By Guest Blogger Tiffany Allen, FNP-C, WHNP-BC, with Triad Lifestyle Medicine
As a Nurse Practitioner, I am often asked, “What is your specialty?” When I reply, “Lifestyle Medicine,” I usually get an inquisitive look. Yes, this is a newer approach to medicine; but quite frankly, it is undeniably a much needed alternative to our current medical system.
I say the following having worked in conventional medicine for over a decade: Today’s conventional medicine is great for acute conditions that may need a quick intervention; however, the design of conventional medicine doesn’t permit our medical providers adequate time to address chronic conditions and get to the “root” of the issue. What do I mean by chronic conditions? Things like diabetes, anxiety, chronic pain, high cholesterol, weight loss struggles, menopausal symptoms, migraines and more.
Now that I am practicing Lifestyle Medicine, I spend 45 to 60 minutes with each patient during each visit; whereas, with conventional medicine, you typically get 10-15 minutes with your healthcare provider. This is not nearly enough time to address chronic medical conditions! Rather, it is only long enough to band-aid the symptoms with a one-size-fits-all solution.
Working in conventional medicine, I became frustrated seeing so many patients not getting better – and not because I didn’t know what questions, tests and lifestyle changes could be used – it was because I was only allotted 15 minutes to make their symptoms lessened. I was not permitted the time necessary to find the “root” causes of their condition and develop a plan to improve or eliminate those causes. So, I transitioned into Lifestyle Medicine.
Lifestyle Medicine focuses on a healthy diet (which is based on individual needs, sensitivities and deficiencies), adequate exercise, healthy sleep, stress management, relationships and environmental factors. It will do more for your health than any medication – Lifestyle Medicine is so in-depth that it can treat and reverse chronic conditions WITHOUT medications. Yes, there are some cases where a traditional medication may be needed, and I can prescribe medications in addition to lifestyle adjustments; but, I like to think of medication as a short term tool.
Unlike conventional medicine, which is a disease-centered approach, Lifestyle Medicine is lifestyle-centered. Here is an example of it in practice:
Jane has an unhealthy diet, exercises minimally, has a great deal of stress at work, and sleeps 5-6 hours a night. She has no energy and just overall does not feel well. She is diagnosed with diabetes and chronic fatigue by her conventional healthcare clinic and given 4 medications for her symptoms, each with side effects. After taking these medications, she still doesn’t FEEL any better! She is frustrated and feels hopeless. She visits our Lifestyle Medicine clinic, we perform a physical assessment, a detailed health intake, lab tests, and have a lengthy conversation. We review the results and together establish a goal for her to FEEL BETTER and have more energy. Within 2 months of instituting the lifestyle changes from her customized Wellness Plan, her symptoms are lessening, she is feeling much better, and is already off 2 of her medications. She feels empowered to take control of her own health – which is huge for self-esteem and long-term success and wellness. We check in often and I provide the ongoing accountability and support she seeks.
This emphasis on partnership also illustrates my belief that healthcare should be patient-centered and empowering – meaning it gives patients the education they need to take ownership of their own health – and this ultimately increases successful results and patient satisfaction.
Another powerful reason Lifestyle Medicine is better for chronic conditions is because we can order non-conventional lab tests that take a much more detailed look at things like nutrition status and deficiencies, digestion, genetics, hormone levels and food sensitivities:
Have you ever questioned if the vitamins or supplements you take are really necessary or even working? We can find out by ordering micronutrient testing which measures deficiencies of vitamins, minerals and more, and it shows what your unique body produces well on its own. Using these results, I can provide guidance in what supplements or foods are needed. And many times, I find that people are buying and taking supplements they don’t even need!
Do you often experience an upset stomach (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, heartburn), skin irritation, food intolerances, autoimmune conditions? This could be a sign of an unhealthy gut and can be checked by a stool test. The majority of the time these issues can be corrected through diet changes and/or supplements.
With everything we are facing in current times, I believe even deeper in the practice of Lifestyle Medicine because it helps our bodies achieve higher levels of wellness and resiliency. Now more than ever we need to improve our health, not just band-aid our symptoms, so we are putting our best foot forward when faced with disease, illness and injury.
*Sponsored by Triad Lifestyle Medicine