Five key ways I support clients with chronic illness
A lot of the feedback I receive as a practitioner working with complex health cases involves the difference between my approach and common approaches to care that do not work for people with complex or chronic health conditions. Chronic and complex health problems require a client-centered approach. Client-centered nutritional therapy effectively complements allopathic medical care.
Common complaints I hear about my clients’ past care
“The doctor couldn’t account for my physical symptoms and wrote them off as inexistent or psychological”
“My health care provider didn’t listen to me”
“A practitioner I trusted matched my symptoms to a one-size-fits-all protocol”
“My provider exploited me financially on the basis of my poor health”
“The treatment regimen was complicated and expensive, but paid little to no attention to nutrition and lifestyle factors”
Perhaps my own complex health issues shaped me into an effective practitioner for my chronically ill clients. In this post, I share five key ways in which I support my clients through complex health problems.
Think of this post as a manifesto for chronic illness support. I hope this post will be helpful both to clients looking for a practitioner to support them and to practitioners hoping to provide more successful care to clients with complex health cases.
Remember, nutritional therapy is not a replacement for medical care, and as a nutritional therapist I do not provide diagnosis or treatment. Rather, I assess functional health and make individualized recommendations suitable for your situation. Additionally, as a client-centered nutritional therapy practitioner, I dedicate substantial time to your case. This can help us hone in on nutritional and lifestyle considerations that can shift your picture in a positive direction.
Listening and researching: taking a complete health history
My practice is client-centered. I don’t work in large volumes, which means I have time to study each of my cases. Why do I do this, when I could instead schedule 8-10 consultations a day? Well, I do this because I am passionate about helping people who are stuck, and doing this takes time.
When I work with a new client, I start by asking a lot of questions. You fill out forms, and we talk, for a long time. This isn’t because I’m nosy. Asking questions about personal and family health history can help me connect the dots to understand the big picture and how each piece of the puzzle connects to the other pieces, and with the whole.
Listening and learning go hand in hand
If you describe an odd symptom pattern or an obscure exposure, I don’t assume it is irrelevant. If what you describe is new to me, I research. I read through my functional health books in my library and read scientific articles in journals. Listening and learning go hand in hand.
When practitioners rush from one client to the next, that there isn’t time for true listening, much less research. This leads to a situation where a lot gets dismissed, and a lot gets missed.
Understanding that physical health problems cause emotional distress
Those who suffer from chronic physical symptoms that impact quality of life significantly often also have some anxiety and/or depression. Often, however, this is the only diagnosis they have, as if nothing else were wrong, implying that the physical symptoms don’t really exist.
Yet having physical pain and debilitating fatigue that others don’t see or understand is enough to trigger anxiety or depression in an otherwise well-adjusted person. Unfortunately, if your doctor labels you with a psychiatric diagnosis when you know there is something physically wrong, your anxiety and depression may increase.
As many of my clients describe, each in their own way, the true problem is very clear to them in their bodies, but nobody sees or understands it. If you have a family, a career, hobbies and responsibilities, chronic illness can make you feel like you’re never up to the task, and unable to enjoy life.
Everyone is unique, in sickness and in health
For some reason, it’s easy for us to recognize individuality in general, but not so easy when a person is sick. When illness sets in, you may suddenly feel like a collection of symptoms or test results to analyze. You disappear as a person, either behind a label, or behind the mystique of being a medical mystery. Neither of these is particularly helpful. Once the novelty of being a medical mystery wears off, you may feel frustrated, stigmatized and invisible in the worst possible of all combinations.
The vulnerability of chronic illness
In this difficult situation, you may find yourself targeted by all kinds of people promising you all kinds of miracles. Chronic illness can certainly make you a target for exploitation. This may take the form of friends trying to sell you the latest cure-all multilevel marketing product. Or perhaps a health guru tells you that you have exactly the health condition he happens to specialize in, and must take his proprietary protocol.
Understanding pitfalls that can lead to exploitation of the client
I advise people suffering from chronic pain and chronic fatigue be wary of anyone ready to tack on a label and a “solution” without knowing the whole, deep, complicated story. Fatigue and pain are dramatic symptoms, but they are also not specific to any particular disease. Avoid practitioners who have a reputation for diagnosing one specific condition over and over again on the basis of vague or circumstantial evidence. Any specialist you see should be unbiased and should be competent in differential diagnosis. Why should anyone be invested in some stranger having, say, Lyme disease or mold illness, when their symptoms could be caused by any range and combination of conditions, including Lyme disease, mold illness, mercury poisoning, Epstein-Barr virus infection, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, lupus, celiac disease, hypothyroidism and more?
There is no magic pill
I know, you’re probably looking for quick answers and easy solutions, but the likelihood of getting an accurate answer without having someone truly dig deeply are very slim indeed. There is no one essential oil mix that will heal everyone’s problems, no heavy metal chelation blend that everybody needs to take, no pill that is right for everyone. Anyone who approaches you with a “miracle cure” is probably deeply misguided or trying to make a quick buck off of you. Sadly, more often than not, they’re trying to make hundreds or thousands of quick bucks, not just one.
High ethical standards and an individualized approach
High ethical standards and a bio-individual approach to health must go hand in hand. If your practitioner doesn’t have high ethical standards, you may find yourself buying large packages in a moment of weakness, or arrive home from each visit with loads of supplements that don’t make much of a dent.
If this has ever happened to you, it doesn’t mean that your practitioner intentionally exploited you. It’s more likely that he applied common marketing techniques that brought him money without improving your health. The money-centered model of care doesn’t work well with complex health cases. Nonetheless, practitioners really believe in their process, in their protocols and in the products they sell.
A paradigm of service
What may be a standard and even helpful approach in a more straightforward situation may in your case feel like a predatory marketing tactic. Chronic pain and chronic fatigue make clients vulnerable.
I know what this vulnerability means, and I know what it feels like. This is why my practice centers around the needs of my clients. My work is service to my clients. Yes, there is an exchange of money. This is not very different from my paying the farmer who grows the vegetables I eat. My clients pay me to serve them, and I do so with deep respect and commitment to my clients’ needs, not an aim to maximize sales or profits.
Starting with the basics
A former client of mine came to me after a long struggle with constipation, headaches and dry skin. She tried various medications for constipation, but then they stopped working. When I asked her how much water she drank in a typical day, she told me she was drinking between half a cup and a cup per day, sometimes two. She told me I was the first practitioner to ask her about hydration. I incorporated hydration into her plan, and it was a real game changer.
Frankly, I don’t understand why any health professional would prescribe medication for constipation, dry skin or headaches without first making sure their client is properly hydrated. Whereas in most cases the solution is complicated, sometimes it’s really as simple as drinking your water.
Similarly, I often hear from clients with autoimmune illnesses, infertility, connective tissue disorders or other complex health problems that I’m the first practitioner to ask them what and how they eat. Yet, even when food alone may not fully resolve the problem, it is a very important part of the picture.
Nutrition and lifestyle as part of an integrated health plan
Your nutrition, hydration, sleep and exercise habits are foundational to your health. Yes, you can change those, one baby step at a time, once you are ready to get better. If you’re not sleeping, if you’re dehydrated, if you’re not eating enough healthy food, no lotion, potion or protocol can save you. However, if you have a complex or chronic condition that requires some medications or supplements, good nutrition, decent sleep, daily movement and good hydration will give your medication or supplements a much better chance of supporting you. You may even come to a point when you no longer need to take your supplements, because your body has been able to rebalance.
Along the same lines, when we cover the bases properly, clients with even the most severe health issues achieve really good results that allow for a reduction or elimination of some or all medications. Of course, this is always something that the patient and doctor decide together.
For example, one of my first clients was a woman with rheumatoid arthritis who drastically reduced her pain and drastically increased her energy on the nutritional plan I put together for her. After following my nutritional recommendations for three months, she returned to her doctor for scheduled lab testing. On the basis of her improved lab work and reduction in symptoms, her doctor instructed her to slowly and safely taper off the immunosuppressant medication she had been taking till then. When she did that, her whole-body puffiness and yeast infections also disappeared. She was happy, and so was her doctor. You can also bet that I was very happy too.
Get in touch to learn more
If you are a family member are experiencing chronic, complex health problems and you feel stuck, feel free to reach out. For a brief description of how I work with complex health cases, see: http://buildnurturerestore.com/restore-chronic-illness/ and http://buildnurturerestore.com/what-to-expect/.
I’m happy to answer any questions you/she may have and to schedule a complimentary 30-minute appointment so we can explore whether I’m a good fit for the situation.