Today medicine is advancing on many fronts, not least investigation and experimentation with more natural supplements combined with traditional approaches. Integrated methods of treatment have shown considerable benefits when including natural therapies in the approach to healing.
Within this sphere, the doctor / patient relationship becomes a partnership; no longer merely a prescription and trip to the chemist – and a hopefully positive outcome; rather an approach whereby the doctor works with the patient in a caring and personal way to find a balance that will demonstrate genuine progress in a patient’s journey to improved vitality. This rapidly growing field seeks to combine the best of both worlds – the appropriate components of conventional medicine along with alternative medicine – to assist patients to achieve their most optimal level of wellness.
What is integrated medicine?
- A health practitioner will be trained in both conventional methods of patient care, and also in more proven natural therapies. In this way, care becomes more than just testing for a diagnosis or writing a prescription.
- The health practitioner will spend time informing the patient of the range of various options available, helping them to make decisions.
- All proven treatments, both traditional and complementary, will be considered, including alternatives such as diet, plant/herbal medicine, nutritional supplements, lifestyle options, chiropractic, acupuncture, etc.
- Most importantly, patients should note that integrative medicine rejects the use of any treatments that have thus far not been scientifically proven to work successfully. There needs to be high quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness.
- However, ‘natural’ does not always mean safe. Some supplements – dietary or otherwise – may have side effects, or combine badly with traditional medication. Taking an integrated approach to medicine in partnership with your doctor, should be based on information, guidance and responsibility.
The growing role of nutritional supplements
What we eat on a daily basis definitely plays a part in our health. The use of diet and supplements to enhance health and to treat certain diseases and conditions is finding greater popular acceptance; supplementation may well play a positive role in healing mind, body and spirit. The practice of integrative or holistic nutrition focuses on the whole person, looking to heal through food, vitamins, minerals, and dietary and herbal supplements.
This philosophy has been around for some time – but recently its role in conjunction with conventional medicine explores the idea that a well-balanced diet, with specific supplements, can help to heal the body both physically and emotionally. However, whatever the condition you are treating, no one plan fits all. You will have to work closely with your health practitioner and dietitian to develop a plan based on evidence-based treatments that will benefit you as an individual.
Mood: Supplements can affect depression and irritability. Studies have shown that a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, and healthful fats can reduce these conditions while a diet high in processed foods and sugar can exacerbate conditions. Vitamin and mineral supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, and B vitamins can play a significant role in regulating mood.
Headaches: Caffeine, refined sugars, and foods containing preservatives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) or artificial sweeteners may trigger headaches – especially migraine. Other causes may be sinus congestion and infections, including allergies that trigger these conditions. Feverfew may be a helpful supplement in alleviating this condition.
Anti-inflammatory foods: Some foods can cause inflammation that can contribute to the development of chronic inflammatory conditions such as arthritis (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis), atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and eczema. Herbal supplements such as curcumin and aloe vera are both proven as useful alternatives for reducing inflammation.
Autism Spectrum Disorder and supplements
Autism is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder because it can cause very different symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. The use of integrative techniques in pediatric nutrition is receiving more attention. Integrative therapies with regard to children – particularly with ADHD, autism and obesity – are continually under research and many practitioners are beginning to adopt proven integrative principles into daily practice.
- Melatonin: Many children with ASD struggle with sleeping. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. In studiesfunded by Autism Speaks, supplements have been found to improve sleep and reduce insomnia in children with autism. Disordered sleep can accentuate autism symptoms such as repetitive behaviours, so improving the sleep patterns of autistic children is highly beneficial.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Essential for the development and functioning of the brain, Omega-3 is considered a safe supplement. They could be helpful in reducing repetitive behaviour and hyperactivity, and may even contribute to improved socialising skills.
- Nutritional Supplements: Multi-vitamins, Vitamin B12, and probiotics are proven useful for anyone striving for good health, but are particularly useful for autism as well, showing an improvement in language and communication abilities in around 35% of children undergoing studies.
- Casein-free and Gluten-free diets: Parents have reported benefits in their children when placed on a gluten and casein free diet. Gluten is found primarily in wheat, barley and rye, and casein in dairy products.
- Magnesium: This is one of the body’s most essential minerals. It is heavily involved in the health of our cells, our immune function, energy production, bones and muscles, etc. The link between low magnesium levels and the rise of autism, as well as ADD and ADHD, has proved quite significant; it could be that we are losing this precious mineral through modern processed food production because lack of magnesium intake is on the rise. The prevalence of autism is estimated at 1 in 68 today, compared with 1 in 166 in 2000. Magnesium supplementation can improve symptoms such as hyperactivity, noise sensitivity, restlessness, body rocking, and poor concentration.
Dr Louise Lindenberg
Dr Louise Lindenberg runs an integrated medical practice in Durbanville, Cape Town. She incorporates dietary intervention, supplementation, nutrition, phytotherapy/herbal medicine, and allopathic medicine in a holistic health care environment.
Her passion is working with children on the Autistic Spectrum, including Autism, PDD, ADD, ADHD and behavioural problems. She follows a biomedical approach in treating children to improve their outcome in the Autistic Spectrum. Due to her specialised knowledge she is a sought after speaker and frequently addresses other medical professionals, teachers and parents on various topics relating to autism.
Find more information at: www.autismdoctor.co.za