Combining a homeopath and a medical doctor for patient care is like the beautiful art of tapestry weaving, when you weave individual colourful threads together to produce a perfect picture. Whether you call it alternative, complementary or integrative treatment, this type of medical care is becoming more popular than ever.
Integrative medicine is a term that emphasizes the combination of both conventional and alternative approaches to address a patient’s health issues. It emphasizes the relationship between the practitioner and patient and the collaboration for patient care among practitioners. Each individual’s disease is different and can be complicated but when treated by both types of practitioners, the patient gets the best care possible.
Medical doctors treat individual patients with evidence based medication which is data based from large randomized trials looking at trends in the studied population. While attempting to personalize those decisions, each patient is an individual whose response may not be that of the entire studied group. As such, not all treatments work the same for all patients and outcomes may not be as optimal as the physician and patient would like, which leaves them sometimes both feeling that more could be done. In addition, sometimes traditional therapies do not provide the results that an individual is looking for. That’s often when the option of alternative medicine such as homeopathy presents itself.
Homeopathic medicine is a holistic system of treatment based on the idea that substances that produce symptoms of sickness in healthy people will have curative effects when given in diluted quantities to sick people. Homeopathic remedies are believed to stimulate the body’s own healing process.
Both forms of medicine are important. Knowing when the patient needs to be treated with both medicines or to move from homeopathy to prescription medicine or vice versa is the key.
Seven years ago I was a student at Canadian College of Homeopathic Medicine (CCHM). I had a practice as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist at the time and my intention was to build homeopathy into my existing practice. My end goal was to work closely with some medical doctors to give my patients the best care possible. The education at CCHM was amazing and every teacher was brilliantly trained in the art of classical homeopathy.
To enhance my education while in school, I shadowed a medical doctor once a week for two months. I met with Dr. Alan Kaplan M.D. who allowed me to shadow him and get some first-hand experience with an M.D. It was a wonderful learning experience and it helped me to understand the medical world from a front line perspective.
On one occasion Dr. Kaplan had a female patient come in presenting with chronic bladder infections. This was an issue that she had been dealing with for months. Before he prescribed yet another antibiotic he turned to me and said, “Do you know what to do with her?” “Yes I do” I said. That was the beginning of Dr. Kaplan opening up to the possibility of homeopathic medicine.
When asked about working with a homeopath Dr. Kaplan said, “As a physician, I try to keep my mind open to alternatives as the bottom line is to attempt to assist the patient/individual who I am working with. While I may not understand the therapies given by a Homeopath, I have kept my mind open to encouraging patients to look for answers wherever they can be found.”
We now share the care of this female patient and her whole family. They are getting the best care ever because they are receiving the expertise of both Dr. Kaplan and myself. We have gone on to share other patients in our practices. Dr. Kaplan has been a great help to me when I need information about a patient’s disease, blood work, test results etc. We have developed mutual respect in our fields and work together in the best interest of our patients.
As time passed, the gap in my practice continued to fill. Four years ago I had the pleasure of connecting with Dr. Leandra Forman M.D. I had a female patient who was recovering from a mastectomy and chemotherapy. She had been diagnosed with breast cancer a year earlier and had finished all her treatments. She came to me for weight loss and to help her get weaned off five different medications.
Furosemide: for water retention
Venlafaxine: for depression and anxiety
Meloxicam: Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drug for her Fibromyalgia
Potassium Chloride for low potassium
Norfloxacin: to treat her chronic Urinary Tract infections
I agreed to start with the Norfloxacin but only if her medical doctor was onboard with my patient’s decision. Once she got the green light I started treating her with homeopathy and diet. Dr. Forman decreased the medication as I treated my patient with homeopathy and nutrition. Currently our patient is off all the medication above and is maintaining her health with homeopathy and diet.
When talking to Dr. Leandra Forman she had this to say about Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).
“I have been practicing conventional medicine for over twenty years. Approximately 15 years ago I opened a new practice in Thornhill, Ontario. I had a lot of patients requesting that I prescribe Bio-identical Hormone replacement therapy and this led me to research the benefits and risks of this and other alternative therapies. This convinced me to be open to using these in my practice.
Fortunately, I had personally experienced and benefited from several alternative therapies, namely: chiropractic, osteopathy, massage and acupuncture. As such I was always comfortable recommending these for patients. It was not until a patient of mine introduced me to her wonderful homeopath, Debbie Allen, that the amazing benefits of homeopathy combined with nutrition were revealed to me. I witnessed first-hand the phenomenal progress my patient made in areas that conventional medicine had failed to impact her health positively. This experience resulted in a close relationship with Debbie built on mutual respect, from which dozens of our patients have now been able to benefit through our approach to an integrative health model.
Many times in conventional medicine, we exhaust all options available to us and ask ‘where to now?’ For me the simple answer is to look to alternative therapies. Recently there has been a lot more recognition by medical physicians and our governing bodies of the important role that CAM plays and that it is both safe and necessary. This is huge progress from the prior skepticism and hesitation that was prevalent.
I believe the collaboration of a medical physician together with CAM practitioners in an integrative health model ultimately benefits the patient’s total health and will result in the best expected outcome for any given patient, giving that patient the best prognosis for longevity and quality of life.”
So what are some important points to help bridge the gap between medical doctors and homeopaths? Write a letter to all your patient’s medical doctors introducing yourself, briefly explain your services and include your business card. Let the physician know what aspects of the patient’s care you are trying to improve and that you are doing this in addition to ‘traditional’ therapies. What truly scares a physician is the overly enthusiastic patient that completely abandons their current medication regimen while looking for the answer elsewhere. It is important that the homeopath work with the physician. After working with your patient for a couple of months send a letter to their family physician informing them of their patient’s progress and briefly explaining what your course of treatment has been. Offer to shadow your medical doctor for a period of time to connect with them and their patients. Be respectful and open to both forms of medicine. Don’t challenge the M.D. that you’re working with about their care. The whole point is to work together.