Integrative Health Care: How Does It Work?
Thomas Reynolds, MD is a primary care physician, internist and oncologist who specializes in geriatric and cancer care. Shannon Sinsheimer, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor focusing on primary and integrative patient care. Over the past several years, Drs. Reynolds and Sinsheimer have been working together on patient care. I sat down with them to generate a better understanding of how these two professionals integrate their knowledge and practices.
What brought about your association?
TR: Our patients. We shared patients who felt we should meet and work together. And when I observe patients whose quality of life is greatly improved because of complementary therapies, I take notice. And as time goes on, side effects from drugs are becoming more and more obvious and of greater concern. I feel it is time medical doctors consider other available options that may be in a client’s best interest. Dr. Sinsheimer is exceptionally well-trained from the most reputable and longest standing naturopathic college in the country. I cannot learn what she knows and she can’t learn what I know.
SS: I am passionate about naturopathic care and what it does for people, but I am realistic in that we cannot live in a world without allopathic medicine. There is a time and place for pharmaceutical medication; however, it is overused and overprescribed in our country. In a perfect health care world, I see naturopathic doctors working in conjunction with medical doctors for patient care. I find Dr. Reynolds to be one of several MDs here locally who truly takes the time to listen to their patients. Instead of ignoring how a patient has achieved above average results, he researches it and wants to understand it for his patient’s benefit.
TR: I have always told people that natural immunity and healthy living will enhance the body’s own natural mechanisms to help fight disease, and naturopathic care promotes that effort.
What are some of the conditions you treat jointly?
SS: People with chronic care conditions that are only currently managed by medication including irritable bowel syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders; chronic fatigue syndrome; chronic allergies; integrative cancer care; autoimmune diseases and arthritis to name a few.
TR: Many drugs for these conditions have damaging side effects and minimal long term benefits. It is in the client’s best interest to get off of these medications if at all possible, and as naturopathic care focuses on diet and supplementation, achieving overall wellness, this is often achievable.
SS: Another category for integrative care is anxiety and depression. These conditions can often be helped by dietary changes, and supplements such as essential fatty and amino acids.
TR: I absolutely agree. And medications for these conditions are not recommended for long term use.
How do you work together on cancer care for patients?
TR: Our first shared client had stage 3C ovarian cancer and was extremely involved with both medical and alternative approaches to her care, which included 3 surgeries over 5 years. At this point, she is cancer free. You have to respect these results.
SS: She has stated on several occasions that she feels certain her body would never have made it through all the medical procedures without the integrative care which included diet, nutritional supplements and IV therapy.
TR: And with such care, it is important that the team of practitioners communicate and work together.
SS: For the mere fact alone that there are some supplements you need to stop taking during chemotherapy.
TR: We will never prove that our working together has truly added to her life, but both Dr. Sinsheimer and I believe that we have, as does our patient.
How about clients with say, arthritis pain?
SS: I prescribe an anti-inflammatory diet and there are a series of homeopathic creams we use on the affected areas. I use a combination of proteolytic enzymes, turmeric, boswellia, ginger and bromelain. Treatment sometimes includes a chiropractic referral as warranted.
TR: Choices from my line of work as a doctor are epidurals which we find have decreasing efficacy as you go along; pain medications; and surgery, which is usually the last resort. Why not try natural remedies before or in conjunction with these therapies, which are less than desirable for long term effects.
What are you seeing with integrative care in the industry?
TR: In my medical literature, I read daily about drugs that provide “disease free survival,” but it is not overall survival. As an oncologist, many of my clients are unfortunately told that nothing more can be done from the traditional medical perspective and without intervention, their remaining time in this world can be filled with toxic drugs that only take away from their overall survival. An integrated approach can add to the quality of life for overall survival.
SS: What I have found anecdotally is that patients who do integrative therapeutics fare far better than those who do not in terms of energy, overall feeling of wellness, quality of life, and progression of their illness. Yet time and time again, I hear patients’ physicians tell them, “I don’t know why you are doing so well, but stop everything else you are doing.” It makes no sense, but things are beginning to change. There is nothing better you can give a chronically ill person than remedies that will help their body fight their disease and, in the case of cancer, the medical treatments that are often necessary for survival.
Integrative patient care is a growing trend here in the desert, and I commend Drs. Reynolds and Sinsheimer on their mutual respect and the success they are experiencing with and for their patients.