In addition to travelling, skiing, SUPing, lifting weights, cuddling kittens, slaying dragons, planting a garden, getting married 🙂 and then travelling some more, my practice turned 10 years old and enjoyed a record breaking year full of new patients and fully booked weeks that kept me hopping.
Somehow I managed to get away to attend three fantastic medical conferences where I geeked out to my heart’s content.
In Toronto last February I learned about the diagnostic and treatment challenges of Lyme disease and chronic infections at the annual regional conference of the Association for the Advancement of Restorative Medicine. Lyme disease, caused by infection with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, is presently a very controversial topic in conventional, naturopathic and integrative medicine communities, particularly in Ontario. While a growing number of people are presenting with Lyme disease, the medical community is divided with respect to best practices in diagnosis and treatment, particularly when individuals present with symptoms attributed to chronic Borrelia burgdorferi infections i.e. those that aren’t diagnosed and treated in their acute phase (see link below for more on this).
In May I traveled to Hollywood, Florida for the annual international conference of the Institute for Functional Medicine. This year’s topic really caught my attention – Solving the Puzzle of Autoimmune Disease: the interplay of gut, genes and the environment. I gained tremendous insight into the integrative assessment and treatment of conditions like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis from experts in the field like Dr. Terry Wahls. I’ve never been more excited to return to the office after a conference. I’ve been busy ever since reexamining cases of autoimmune disease through the lens of functional medicine.
These complex, chronic diseases can no longer be attributed to simply bad genetic luck; a growing body of evidence suggests that multiple, cumulative insults to one’s system come together over years, decades even, forming the “perfect storm” in which autoimmunity is triggered in a genetically susceptible individual. Insults such as acute and chronic infections, compromised microbiome and gut health, gluten sensitivity, diet, lifestyle, environmental exposures, hormonal factors and even psychological stress all play a role.
In November I attended the annual convention of the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors in Toronto where I advanced my knowledge of mental health, applications for medicinal Cannabis, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and IBS, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and infertility, and neuroinflammation – which plays a role in mental health conditions and neurological conditions like cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s and concussions.
My biggest take away from all theses events is that chronic disease is generally quite complex and successful treatment is rarely achieved with a single intervention, be it a drug, diet, herb, etc. Rather than assigning a disease with a name in order to select the best drug, herb or supplement to manage symptoms, our diagnostics should aim to dig deeper and uncover the multiple reasons why the disease came to be in the first place. Only when we uncover the whys can we remove or manage the causes of disease and allow the body to reestablish health.
In this, my 10th year in practice, I’m more inspired than ever to be a naturopathic doctor and stand confidently with my colleagues in our ability to be part of the solution to the chronic disease epidemic. Uncovering the whys is where naturopathic doctors absolutely excel. Helping people make these connections, and helping them make big changes – or a series of small changes that snowball into big change – is where we shine.
To my patients, colleagues, friends and family, and the team of practitioners who keep me well, thank you for being part of my best year ever!
Read the Toronto Star article Everything about Lyme disease is steeped in controversy. Now some doctors are too afraid to treat patients.