As a healthcare professional, working between doctors and insurance companies, and as a human being, it pains me to see the people I love suffer — especially when it comes to their health.

Mostly because I know many illnesses we face today are preventable, people can be healed through food and usually small consistent changes over time yield the biggest results.

I was visiting my childhood home this weekend to see my grandpa, who recently had surgery, he was in complete discomfort. It wasn’t so much his wounds causing his suffering but the side effect to his pain medications.

Desperate for relief, he was prescribed more medications to counteract the side effects of the initial prescription. With my background in nutrition, I couldn’t accept the “treatment” and was left wondering: Why didn’t the doctor prescribe probiotics, natural foods, or digestive enzymes? Food is information, food is what heals.

Seeing this breakdown between the patient and the physician, it’s no wonder patients aren’t receiving the relief they need. It’s not because the doctors aren’t trying, it’s that our healthcare system has been built around identifying the diagnosis/problem and then treating it rather than understanding how we got sick there in the first place.

This breakdown is a huge undertaking, one that has already begun to shift at a high level. Health Insurers and Health Systems have begun investing their resources into switching from fee for service to value based care(yay!) by incorporating integrative medicine and wellness programs. However, this is going to take years to fully implement and reach patients nationwide, and its’ mostly driven by cost savings and the government.

I want to start the conversations now, on a local level. What can we do today to take steps to get there? How can I point my grandparents in the right direction, my parents even? How can I relieve them from their pain?

One word, education. It’s that simple.

When we’re informed we’re powerful. It is this power that gives patients control of their own health, and there is nothing more important than that.

And it all begins with us.

We need to change what we are expecting from the healthcare system, a system that has been built to take care of us, to make us healthier.

We need to be engaged in order shift focus and provide meaningful change, only then can we bridge the gap between the delivery of healthcare and our wellbeing.

Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Join the Conversation — Start educating yourself. There are plenty of free resources available that explain the benefits and science behind integrative medicine. You can start small, but just get started!
  2. Experiment– Start to experiment with your symptoms. Google your prognosis, attempt to heal yourself by incorporating new healthy routines. Need more energy? Try a five minute morning yoga practice, start your day with water and a few drops of lemon or by adding rhodiola powder into your smoothie.
  3. Ask Questions– Share with your doctor your desire to improve your health. Ask them their suggestions for integrating health and wellness into your life to compliment your diagnosis. If they can’t provide insight, ask if they can refer someone who can.

These simple steps are just the beginning. If you are interested in learning more ways to address your personal health goals look into working with a health coach or participating in a local wellness program. Remember there’s nothing more powerful than being in control of your health!

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