We all know that we should go to the dentist every six months because good dental hygiene prevents most dental diseases from occurring. The daily habit of brushing our teeth is so deeply ingrained that we hardly give it a second thought.

Why do we follow this advice without even batting an eye?

Because the dental community has done an amazing job educating the public on the importance of preventive health. Nobody wants to end up with a mouth full of rotting teeth or a toothless grin, and dentists have used this motivation to educate us on both daily and yearly preventive health measures.

So why is it that we put so much care into the health of our mouths, but then wait to go to the doctor only when we are sick?

Going to the doctor only when you’re sick is like going to the dentist only when you need a root canal.

Why wait? Don’t you think the rest of your body deserves the same attention as your mouth? It all comes down to our understanding of preventive health.

Prevention is not the same as early detection.  Early detection is finding a disease process that already exists in its early stages. Early detection involves screening exams, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. And regular screenings save lives, there is no doubt about that.

However getting a screening does not reduce your risk of disease, it just catches it early.  Additionally, screenings can give people a false sense of security concerning their health. A negative test does not mean that you are safe, it only means that you are safe right now.

What is preventive medicine from a naturopathic doctor’s perspective?

True preventive health is creating habits that add health to the body, such as eating a whole foods diet, incorporating regular movement into your day, introducing stress relieving activities like meditation, and taking nutrients that your body needs.

Preventive health is also tracking your health progression from year to year so that you can see when things are getting slightly off track.

For example, think of a ship staying on course with the use of a compass. If the ship’s course gets off track by just one degree, at first it may be hard to tell. But after several weeks of following this course, one degree turns into a complete change of direction.

This is the same as your health. If you monitor your health progression, you can tell when your health is off by these small degrees. Maybe you need a little bit more vitamin D to maintain a healthy immune system. Maybe your blood shows that you are susceptible to diabetes or autoimmune disease.

The point is, small imbalances eventually become big health problems.

Preventive health is also maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, and avoiding excessive toxic exposures. 

Prevention is not only going to the doctor when you are sick. Prevention is going to the doctor to stay well.

The problem is, most family physicians are not trained in how to keep people well; they instead specialize in the treatment of disease.

As a Naturopathic doctor (ND), I specialize in how to keep people well.

But, are NDs real doctors?

Naturopathic doctors (ND) attend 4-year post-baccalaureate naturopathic medical schools. The school I attended was founded in 1956, and is called the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (NCNM), in Portland, Oregon. It is the oldest federally and regionally accredited naturopathic school in the country. We are trained as family physicians and can prescribe medications, order lab work, and perform minor surgery.

Naturopathic medicine is not a trendy new brand of medicine. It has been around for a long time, and it blends the advances in modern medicine with time-proven traditional healing methods. It became a distinct profession in the mid-1800s in Germany, and has been practiced in the United States since 1896.

Although it fell from popularity as we became a more pharmaceutical driven society, Naturopathic medicine has been rapidly re-gaining popularity over the last 25 years.

Naturopathic doctors practice evidence-based functional medicine. Our goal is to restore normal function to the body by looking at the interaction between genetics, diet, hormonal balance, toxic exposures, immune function, structural alignment, and mental health. We do this by using the most effective, safest, and least invasive methods possible. Many times this includes the use of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and diet and lifestyle changes.

Are Naturopathic doctors against MDs and the use of modern medicine, drugs, and surgery?

I often respond to this question with, “If you are in a car accident and you break your neck, don’t come to me.” Go to the hospital where the advances in modern medicine are nothing short of a miracle. Emergency medicine is where conventional medicine shines.

However, if you want to speed up your healing time, ease your pain and suffering from the accident, and strengthen your bones to prevent future breaks, then make an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor.

I often collaborate with MDs and other healthcare professionals. We have different specialties. Cardiologists specialize in the heart, gastroenterologists specialize in the gut, and Naturopathic doctors specialize in preventive medicine.

What are the differences between a Naturopathic doctor and a Medical doctor’s education?

The first 2 years of medical school for both MDs and NDs are very similar and focus on the basic and clinical sciences. In years 3 & 4, MDs choose a track of specialization and NDs are trained to become family doctors who specialize in a drug-free, natural approach to healing the body.

Did you know?
Many conventional medical schools in the US do not have a single class in nutrition. This means that Naturopathic doctors are much more qualified to give you advice about diet & nutrition.

How often should you see your preventive medicine doctor each year?

This is different for everybody and depends on your goals.

Many people see Naturopathic doctors on a regular basis to help maintain their current level of good health. I have patients who I see monthly, as well as those who I see several times a year to check in on their blood biomarkers.

I also see many patients for ongoing chronic health issues. The frequency of appointments is based on the severity of the problem.

In my practice, I use a specialized assessment of basic blood work, called a Functional Blood Work Analysis to help inform and guide my treatment plan for each individual patient.

What is a Functional Blood Work Analysis?

Blood work gives us a window into the inner workings of your body and reveals patterns that lead to declining health.

All chronic disease starts the same way- a breakdown in the communication between the cells of your body occurs, and dysfunctional biochemistry is a result.

Basic blood work gives us a glimpse into your overall level of health. Many times, blood work shows dysfunction before symptoms in the body appear. It can also help reveal the cause of health problems that modern medicine has failed to diagnose or find the cause of.

Having a Functional Blood Work Analysis allows you to follow the trends in your health and be proactive about changing them.

The average healthy person should have basic blood testing done a minimum of every 6-12 months.

Where do I get testing & what should I have tested?

There are very affordable ways to get blood testing done in the US. I have a contract with LabCorp, a nationwide lab, which offers testing at discounted prices.

The list of blood work should be personalized to your individual health situation. If you have questions, please feel free to email me at dralexis@dralexisshields.com.

My doctor says all my lab ranges are normal and to come back next year. Is there a way to get more information on what is going on with my health?

Yes! It is a very common practice for doctors to just scan the right side of the lab report to look for any high or low values. If nothing looks too out of the ordinary, you are sent on your way with a badge of good health.

Functional Blood Work Analysis is a highly specialized way of looking at labs that requires additional training. There are optimal values to look for, patterns to pull from the information, and individual circumstances to account for.

How many visits will I need with a Naturopathic doctor before I am done?

Again this depends on your goals, but let me ask you this…

At what point are you done exercising? At what point have you exercised enough that you no longer have to exercise again?

It seems silly, but my point is, exercise doesn’t work that way and neither does your health. You are never done paying attention to your health. And it is important to involve a coach to guide you along this process, such as a Naturopathic doctor.

It makes sense to model your healthcare after your dental care. Perform daily healthy preventive habits and don’t wait until you are sick to visit your doctor.

It is very important to have a doctor who listens to you, spends adequate time with you, and is educated on functional medicine principals.

Shifting your paradigm to seeing your doctor to stay well, rather than only to treat illness, will increase your overall quality of life so that you sleep more soundly, have more energy, increase your mental clarity, and maintain that youthful glow.

And without an excellent quality of life, what do we really have?

    2 replies to "Why You Should See Your Doctor Like You See Your Dentist"

    • Vincent Lume

      I couldn’t agree more, even though I have excellent health insurance, that participates with Labcor, I have to prod my GP and urologist to order blood work less than once a year. Often times I have to request, specific panels based on my own research. They him and haw, but eventually relent, however it’s an ongoing to struggle to get an MD out of thier ” if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” ,” or your in the normal range, good health is nothing more than the absence of disease” of paradigm.

      I recently had resident physician at a local hospital tell me that the new threshold, for what’s considered a “normal” threshold for cholesterol is about 140-150. I attempted to discuss the whole cholestrol myth with him, but he was so indoctrinated in his mind set, that it was pointless.

      I then asked, ( tongue and cheek) so if the new threshold is now 140, basically your saying that everybody should be on a statin, I’ll bet the Pharma co, makers of Lipitor love that? He just gave me a matter of fact blank stare and replied, yes! I went onto site how the well documented harmful side effects of statins far outweigh any potential benefit. Again, might as well been shoveling ” you know what against the tide” cuz it just continued repeat the mantra of what he had been thought.

      • Dr. Alexis Shields

        Hi Vincent- Thank you for your note. I’m sorry to hear about your experience with your physician. However, keep up the good work! Educated patients asking the right questions helps to move medicine forward. -Dr. A

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