A “Brave New World” of Medical Knowledge
Well, this week’s episode was with Dr Jim Parker. Jim is an obstetrician gynaecologist who is now a lecturer at the University of Wollongong in the School of Medicine. Now, Jim and I had the pleasure of meeting through my association over many years with the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine (ACNEM), and he has lectured extensively to literally thousands of health practitioners, medical practitioners, allied health practitioners. He is a wealth of knowledge, and it was so great to have him on.
An integrative approach to medicine
I’m trying to introduce you to the idea that actually an integrative approach to medicine to specialities within medicine, is now becoming built-in, if you like, to practise and if you haven’t experienced that yourself. Well, I just need to let you know that there are practitioners out there that are specialists who are doing just that.
We’ve had on the show over the last couple of years, my good friend and my own cardiologist, integrative cardiologist Dr. Ross Walker. We’ve also had Dr. Jason Kaplan. He’s an integrative gave cardiologist as well. I’ve introduced you more recently to an integrative gastroenterologist, Dr Pran Yoganathan, and that was a wonderful interview we did just recently.
But here we have Jim Parker, obstetrician, gynaecologist and talking about women’s health and women’s health may not be something that if you’re a bloke you think is relevant to you. Well hey, guess what? It most definitely is because I’m assuming there are women in your life in some capacity, either as family, friends, or partners, and it behoves us to be more in tune with what is some of the problems that are faced.
There are actually some really important health issues that are common and often go undiagnosed for many, many years, and it’s quite disturbing.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a common condition, and it’s present somewhere between 12 and 21%. So up to a fifth of women of reproductive age, depending on the criteria used, it causes significant distress to women and accounts for a significant health cost. Up to $400 million a year is spent on PCOS.
As you will hear, there are four types: there’s (1) insulin-resistant PCOS; (2) Adrenal PCOS that occurs during massive periods of stress, are we in any of those, I wonder; (3) Inflammatory PCOS that occurs as a result of chronic inflammation, and we’ve talked about chronic inflammation as the driver for many health conditions. In fact, almost every health condition; and (4) Post Pill PCOS is another one.
Now, another condition that we touched on is endometriosis. When I hear about endometriosis, I really feel for those that have or do suffer from it. There are something like 830000 women in Australia that suffer from endometriosis, and typically it can take seven years to get a diagnosis.
Another programme we did on endometriosis was even drawing a wider period of diagnosis of between 7 and 14 years. Can you imagine? Well, you don’t have to imagine a lot of women’s painful or uncomfortable periods are dismissed as, “Oh this is just women’s problems.” Well, it actually could be more significant than that, and it needs to be taken seriously.
It costs each person with endometriosis on an average $30000 a year, and it costs Australia in lost productivity about $9.7 billion annually and that doesn’t include the cost to the Australian health care system.
You know, what’s so interesting about talking to Jim is he focuses also on a nutritional and environmental approach, and it’s so interesting to compare that or to correlate that with the recent symposium that I had the honour of hosting emceeing.
That was a national conference on Enhancing Mental Wellbeing: Navigating Modern Day Life. It was talking about mental health and I had the privilege of hosting the panel discussion on mental health in general.
But women’s mental health in particular, and I was introduced to the concept of the missing middle, which is women, but could easily just as easily be men. But people who have underlying health care, have mental health issues. When this current pandemic has come along, the stresses and strains associated with that have pushed them over the edge and the resources that are available to deal with those mental health issues are not great in terms of everybody getting 10 sessions of therapy with a psychologist or psychotherapist.
What was so empowering and relevant to this week’s discussion on women’s health with Jim Parker was the powerful impact that getting micronutrients. We’ve discussed it many times on this podcast. We’ve been calling it a nutrient-dense diet, but a diet that focuses on nutrients and micronutrients. What I mean by that is micronutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. They are macronutrients.
Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals that we need to drive the literally trillions of biochemical processes that go on each and every moment of our life from the moment of conception to the moment of death.
These micronutrients were shown in this conference on enhancing mental well-being to have a significant impact on people’s mental health, even when they couldn’t access the therapy that they may or may not need. This is about taking a holistic approach to health conditions.
It was so interesting to have this discussion with Jim, an integrative gynaecologist and obstetrician, come along in the same week that I was hosting this conference on enhancing mental wellbeing and realising that actually there are common themes that run through all of these health conditions.
This is why the metaphor that we use in our podcast, in my book, in our wellness programme is to see our life as a balancing beam. If you like between, on the one hand, identifying and minimising those stressors that can compromise our immune function and promote chronic inflammation.
Stress drives chronic inflammation
Remember, I said inflammatory PCOS is one of the four types of PCOS, but what drives chronic inflammation? Well, stress does. But the stress that drives chronic inflammation needs to be thought of as more holistic involves emotional stress, which is important. Environmental stresses, postural stresses, nutritional stressors, and dental stresses.
To any regular listener of my podcast, you’ll know what I’m talking about is of relevance to anybody with the mouth who is interested in their health is never fully connected to.
The other side of the balancing beam is to focus on building resilience by focussing on the five pillars of health: Sleep, breathe, nourish, move and think. The whole balancing beam pivots on your genes and how your genes express themselves. The wonderful new science of epigenetics.
If your genes express themselves as PCOS or endometriosis or mental health conditions or diabetes or cardiovascular disease or cancer, that is the pivot, that is the fulcrum on which our lives pivot.
But you do have control by identifying and minimising stresses and building resilience. I was reminded of that not only in my discussion this week with Jim Parker but also in my position there, listening to three days of wonderful presentations. I’m going to have many of those, hopefully, many of those speakers on as guests moving forward.
Look, it’s so interesting to consider why more practitioners aren’t focussed on nutritional and environmental medicine, and I’m going to quote an article that Dr Jim Parker wrote for the Journal of the Australasian College of Nutritional Environmental Medicine because I thought it was so relevant. “You may have a will no doubt, have your own medical practitioners, and wonder how switched on or not they are. It’s a huge challenge.” These are Jim’s words.
We now have a brave new world of medical knowledge that has expanded far beyond the old paradigms used in evidence-based medicine. Still, quoting Jim. “Processing this information requires that we develop a system to link new ideas and discoveries to our existing framework of core concepts. Clinicians are encouraged to develop personal strategies to help them deal with the avalanche of new medical knowledge and feelings of self-doubt and insecurity that may arise.”.
As health practitioners, we love certainty
Now I’ve said this many times before. That’s the end of the quote. I’ve said this many times before. As health practitioners, we love certainty. When people put their lives in our hands, their health in our hands, and often their lives. Less so, perhaps in the dental world. But that’s okay. Many health practitioners have that. It’s we need certainty.
It’s very easy for so-called experts, maybe you’ve heard them on the media, maybe you’ve heard them on the news, maybe you’ve read it. Maybe your own doctor has said it. There’s no evidence to support this.
Well, I’ve heard that in order to stay up to date with the evidence that Jim talks about in his brave new world of medical knowledge, a practitioner needs to spend something like 600 hours a week keeping up with all the latest medical research. Just absorb that for a moment as we reflect on the fact that there are only 168 hours in a week and a third of those we spend sleeping.
At the best, we might have 100 or so hours to keep up with the brave new world of medical knowledge. When someone, so-called expert, says there is no evidence to support this, by that statement, they imply that they have read all the evidence and clearly that is just not possible. Bear that in mind.
It is, of course, more accurate for that person to say, I am not aware of any evidence to support that statement, and that is quite a different statement to making the broad statement, which is very good for your ego, both for your own ego and the impression that you give those less suspecting listening to you that you know everything and what you don’t know isn’t worth knowing. That’s simply not the case.
I have often said that I think, well, the more you learn in health, the more you realise you don’t know. That is exciting. I think ignorance is a wonderful thing. I practise it regularly and I practise it with respect and humility, and I learn from it constantly. But when ignorance is displayed with arrogance, hubris, and ego, then people’s lives suffer because of it, and we see a lot of that going on in our modern world. But I digress for a moment.
Anyway, it was a wonderful opportunity to connect with a wonderful practitioner and continue on our journey of introducing you to how modern medicine is practised in 2021. I hope this finds you well. Until next time.
This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health, and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences, and conclusions.