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  • Colleen O'Flaherty-Hilder

DEBUNKING THE MYTHS SURROUNDING NATURAL MEDICINE -PREVENTION IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN CURE

Updated: Jul 27

The role of natural remedies in the field of preventative medicine is vital in supporting the health of our nation. As a practitioner of natural therapies with nearly 40 years experience, I have always adopted the maxim ‘Prevention is better than Cure’. At a point in our history when the health of the population is under the microscope, I believe that the valuable contribution that natural therapies and remedies can bring to preventative health programmes merits stronger attention and recognition than it has gained thus far.


In 2003 Leroy Hood, an American molecular biologist coined the phrase 'The 4Ps of Preventative Medicine' in a quest to provide a more Person Centred Medicine (PCM), where emphasis is placed on health rather than disease, using biomarkers to measure various indicators of physiological and psychological degeneration. The cornerstones of the 4Ps are Predictive, Preventative, Personalised and Participatory, and whilst the medical profession grapples to embrace this new paradigm, TCAM - Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine - has practised this philosophy for centuries but without the need to use biomarkers.


In these challenging times when support for our physical health and mental wellbeing is so important, I have decided to share this knowledge with you to raise awareness to the correct and professional use of natural remedies by debunking some myths that have emerged owing to a great deal of misinformation and misconceptions that have evolved of several decades. This blog is an introduction to the philosophy of natural 'Prevention', which underpins all the therapies that I practice. At the same time I want to take this opportunity to bring more clarity to the world of natural therapies and the important contribution they can offer to Person Centred Medicine - a phrase receiving more and more attention in the biomedical world.


Covid-19 has forced us all to take stock of our health and has raised many questions about how we approach immunity. To prevent the spread of the pandemic, practically every country in the world implemented a lockdown and, whilst this strategy was crucial to contain the spread of the virus, it is not ideal for either the economy or our emotional wellbeing, the consequences of which will only be realised in the coming months, perhaps years. This pandemic has brought the world to its knees, but we cannot resort to lengthy periods of lockdown every time there is a threat of a pandemic, we have to engage with what actually makes us more resilient to disease.


Disease has been with us throughout history and will survive in some form or another in the future. However, viruses and bacteria are proving to be more intelligent than science; mutating rapidly especially when their survival is at risk and faster than science can comprehend. But science seems to discount the motivation of this intelligence and spends valuable resources in a quest to discover vaccines or pharmaceutical treatments for pathogens that are continuously evolving.


As we emerge from lockdown and gradually increase our social contacts, it is important to concentrate on measures that can strengthen and support our immune system, not just for now but to prepare for what we might have to face in the future. When the quality of the nation’s health is under scrutiny from all sectors, I believe this is the perfect time to talk about shifting the focus from ‘fighting’ disease to 'preventing' disease by using professional natural therapies designed to support, balance and strengthen all the systems of the body and the mind. Instead of waiting for the next pandemic, let’s understand, embrace and integrate natural preventative health measures into our lives so that we are better equipped to deal with pathogens.


One positive outcome of the pandemic is that it has shone a light on the limitations of orthodox medicine, a subject that has motivated a global exploration into understanding the difference between disease-centred care and health-centred care. Scientists are questioning why people with certain conditions are more susceptible to this virus, which is a great step towards their understanding of what we in the world of natural therapies have understood and embraced for centuries. However, the medical community in the UK seems to ignore successful prevention protocols that were professionally practiced in the past and more frustratingly, in modern times practised outside of this island - many medical practitioners in the rest of Europe, who are also naturopaths or homeopaths, will look to diet, lifestyle and natural remedies before prescribing pharmaceuticals. As an example 35 years ago, whilst living in South Africa, I trained in a medically recognised system of personalised dietetics that focuses on balancing blood sugar levels with personalised dietary, exercise and lifestyle regimes to prevent diabetic conditions, hormonal disruption, weight gain, and lowered immunity. This was a successful protocol, which in the majority of cases, prevented the use of pharmaceutical intervention. That was nearly four decades ago!


The connection between obesity and Covid-19 has finally made the UK health profession take a long hard look at diet, but is this a case of, 'too little too late'? Whilst I acknowledge the great work that the charity Diabetes UK is doing to inform and educate, the issue is that for many decades nutrition has been sidelined from any serious training of medical practitioners. This is a serious omission from their training as food is also a form of medicine, and the correct balance of nutrients from food is vital in supporting the overall health of any individual. Diet is particularly important not just for prevention, but when an individual is recovering from disease to ensure a speedy and thorough return to health.


So, why isn’t TCAM taken more seriously here in the UK? We are often told that there is insufficient proof that natural remedies work. Unfortunately, the UK does not acknowledge successful research conducted in other countries. There is a great deal of positive research from Europe, Australia, and South East Asia, that has successfully demonstrated the therapeutic value of natural remedies. So one has to ask why British scientists are content to ignore this information?


I am not suggesting that we disregard science completely here, and indeed when someone succumbs to the life-threatening symptoms of Covid-19 then the artillery of pharmaceuticals is necessary. But consideration should be given to the benefits that can be gained from natural wisdom-based medicine which has been practiced throughout history, a legacy handed down to a few, to work hand in hand with science. TCAM remedies, administered by practitioners with knowledge and wisdom must be taken more seriously, particularly in situations where pharmaceuticals can cause serious side effects. Equally, whilst pharmaceuticals might treat the symptoms temporarily, it doesn’t deal with the overall issue of inflammation and degeneration - the precursors to disease. There are some very serious health conditions, which obviously need the intervention of pharmaceuticals, but the priority of the therapy I offer is to recognise the first signs of premature degeneration that, if left unchecked, could lead to the development of life-threatening disease.


Prevention starts by asking: "What invited the symptoms/illness into the body - what has lowered the defence of the body to allow symptoms, degeneration and disease to occur?". When addressing symptoms, emphasis is placed on identifying and supporting the background condition, the terrain, or constitution as it is sometimes called.


It is important to acknowledge that any symptom, no matter how minor should not be ignored: headaches, migraines, menstrual problems, sleep dysregulation, digestive disturbances, and allergies are all indicators that the body is not coping well and needs to be balanced and strengthened. However, if you were to present these symptoms to a GP in the UK they would probably prescribe a pharmaceutical medication focused just on alleviating the symptoms. When a client presents any of these symptoms to me, I take them very seriously, prompting a level of enquiry that includes lifestyle, personality, genetic and medical history, diet and exercise, all of which will contribute to my understanding of what is required to strengthen their background condition as well as treating the symptoms.


Covid-19 has challenged the immune system differently; it has gone one step further in its form of attack on the body by over stimulating the immune system in some people to the point where it destroys the organ tissue of its host. This fact has prompted a conversation about how and why some people are more susceptible to the serious effects of the disease. Prevention should therefore never be about 'stimulating' the immune system. The purpose of prevention is to support and balance so that the immune system can adapt to whatever is thrown at it - pathogens, pollution or stressors of modern life.


The concept of prevention, of supporting and strengthening the background condition, is not new. This philosophy is incorporated into many natural traditions that have been practiced, in some instances for centuries, such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Ayurveda, Herbal Medicine, Tibetan Medicine, Homeopathy and Oligotherapy. Oligotherapy is a relatively modern natural discipline that I practice and teach, which is the therapeutic application of catalytic trace elements, based on 100 years experience and 50 years scientific research, and is practised by many medical practitioners in Europe - www.oligotherapy.co.uk


These traditions are based on an holistic approach that recognises the importance of the relationship between physical health and emotional well-being, stress and personal responsibility, self-regard and individual value, all of which contribute to Person Centred Medicine.


To give a better understanding of the 4Ps of Natural Prevention, here is a brief outline of how I incorporate it in my practice.


PREDICTION: The identification of the individual's 'background condition' - their predisposition to degeneration - which embraces the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health of an individual - and will assess:

  • What invited the illness into the body in the first place - identifying weaknesses.

  • The individual's rate of degeneration - premature ageing. Natural prevention considers symptoms that today are often regarded as ‘normal ageing’ or acceptable for example, high blood pressure, headaches, migraine, hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, and sleep dysregulation, as an indication that the individual's constitution needs to be strengthened or balanced.

  • How they react to pathogens - some people under react and succumb to a disease, whilst others over react causing inflammation that leads to serious health complications.

Do not seek just a salve for these symptoms, recognise them early and use them as an indication that the body is out of balance and, if not addressed intelligently by uncovering the cause of the symptoms, will result in further degeneration.


PERSONALISED: ‘Individual’ is the key word - we are all unique when it comes to health and how we respond to life which requires, indeed demands, personalised programmes that understand and respond to challenge - one size does not fit all when it comes to health. This is particularly true of diet and exercise. Following extreme diets or detox programmes is detrimental to supporting the health of the individual's background condition.


For example, science has made a correlation between obesity and Covid-19. If someone needs to lose weight for health reasons, then the diet offered should consider the status of their background condition and good quality food should always be regarded as another natural remedy. If you are in any form of recovery from disease, or your background condition has been compromised by stress, you should never embark on extreme diets. Equally, the focus should not just be about losing weight, it should be about reducing fat particularly that which surrounds the internal organs in the abdomen. Unlike normal subcutaneous fat, this form produces stress hormones that causes further inflammation. If the diet is not adequately formulated with the correct balance of nutrients for that individual, then one or two things happen: muscle, bone and organ tissue is used for energy rather than fat; and insufficient calorific intake spikes the levels of stress hormones in the body which causes further inflammation. Neither option leads to good health - in fact it leads to degeneration that allows disease to develop.


PREVENTATIVE: With the knowledge of the background condition, I am able to give a remedy for symptoms that will simultaneously support, balance and strengthen the immune system, as well as all the systems of the body including emotional well being. This prevents further degeneration whilst relieving the symptoms. Offering a remedy - pharmaceutical or natural - to address a symptom - is too simplistic for our wonderfully complex bodies. In addition, diet, lifestyle and exercise advice must be based on the background condition as well as symptoms. As an example, if dietary or exercise programme is offered without the important considerations of age, gender, and hormonal profile of the individual, there is every chance that the advice could cause more harm than good.


Emotional well-being is an integral part of prevention: if someone presents with a form of emotional imbalance, the health of the physical body has to be investigated. I was taught many years ago that ‘physiology determines psychology’. I think now that this is an over simplification but it does give an indication of how the two are inextricably linked and one cannot be treated in isolation of the other. A physical symptom can be triggered by an emotional response to your external world and, equally, emotional imbalance can be caused by physical symptoms. It is important to determine which came first. Stress and emotional wellbeing will be the subject of another blog at a later date.


PARTICIPATION: This encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own healing process:

  • Monitor your physical health more intelligently: observe what is not functioning well, and understand how it can be improved. Minor physical symptoms are often the first indicators that our bodies or emotions are out of balance.

  • How do you respond emotionally to your world? Are you overreacting, if so why?

  • How can you improve your health by changing your diet and lifestyle?

  • Finally, expect the very best for your physical and emotional wellbeing.

The objective of these observations is to take action to prevent premature degeneration. We are all ageing but it is the rate at which we age that will determine whether our older years will be disease or health focused. Ageing has become a challenge in all first world countries - we are living longer but not necessarily enjoying good health. Preventative health measures taken now will ensure that the expanding ageing population will not be a drain on resources in the future.


Having addressed the benefits of professional TCAM in preventative regimes, the next important factor is the quality of the practitioner. The practitioner must be in the full and correct relationship with their therapy otherwise success is not guaranteed. Over the last 30 years the number of schools of various natural therapies have mushroomed in the UK but, unfortunately, not all of them have the necessary standards of education and examination protocols to produce professional therapists. It is important to remember that most natural therapies have their roots in ancient traditions, as plant and mineral remedies were the first forms of medicine. Any training must therefore echo the original tenets of those traditions. Not only the academic side of any training has to be rigorous, but it should also embody the wisdom of that tradition that can only come from experienced teachers who are in the correct relationship with that tradition.


The creation of Alchemical Transformation Programmes™ evolved from my experiences of training and working with leading practitioners in different countries of the world and my invaluable experience of successfully helping thousands of clients. I recognised that I needed to create a system that provided a robust framework to address the body and the mind in a safe and authentic way, built on a foundation of both science and wisdom traditions, honouring and respecting the natural intelligence of the individual by working in synergy with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. You cannot separate one from the other, as discussed above - if you have a physical problem, it will impact on your mental and emotional wellbeing and equally, if you have an emotional problem it will impact on your physical health.


Science has stepped into the shoes of natural medicine and replaced it with an authority that is deficient, only understanding one part of a very complex picture. But now there is a strong desire from certain sectors of the medical community to look at health differently, to explore the concept of the 4Ps of Prevention, but this exploration is based purely on scientific research. Unfortunately, we don't have time for science to catch up. The planet is battling at the moment and we humans need to take responsibility and look at how well we are in synergy with the planet. A pandemic is a huge indicator that we are not in synergy and the effects of Covid-19 has exposed all that is missing from our healthcare today.


So, this is my opinion based on my wealth of knowledge, experience and wisdom, which is an opinion shared by many professionals across the globe who work in this industry.


If you would like to know more about this subject or the therapies I practice, email me at - oligotherapy@gmail.com.

The Oligotherapy website is also very informative - www.oligotherapy.co.uk


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