Many people believe natural and traditional medicine must be mutually exclusive forms of treatment for ailments and sicknesses. However, doctors in North Georgia and specialists in natural forms of medicine are looking to bridge the gap between the two distinct styles of healing.
“I think there are benefits to certain natural or alternative medicines,” said Dr. Arif Patni of Northeast Georgia Physicians Group. “The challenge that we have is that Western or traditional medicine has not given as much time or study to natural medicine as we should. However, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) is currently doing a study on integrative medicine.”
The practice of integrative medicine, which combines traditional with alternative forms of medicine, is growing throughout the country. Gainesville residents have access to a hospital and certified specialists in natural medicine who can help with various problems and symptoms.
However, each type of medicine has its advantages and disadvantages. Natural medicine has more success with some ailments, and vice versa.
“For emergency medicine and treatment, traditional medicine is the gold standard,” said Ricardo Boye, a certified naturopath at The Spa on Green Street. “It’s ideal for advanced chronic conditions, preventive screenings and those in critical condition.”
Boye, whose father is a medical doctor, is quick to laud the benefits of traditional medicine, but he certainly believes natural medicine can heal some ailments. Plus, alternative medicine professionals tend to see patients or clients more frequently for updates on the condition.
The practitioners also pay special attention to their clients’ overall wellness. Instead of treating illnesses with chemical medicines, Boye, who studied at the Trinity School of Natural Health, aims to find the cause of the problem and seeks a natural way to help the patient’s body rebalance itself.
“We look into personal matters to figure out why they’re sick,” Boye said. “We want to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself.”
Natural medicine attempts to do this through homeopathic remedies, herbal or botanical supplements, or vitamin and mineral supplements to add whatever the body is missing. Boye also inspects a client’s diet to see if a nutritional deficiency or allergy exists that could cause the illness or other symptoms, such as headaches and digestive problems.
“There are some natural medicines that I think do work,” Patni said. “I am supportive of probiotics for chronic abdominal problems, and things like cranberry-based products for women’s health. My biggest advice is to talk to your doctor before you take any kind of herbal supplements.”
Some of the most prevalent issues natural medicine is useful for are immune support, digestive problems, endocrine issues and stress and anxiety problems. Many of the ailments may stem from a person’s choices.
“First, we try to fix the diet,” Boye said. “We try to help the body become stronger in the digestive capacity. I’m not going to prescribe something to help the uncomfortable symptoms. I’m going to look at it and say, ‘Stop eating this food.’”
If a change in diet, exercise or sleep doesn’t remedy the problems, Boye will look for natural supplements to fix any nutrient deficiencies. They could range from a magnesium supplement to vitamin blend.
“A lot of people are suffering terribly because of micronutrient deficiencies,” Boye said. “Our modalities for remedying a situation are three-fold. Homeopathic, botanical and nutritional.”
Homeopathic remedies are simple medicines that stimulate the body’s natural abilities to return to homeostasis, Boye said. Botanical and herbal aids are more chemical than homeopathic remedies and closer to traditional medicines. Nutritional supplements attempt to make the body stronger and ward off imbalances.
Patni notes some supplements have merit, but he wants all patients to disclose that information to their doctors.
“I always want my patients to let me know what medicines they are on, even natural medicines or herbal medicines,” he said. “A lot of them are plant-based, and the FDA gives them sort of a pass, so they are not regulated as much.”
Some supplements, like probiotics and other vitamins and minerals, are beneficial to the body. To determine which ones are best for his clients, Boye conducts a test, known as the BioEnergetic Assessment. It evaluates the body’s electromagnetic energy in different places.
“Energy moves to different organs through specific meridians in the body,” Boye said. “There are reflex points on the hands and feet associated with these organs and the energy flowing to and from them.”
The tool, which is called electro-acupuncture, uses a computer program to read the energy levels from specific organs.
“The ones that drop more than others have more of an imbalance,” Boye said.
Naturopath uses an applied kinesiology test to see which minerals and supplements will best benefit the body.
Boye’s assistant, Billi Kilgore, began as a naturopath client. She had such a great experience with alternative medicine that she got involved with the practice.
“I was a patient of his for eight years,” Kilgore said. “I was a walking time-bomb for a stroke. Your bad cholesterol level is supposed to be under 100, and mine were at 2,000.”
Kilgore was on medication to lower her levels, which she learned were genetic. But doctors couldn’t get them below 400 with the drug. So she searched for another fix.
“Within 27 days, my levels were down to 141, which is the lowest they had been,” she said. “Now, that’s the highest they’ve been in eight years.”
To accomplish this, Kilgore gave up gluten, dairy and soy. Boye then recommended natural supplements. The results were not instant but incredible.
“He tries to get to the root of the problem,” she said. “It’s a journey. It’s not like you can take a pill and the symptoms will go away.”