Oak Health’s treatment process and treatment philosophy
Due to the dynamic nature of the natural medicine industry and variability of diet and lifestyle modifications, as well as herbal and nutritional supplementation, there is no standard way to practice. Therefore, your experience with two or more naturopaths can be very different.
Based on this, I would like to outline my philosophies around health and wellbeing, which dictates how I treat, how I engage with my clients and how I structure my treatment plans, as well as the treatment process.
Consistent diet and lifestyle habits is the key to a healthy and robust body, both physically and mentally
More and more research is starting to show that many of the common chronic health issues are in fact caused and exacerbated by inconsistencies around peoples foundational diet and lifestyle habits. Yes, genes do play a role, however we know that genetic predispositions tend to only manifest in the backdrop of poor diet and lifestyle habits. Our genes may load the gun but our environment ultimately pulls the trigger. Depending on how strong the genetic predisposition is, it will determine the amount of poor diet and lifestyle habits that are required to trigger certain health issues.
The common diet and lifestyle habits that are underlying these chronic health issues include the following:
*Poor dietary choices (i.e. too much processed foods and not enough nutrient dense wholefoods).
Chronic lack of sleep, lack of good quality sleep and blue light exposure before bed that interrupts our circadian rhythm.
Lack of exercise and increased sedentary lifestyles (e.g. sitting at work, commuting etc).
Chronic stress levels, emotional instability and decreased emotional resilience.
Excess alcohol intake.
Illicit drug use.
Overuse of particular pharmaceuticals that cause harsh side effects, affecting our wellbeing (e.g. antibiotics effects on the gut flora).
*Note: Some people may have a good diet but they are not eating the right foods to treat a specific condition they may be suffering from. Some diets are used to achieve specific therapeutic aims and this demonstrates how food can be used as medicine (e.g. ketogenic diet for epilepsy, autoimmune protocol for autoimmune diseases, low FODMAP and low histamine diets for IBS, as well as focussing on specific foods to improve health outcomes in particular body systems like the cardiovascular system and endocrine system).
All chronic health issues have an element of inflammation driving them, which in turn causes the uncomfortable symptoms associated with diseases. Poor diet and lifestyle habits are tightly linked with influencing the inflammatory status of our body. They can drive inflammation in our body, therefore causing and exacerbating these chronic health issues. This is why it is so important to address diet and lifestyle habits when treating chronic health issues, as they can be one of the underlying causes and exacerbating factors behind particular diseases.
Addressing the underlying causes of health issues, ultimately leads to symptom resolution, without having to chase after and suppress individual symptoms. Improving diet and lifestyle habits also increases our nutrient status in the body that helps to fight inflammation, as well as support our gut health. Research is really starting to highlight that the composition of the gut bacteria that live in our digestive system has a huge impact on our digestive health and overall health. This is because they can influence inflammation in our body. Good bacteria decrease inflammation, promotes absorption of nutrients and supports a healthy body.
When I sit in a consult room, 99% of the time, people lack consistency around one or more of the habits listed above, which all affect one another. For example, if someone has poor sleeping habits and they are not sleeping well, they are more likely to feel stressed, will have less energy to exercise, will be less equipped to deal with stressors and will have poor emotional resilience. They are more likely to crave sugary and palatable foods for an energy hit, as well as “stress eat.” They are also less likely to have the energy and motivation to cook a healthy meal. As you can see, an inconsistency in one diet and lifestyle habit, will throw out the others. This is why it is important to work on them all together.
All of these habits are within our control, which means WE have the powder to change them and improve our overall health and wellbeing, so we become robust individuals, both physically and mentally. However, diet and lifestyle changes are often the hardest thing to do. It is much easier to take a pill, whether that be a supplement or medication, as opposed to changing habits. However, this will never address the underlying causes of the health issues and address the multifaceted nature of disease.
We live in a world of instant gratification, which teaches us to prioritise pleasure over any form of discomfort. Because of this, when it comes to our health, we expect fast results with minimal effort and minimal discomfort. We want a magic pill or magic cure. However, chronic health issues are multifaceted, therefore they need a multifaceted approach to healing (i.e. addressing all the underlying diet, lifestyle and environmental causes), which is why a single supplement or medication or even treatment is never going to be the cure. It may help some symptoms, but it is not the full answer to the issue.
Good health takes hard work, dedication, persistence, failure resilience, discomfort and consistent prioritisation around behaviours that promote health, as there is never an ‘end destination’ to wellbeing. Rather, it is a constant process, not a 6-week challenge.
When we decide to change/rearrange our value system and prioritise our health/wellbeing, no doubt we create new problems in our lives of how to achieve this (e.g. finding motivation to exercise or food prep), but these are problems worth solving and striving for because health is essential for us to live our best lives. These problems are a result of a good value, which is “looking after our health and wellbeing.” Life is about solving problems, we just need to find what problems are worth solving and striving for. Good health allows you to be the best version of yourself and engage with life in a purposeful way. The FEELING of being healthy and its effects on your quality of life is much more gratifying than giving into things that give us instant gratification and temporary highs, but thwart our long-term health goals.
We know from an intellectual place in our minds that we should look after our health as the information is all around us. However, just because we know this logically, doesn’t mean it will change our behaviour. Take smoking for example, people know they shouldn’t do it because of its health risks, but they do it anyway. Logic and thought doesn’t drive behaviour or change. Emotion drives behaviour and change. Our emotions drive action. We behave in certain ways based on how we feel. Therefore, instead of using logic to try change our behaviours, we should use our emotions. We should visualize how it would FEEL to be healthy both physically and mentally. How it would FEEL to have good energy levels and not suffer from debilitating symptoms.
Furthermore, if we improve our diet and lifestyle, it increases the efficacy of medications and supplements. This is because they work far better in the backdrop of a good diet and lifestyle habits. For example, diabetes medication can only control a person’s blood sugar so much, however if they are eating lots of processed carbs then its effectiveness is limited. However, in the backdrop of a good diet, the medication will work better, which can then lead to a reduction of the dose of the medication. This is because you end up addressing the underlying causes behind the symptoms that the medication or supplement is being prescribed for.
Based on this, my sole focus is around helping people to make sustainable and practical diet and lifestyle changes. My goal is not to ‘treat’ someone, but rather to ‘facilitate’ and ‘coach’ them to make practical and sustainable changes to their diet and lifestyle, so they can learn to take control of their health. I work as a team with my patients, in order to achieve their health goals.
Ultimately, along with evidence-based supplementation, I want to help my patients make changes around their daily habits so that they become healthier and never have to come see me again, because they would have learnt how to live a healthy life. Most of my work is really about education and empowering people to take control of their health, rather than creating dependency. I want to give people the tools to manage their symptoms and their wellbeing.
Naturopathic medicine is also preventative in nature, so when people come to me that have uncomfortable symptoms but are not a ‘diagnosable disease’ (as of yet), my goal is to prevent them from developing a disease or slow the progression of a disease.
While I make all my treatment plans sustainable, practical and achievable, as well as individualised for everyone’s different lifestyles/preferences (even for the most time poor people), as mentioned above, changing your diet and lifestyle does require hard work and persistence. But like anything worth doing in life, it always requires hard work, prioritisation, failure resilience, consistency and dedication. If you want to do it, and you really value the importance of your physical and emotional health, you will find the time to prioritise it. And like I said, why wouldn’t you? It is the most important thing in our lives, as it is the foundation of a good life. Our struggles determine our success and there are no shortcuts. If we aren’t willing to endure the fear and discomfort of changing our habits, then we probably don’t deserve to achieve the goal. We need to learn how to become comfortable with discomfort.
At Oak Health I believe growth, change, learning and doing anything worthwhile, are by nature uncomfortable experiences. This is because they require vulnerability, which involves fear of failure, uncertainty and emotional exposure. This may happen when you come to see me. You may be uncomfortable and I may put you out of your comfort zone to make changes for your health. I want you to know that it is completely normal and expected to feel uncomfortable. When you feel uncomfortable, we know growth and change is occurring. You’re not alone in those feelings. I ask you to stay open and lean into it because it is completely normal. Lastly, there are some things in life we just have to do because it is the right thing to do, even if we don’t want to. Looking after our health, I believe, is one of those things. This is because it allows us to be the best versions of ourselves, which benefits both ourselves and our loved ones. To be alive is to also endure struggle and discomfort, which actually makes us better as humans. We should never shy from it, but rather, we should embrace it. We live in a society the teaches us to seek pleasure and instant gratification, while avoiding discomfort in order to make us happy. However, what we fail to realise is that the act of enduring and overcoming struggle/discomfort is usually the happiest moments and proudest moments of our lives.
When you come to see me, what should you expect?
Initial consult: In this consultation I will explain my philosophy around how I approach treating chronic health conditions to give you an understanding of what to expect in the treatment process. Afterwards, most of this consult is about fact finding, where I ask you lots of questions about your current health status, past health issues, family history of illnesses, presenting symptoms, current/past medications, current/past treatments, current supplementation, your goals, your diet and lifestyle habits, and discuss any previous testing you may have done. I want to gather as much information as possible to see what the underlying causes of your presenting health concerns are. This is ultimately what we want to address and change.
In this consult, I will likely prescribe to you a particular diet and lifestyle habit that is indicated to help you with your current condition. I will want you to complete this habit before our next consultation, so we can build on it. You may also be prescribed an indicated supplement as well.
Because diet and lifestyle change can be difficult, research shows that gradual change and slow implementation of new habits is key. Therefore, instead of overwhelming you in the first consultation and throwing a whole book at you, I will send you away with a practical and achievable habit to get the ball rolling. All you need to do is come back and nail this habit before our follow up. Do that and we can then build from there with the next habits. Drip feeding you small habits at each consultation will increase the likelihood of implementation and most importantly, sustainability of these changes long term. I want to empower you and educate you to make changes that will last long after our face to face consults so that you can manage your own health without me in the future. It is not just about treating your symptoms, but also increasing your overall health and wellbeing. I want you to learn how to keep yourself mentally and physically healthy.
Report of findings (ROF) (second consult): Between the first and second appointment, it is usually best to space them out 1 week apart. This is so we keep momentum and keep the ball rolling.
After looking over the information from the first consult, I will devise a thorough, practical and sustainable treatment plan, which is specifically tailored towards helping treat your presenting health issues and achieving your goals. We will go through this in the ROF consult. The treatment plan will give you an understanding of your treatment direction and time frame that you need to commit to (i.e. roughly the amount of consults needed). I will also give you a user-friendly understanding of the driving factors behind your presenting complaints, which will ultimately help you understand the value of the changes we will be making with your diet and lifestyle, as well as supplement prescriptions.
More diet and lifestyle habits, as well as supplementation (if indicated) will be introduced during this ROF consult. They will build on the habits that were introduced in the initial consultation. This is called the habit building phase, where we work together to gradually make lasting changes to your diet and lifestyle that are exacerbating and driving your presenting health issues. This will be alongside evidence based supplementation as well.
Return consult: These consults are part of the ‘habit building phase’ where we will continue to work through the diet, lifestyle and supplement habits on your treatment plan.
Each session builds upon the last. They are usually spaced out fortnightly. The amount of return consults in the habit building phase will vary depending on the chronicity of your health issue, the amount of inconsistencies you have around your diet and lifestyle habits (i.e. how much we need to change) and your compliance as well. Once we reach the end of your treatment plan and your symptoms are resolving, we will discuss how we will transition you onto a maintenance plan, where we stretch out appointments and wean you off certain supplements that were playing a therapeutic role. The best part of the process is when you no longer need to book in another appointment or move to a 3 monthly catch up to touch base and keep you accountable.
Changing habits can take more time than taking a simple supplement or medication, however it will benefit you in the long run and in the context of your life, a few months to improve your health is quite small, with a huge effect. Therefore, stay patient. Healing and good health doesn’t happen overnight. Chronic health issues can take years to develop, therefore they won’t be cured in an instant.
Goals that most people focus on:
Decrease symptoms as much as possible.
Increase quality of life and help you improve your health. The meaning and importance of improving your wellbeing usually goes a lot deeper than just decreasing uncomfortable symptoms.
Increase mental and physical robustness.
Decrease disease progression/worsening.
Decrease side effects of medications and possibly working with your doctor on lowering the doses if symptoms improve.
Achieving these goals, no matter what your given health issue, will ultimately allow you to be the best version of yourself to live your most authentic life. For me, health is defined as the ability to live your most authentic and best life. Without good health, this is simply not possible.
What about testing?
By working alongside your GP, I may request certain blood tests if indicated. Sometimes objective measures can be good to track progress and looking at recent blood tests can help give me a good understanding of what is going on with your health. Blood tests are probably the most common tests I use in my practice.
In regard to functional testing, while these can sometimes be very necessary, if they aren’t going to change my treatment plan and outcome, I will not use them. They can be quite expensive, therefore I would much rather you direct your funds towards staying in active treatment, supplementation and changing your diet and lifestyle. My philosophy is that I should always treat the inconsistencies in a person’s diet and lifestyle first, and if things don’t resolve as they should be, we can always order testing to see what we may be missing. Lastly, it is important to note that while testing is important to diagnose and show progress of treatment, it is more important that you actually feel healthy. Sometimes tests can show nothing abnormal but you still feel unwell. Or other times, you can feel healthy but tests show that you are out of the reference ranges. Tests and the numbers we get from them don’t define our health, they just help to paint a picture alongside how we feel. Not everyone sits neatly into the bell curve of which testing reference ranges are derived from.
No one practitioner can do everything. I have a solid referral network with other trusted health professionals that can assist my patients in areas that they need help in, which are not my line of training or expertise. If I feel the need to refer you, I will. I am constantly touching base with my colleagues for the co management of our mutual patients. This is to ensure my patients get the most comprehensive care possible.
Stay off doctor google
Most people often have some idea that they know they need to change their habits but don’t know how to. This is especially hard when we are bombarded by misinformation in the media/social media world, which is plagued with non-evidence-based information and full of fads, trying to make a quick buck.
When you don’t have any formal training, the misinformation and conflicting information can often lead people in the wrong direction and sometimes down paths that can make their health issues worse. Just because someone has a lot of followers, doesn’t mean it increases the credibility of their health advice. This is why I often tell my patients to please refrain from google and health related social media pages during our treatment process. I hope to be my patient’s trusted source of health information. This is because my professional opinion is always informed and based on the latest research due to my continuous dedication to professional development, self-learning and self-improvement. If clients simply follow my direction, this often takes the ‘stress’ off them, knowing that they just have to listen to one person, instead of looking at all the conflicting information on the internet. The information and knowledge they will gain from my consults will then help them to be able to confidently sift through the misinformation of the media so that they don’t full victim to fads.
If my patients have questions, I urge them to drop me an email or save them for our consults.
Keep it simple
Diet and lifestyle change are of the utmost importance. People can often get swept up in ‘all flare but no substance’ modes of treatment that look fancy but don’t really address the crux of a health issue. Changing diet and lifestyle habits is not always glamorous, however it certainly works, and it is ultimately what really matters. I know this from experience.
I look forward to helping you in your wellness journey.