring light to someone’s day and you never know what connections you may develop.
  2. Explore the ways in which we can be of service to others. This builds community connections. We might do volunteer work or help with child-minding for the single parent or gardening for the elderly. Simple acts of kindness are a great way to increase the strength of the community and allow us to express our authenticity
  3. Get involved in community activities. Go to local activities such as farmers markets, meditation groups, local concerts and gatherings.
  4. Embrace the culture of your community. Be it a church group or school community, a spiritual group or a bridge club it is important to celebrate the cultural aspects of the group.
  5. Celebrate the individual and their authenticity. We can make sure we celebrate individual achievements especially as it relates to the community.
  6. Be inclusive rather then exclusive. Community should embrace diversity as well as being a place where we feel ourselves; we can include members who traditionally may be excluded and in that way strengthen the larger community.

 

To be authentic means that we aren’t just ourselves in the privacy of our own home but bring that authenticity to our communities and the world.

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

Skills for living an authentic life 4

In the fourth blog in this series I will be looking at how to listen better to our intuition. In my last blog I wrote about the different sides of the brain; the left side that is logical and rational and the right side that is intuitive. Our inner authentic self is always trying to enter our conscious awareness and intuition is a pretty direct way to do this. Both logic and intuition are useful skills but most of us have come to rely more on logic and we forget to trust our intuition.

Intuition is not solely located in the right side of the mind. It is also in our body, especially in our gut. We get gut feelings that provide us with important information about a situation or person and this information isn’t at all logical. Or sometimes we feel something in our bones or just know something in our heart centre.

Our intuition can also speak to us through our senses – we can receive messages through visions or hearing messages or through an inner knowing – clairvoyance, clairaudience and claircognizance.

There are many ways that our intuition tries to get our attention but we can be more open to accessing our intuition if we have the intention. By intending to be open to intuitive messages and paying attention to them by following through on their messages we allow our inner self to speak with us more directly.

We can use traditional intuitive tools – tarot, runes, oracle cards and the like. These tap into our intuition in quite concrete ways providing us with information that we might not otherwise be able to access. By using these tools regularly we become more practiced at allowing our inner self to speak to us directly.

We can also access our intuition through our dreams and visions. Sometimes there are obvious and direct messages or we can pay attention to the symbols and images. To discover the deeper meanings behind our dreams we might read dream books or see a psychologist skilled in dream interpretation.

Another way that intuition comes to our attention is through intuitive flashes and hunches. A sudden thought might jump into our awareness or we might feel a strong urge to do something spontaneous. These intuitive flashes can lead to moments of creativity as new ideas come to us or might lead us to meet people who help us on our path. Following out intuitive hunches may take a leap of faith but as we follow our intuition more we become more in tune with it and its connection to our authentic self.

Intuition is a pretty direct line to our inner self yet many of us have forgotten how to trust this skill. We rely more on our logic and our rational brain and try to think our way out of problems. We plan out our lives and forget to let spontaneity and creativity help us follow our path more closely.

 

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship.

Skills for living an authentic life 3

The third skill for living an authentic life is to do with the mind. I have written extensively about the mind in my book Holistic Medicine so today I am going to just go over some of the basics.

The mind is made up of two parts that I call the right and left side; these correspond roughly to the right and left sides of the brain. The left side is the rational, logical part of our mind and the right side is the intuitive side. The two sides think in two different ways but we have got so used to the incessant chatter of the left side that we forget to pay attention to our intuitive side. Or sometimes we rely too much on our intuition without using our logic.

The left side thinks in words and sentences and follows thoughts in roughly a straight line; this is what makes it logical. Our left side is very useful for solving logical problems and we shouldn’t forget this. It can’t however solve more complex problems that aren’t logical in many ways. Here we need to use our intuitive side. The intuitive side doesn’t think in words but often in images or symbols and often we aren’t aware of it thinking at all, it simply pops the answer to our problem into our awareness.

To help solve our more complex problems we often need to pay more attention to our intuitive mind. This doesn’t mean we discard the logical mind but we don’t try to rely solely on it for problems that don’t have a logical answer. How do we know when something requires an intuitive insight or answer? Usually it is that chaotic process or problem that we get stuck in. Our logical mind is going a million miles an hour trying to figure out the answer and we feel like we are going crazy with all the thinking. This usually means we are caught in the middle of chaos and the only way out is to tap into our intuition.

To do this we may need to spend time trying to help quiet the logical side of our mind – we can do this through meditation and relaxation or we can do it through occupying the left side with a logical task. This might mean distracting it with a puzzle or using it to identify what parts of the problem can be helped with logic.

To tap into our intuition there are many tools we can use such as tarot, runes and oracle cards but often when we bring some quiet to our left brain, the right brain can be heard. The answer may come in meditation or relaxation or in our dreams. But it doesn’t come by thinking more about the problem.

Some times we might rely too much on our intuitive side and stop paying attention to our logical side. This can lead us into problems as we are out of balance if we don’t bring the two sides together. The two sides of the brain are designed to work together and we should never rely on either side in isolation. We can use the logical side for logical problem solving and the intuitive side for providing answers to more chaotic problems.

Both sides are also involved in the creative process with the intuitive side often coming up with unique and seemingly spontaneous new ideas. The left side then tests the ideas for strengths and weaknesses and helps refine them. As we learn more about how the sides of the mind work we can begin to pay more attention to the power of logic and intuition in our lives.

If all this sounds very confusing I go into much more detail in my book Holistic Medicine and that might be helpful to read.

 

Disclaimer. This web site is for research and entertainment purposes only. The information given in this site is not intended to replace a therapeutic practitioner relationship

Changing jobs

In a couple of weeks I’m changing jobs. I’m leaving Modern Medical in Balwyn where I have been for three years and moving to the NIIM clinic in Hawthorn. (NIIM – National Institute of Integrative medicine). This is much more than a change in practice location it is a change in practice philosophy.

While I tried to practice my version of holistic and integrative medicine in conventional general practice it is difficult to do so. There are time constraints and a certain set of patient expectations that occur in a conventional general practice. Changing to an integrative practice will give me more scope to practice a better version of holistic and integrative medicine.

The change came about somewhat serendipitously. Modern Medical was sold to a steel company and while we were reassured that nothing would change the sale gave me the opportunity to look at other options, one of which was the NIIM clinic.

As they state on their website “The NIIM Clinic is a leading provider of integrative and complementary healthcare, located in Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Housing Melbourne’s most prominent integrative General Practitioners and complementary medical staff, the NIIM Clinic facilitates treatment for a wide range of illnesses, including everyday ailments as well as chronic diseases such as diabetes, bowel disease, and heart disease, metabolic and endocrine disorders, cancer and others.”

While I am sad to be leaving such a great group of doctors and staff at Modern Medical I am very excited to be able to join the team at NIIM. I am really looking forward to helping empower patients to bring about their own healing through holistic and integrative approaches.

My book, Holistic Medicine – beyond the physical, discusses how people can gain more control over their health and learn how to heal themselves. I hope to bring these ideas to my practice and help patients to explore their health and illness in a holistic way and discover how to bring about greater healing.

www.drcarolhead.com.au