Patients often ask me why I changed track and left my career in conventional medicine to practice natural or holistic medicine. There are many different parts to this story but I think it began in childhood as growing up on a farm I had a close connection with nature and how food was produced. Healthy homemade food was important to us as a family and after rearing and bottle feeding lambs and calves I saw the food chain closely and understood first hand about animal welfare. In fact I became vegetarian age 10 because of this and so immediately had an interest in food and what I was eating.
The other very influential time of my life was when I went to live in France age 18, I took a gap year before medical school and went to live as a nanny in the south of France, this opened my eyes to the European model of health and the mainstream use of herbal and homeopathic medicines by doctors, as well as an introduction to organic and biodynamic farming which were common in the area of Provence I lived in. The family I worked for happened to use homeopathic medicine and I found that French pharmacists stocked shelves of herbs and remedies I had never seen before. I was interested in a different way of treating disease but didn’t really consider it deeply as I was still very committed to going to medical school and becoming a ‘normal ‘ doctor.
It was during my time at medical school that I began to really question the model I was being taught, I saw many patients not really improving in health and having strong side effects to drug medications. I saw doctors being targeted by pharmaceutical reps, being bought lunches, given freebies and that they sponsored a lot of our training events. I also travelled to India and Australia for my elective studies, working in the Australian bush with Aboriginal elders who used plant medicines and a health centre ran by a lovely Indian doctor who used art therapy for drug and alcohol addictions. I discovered homeopathic doctors, Ayruvedic and Tibetan doctors on my travels in India and consulted with them as well as beginning to study it in my spare time.
At home in Leicester I began to suffer from IBS symptoms myself, due to infections I had picked up in India on my travels and as my GP could not help I decided to try the homeopathy and acupuncture I had been reading about, it helped me and so I became interested in whether this approach may help some of my patients in the hospital.
Alongside this I was experimenting with growing vegetables in my allotment and learning about nutrition and started yoga and meditation to help with the stress of medical school. I became interested in health as well as disease and I became increasingly frustrated with hospital medicine and the lack of time I had with each patient and how I felt really unable to bring about any real healing or cure, I just seemed to patch people up so they could bounce back into our clinic a few months later… I felt frustrated and knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
I knew I needed further experience in other systems of medicine and so began the next 20 years of learning about different medical approaches and ways of promoting wellness and health as well as treating disease. I also developed allergies and managed to cure them with changing my diet, I travelled up and down the UK training with the best practitioners I could find as I was determined to be the best practitioner I could be and knowing that there was much learning to do. I am so excited for my recent studies in Functional Medicine, as this brings all my learning together … as I have always suspected I have learnt that genetics is about 30% of the reason for disease, 70% of the cause is related to diet, lifestyle and environment and these are all amenable to change. I am excited to be bringing all my studies together in this new model of medicine and one which I really believe is going to be the future of medicine and healthcare….in future blogs I will try to pass on my learning in some of this through useful and simple tips which I hope can help in you also beginning to understand this way of approaching health …
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