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Never before has there been so much nutritional research. Many doctors who are successfully using nutritional therapy are sharing their successes and making their protocols available. The amount of well-researched information available has made treating patients with nutrition more systematic and effective than in the past. Herbal, nutritional and homeopathic remedies are safe, effective, and allow the chiropractor to expand the scope of his or her practice. Nutritional remedies work, in most cases, better than prescription drugs.
As chiropractors, we need to get away from being musculoskeletal specialists destined to be replaced by physical therapists in the HMO’s. We need to get away from being philosophers that wax rhapsodic about innate intelligence flowing down from the upper cervical vertebrae. Not that these things are bad, but they are limiting. Taking one view of your practice, to the exclusion of all others, will limit you in the amount of benefit that you can be to your patients and in the growth and scope of your practice.
A powerful combination
It is necessary to have a sound knowledge of nutrition and a system for applying your knowledge. Nutrition can improve the health of your patients as well as the health of your practice. The chiropractor who uses nutrition is a godsend to patients. The combination of the effectiveness of the chiropractic adjustment and nutrition is powerful and effective.
There is a growing public perception that medical doctors are opting not to be health care providers and choosing instead to become gatekeepers. Increasing numbers of patients believe that the chief function for many medical doctors is to save money for HMOs by keeping patients from squandering corporate profits on diagnosis and health care. Patients feel that they are managed and not cared for. The feeling that doctors are now more concerned about the corporate bottom line than they are about their patients’ health has caused increasing numbers of people to seek out holistic health care. Patients spend in the neighborhood of 12 billion dollars, out-of-pocket, each year on holistic health care. There has been no better opportunity for chiropractic to grow since chiropractic is the only holistic health care profession licensed in every state.
To benefit from the public’s interest in natural health care, it is necessary for the modern chiropractor to treat the whole patient, not just kinks, strains and disturbances in energy flow. A thorough knowledge of nutrition is a step in this direction.
Getting patients better is without a doubt the best practice building technique. The best marketing tool is a patient who is thrilled that you were able to give him or her relief, especially if that patient has been to other doctors without receiving help. There is no better adjunctive therapy to chiropractic; nothing will increase your success with patients as much as nutrition.
Start with the basics
It’s easy to begin helping improve your patients’ nutrition, even if you haven’t done so in the past. Start by improving their diets. Teaching your patients some fundamentals about nutrition will help them to hold their adjustments, heal faster, lose weight (if that is a goal), have more energy and generally make them think that you are a genius for making them feel so good.
Some basic rules will follow. These are general rules; specific advice may vary for individual patients, but these dietary changes will benefit almost everyone. Although these rules may seem simple and obvious to many of you reading this, ask yourself if you recommend these basic dietary changes to your patients probably not. My experience indicates that few physicians, medical or chiropractic, give this advice. [See Axioms 1 – 7].
When treating with nutrition, you will be most effective by beginning with the basics. Many of your therapies will not be as effective unless you start at square one. Have the patient follow the advice strictly for 30 days. Tell them not to deviate from the plan and to act as if Charlton Heston handed them this advice on a stone tablet. Most people can do anything for 30 days.
How many of your patients have been on ridiculous diets or even Optifast for that amount of time? Explain to them that following the plan for 30 days will make it easy for them to understand the connection between diets and how they feel. Once again, this may seem simple and obvious to you, but if you’re not giving this advice, you are not helping your patients as much as you should be.
How much good is a supplement to a patient who is drinking several cans of sugar and phosphorus-loaded soda pop which is depleting his or her vitamins or minerals? How much good is Saw Palmetto going to do the BPH patient eating a diet deficient in magnesium, zinc and other minerals? Having patients change their dietary habits is much more important than knowing which vitamin or herb to give them. You will be surprised how much these simple dietary rules will help your patients.
Branch out to other conditions
As you learn more about nutrition, you will be able to help patients with more of their problems. Make it a point to learn about a different nutrient or health condition each week. A good start would be to learn about hidden allergies.
Hidden allergies can be responsible for more than 200 chronic symptoms. Sinusitis, irritable bowel disease, skin problems, arthralgias, fatigue, headaches, obesity and even gallstones are just a few of the problems that your allergic patient may be suffering from. Because reactions can take between two and 72 hours to occur, patients seldom make the connection between the offending food and their symptoms.
Many of these patients will tell you that they have blood tests and know that the allergies are not a problem. Chances are that they were tested for IgE antibodies, which cause an immediate and severe reaction. Hidden allergies are found with IgG testing. IgG testing is done by Meridian Valley Labs in Washington State and by Immuno Labs in Florida. Another test for hidden allergies is the ELISA/ACT test performed by Serammune Labs in Virginia. These labs conduct the tests by mail and you can perform them in your office (laws permitting).
Once the offending foods are identified, they can be eliminated from the diet. The patient also goes on a rotation diet. A patient on a rotation diet does not eat any food more than once every four days. Rotating foods in this matter keeps the patient from sensitizing to new foods. Most of the labs that perform the tests will supply you with customized rotation diets for each patient.
Not everyone, but some patients (around 15%) will suffer adverse reactions when they stop eating the foods that are responsible for their allergic symptoms. Usually the reaction lasts only a few days. Adjustments, cranial work and calcium bicarbonate can be used to alleviate the symptoms of these reactions.
If the patient cannot afford the blood tests, or if you are in an area where you are not allowed to draw blood or order tests, you can still help your allergic patients (we won’t get into a discussion about the usefulness of Applied Kinesiology here). Have the patient fill out a diet intake sheet for one week. Every food that appears on the sheet on more than three different days should be avoided and a general rotation diet should be followed.
If you make a list of the foods that most Americans eat more than three times a week, it would probably include: wheat, dairy, eggs, yeast, citrus, coffee and corn. You have to consider what is in combination foods. For example, mayonnaise has egg, soy (from the oil) and yeast (from the vinegar) in it. Sauces and gravies may contain wheat, corn or dairy. Most soda pop has corn syrup.
The patient will usually be dismayed about the food that he or she has to give up. It is almost guaranteed that one or more of the foods will be the patient’s favorite. Most patients eat their allergic foods so often that they won’t know what else to eat. Point out to them that usually the foods do not have to be avoided forever. In six to eight weeks you can add the food into the rotation.
Reintroduce foods one at a time. On the day the food is reintroduced, have the patient eat a lot of it. Make sure they eat it at all three meals. This way, if the food is still a problem, the patient will react to it and you will know that they need to continue avoiding it.
Nutritional supplementation and, of course, chiropractic adjustments will do a lot to help the patients overcome any hidden food allergies. A combination of vitamin C, trace minerals and quercitin can also be helpful.
Giving basic dietary advice and understanding hidden allergies is a good way to begin to help your patients’ nutrition. If you continue to learn about other nutritional issues, your patients, your practice, and your profession will all benefit.s
Paul G. Varnas, DC, has been in practice for 13 years and teaches clinical nutrition at The National College of Chiropractic. He is the author of two books, “Fifty Ways to Lose Your Blubber” and “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Energy, But Were Too Tired to Ask.”
The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of The National College of Chiropractic.