My Revelation Of Naturopathic Medicine And The Impact Of COVID
I’m honoured to be a guest speaker on the Fitness For All Podcast, sponsored by Lebert Fitness, discussing my journey into naturopathic medicine with Cam Jenkins. Listen below:
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*The following podcast has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Welcome to another edition of Fitness for All and on today’s podcast, we have Dr. Tim Searle, who is a Naturopathic Doctor.
I want to start off with your practice, and I was doing a little bit of research about you, I really liked how you described yourself in your bio, where it says few people have the “aha” or light bulb moment in life and you’ve been very lucky to experience it. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Sure! I, like a lot of people in their careers these days, went through a change in my late 20s, early 30s, where I was doing something that was enjoyable for a period of time and then it stopped being so. I asked, “Is this really what I’m destined for in my career?” It was at that time that I did some searching around. I didn’t quit my job yet, but I’d done some searching around and started to look more back in my roots. I was working in the sailing industry. I’ve got a passion for the water as well but I realized, this isn’t really going to work for me. So I went back to my medical roots because I did pre-med at university. I had done work in the field for the first couple of years in my career. I went back to that and I found some friends that had done some naturopathic medicine and the more traditional Western medicine. I started learning more about the two paradigms. I really had not known much about naturopathic medicine so I started chatting with both sides of the fence there, and really, that’s when I started to realize, wow, all of the things and naturopathic medicine line up philosophically with what I believe in.
I then learned more about the program and the more I started going down that rabbit hole, the more it felt right. It was not until I started the program when I was like, OK, this is for sure what I need to be doing.
It was really a great moment because it took the pressure off having to focus on money or what other people thought and it just became about. This is what I want to do – this is what I’m supposed to do.
Several years after having graduated, I still feel the same way about what I do. I wish that more people had the opportunity to find that passion and their calling and what they do. That’s really what it’s been for me is a calling. That’s what it was several years ago and I’m still doing it today.
For our listeners that might be new to the idea of naturopathic medicine, can you explain what naturopathic medicine is?
Sure. I’ll give you the little chat that I tell new people when they walk in my door here.
They say either a friend, told them to come see me or they have heard about naturopathic medicine and they found me on Google, but they don’t know what’s going on. What I traditionally tell them is coming to see me as a naturopath is much like going to your family doctor, except there are two major differences. The first major difference is the time that I spend with my patients. When you go see your family doctor, you go in, you sit down and you have what’s well known as the recorded national average of five to seven minutes of saying, OK, here’s what’s going on with me, a brief little history of it. Then the doctor writes something on a piece of paper and says, thanks for coming in and off you go. In that time, they don’t have enough opportunity to delve deeply into what’s going on and often times you’re left with, OK, this either works for me or it didn’t and I need more.
With me, my first visit is traditionally an hour, and follow-ups are thirty minutes or sixty minutes, depending on what the two of us agree is most worthwhile for you and in that first hour, I really get to delve into what’s going on with your symptoms right now or whatever it is you’re looking for. Then I can start asking questions about what may seem unrelated things, but bring it full circle and show you how it’s all related.
The goal here is to learn about one symptom to ten symptoms, lab tests, family history gathering, all of these little pieces of the puzzle and then once I have enough of those pieces, I’m better able to see what the picture looks like underneath. Once you can better understand what’s going on, it makes treating a lot easier. The first difference is the amount of time that I spend with my patients. It is being able to get down to the nitty-gritty of what’s going on with absolutely everything and putting all the puzzle pieces together.
That leads me to the second major difference, of course, is how I treat them as I mentioned earlier. The family doctor is likely to write down a prescription or referral to another specialist or a requisition for some testing. The first thing that I do with my patients is to discuss and educate them on diet and lifestyle because absolutely every single condition and symptom out there is affected by what you put in your body and how you live in the world around you. I really spend a lot of time focusing on that with patients. After that, if the diet and lifestyle changes are not enough, then we can talk about supplementation. Supplements, as I’m sure you and a lot of your listeners are aware, can be a large range of things that you can find at just about any health food store now. Even pharmacies and grocery stores are selling them but the idea of supplementation of how to do it properly, I like to approach it in two different ways.
Number one is kind of the long term approach, and this is what you’ll see and most places are selling. You know, people are buying fish oils and probiotics and vitamin D and and I believe all three of those things should be consumed on a long term basis with a little asterisk for individual cases. But that’s more of a long term approach to supplementation, because I believe that those products are actually better from supplements than from your food.
Then you get into the more acute supplementation. I like to refer to them more as a crutch. So a good example would be if you’re walking down the street and you break your leg. As horrific as an accident, that that might have been nine times out of ten, it’s really not life threatening and it’s just a major nuisance that we have to get over it. My apologies to any listeners that have gone through that. But my analogy is that once you break your leg, you can no longer continue to walk on it like you once were. Your body will never get back to the way it was if you continue using your leg the way you did. So a lot of times I end up dealing with gut and digestive issues but, you know, I can extrapolate this to respiratory, cardiovascular, hormonal, you name it. Once the system becomes “broken”, you can’t use it, and are expected it to work the way it once did.
So you need a crutch or in this case, I’m using supplements to help take the weight off and allow the body to heal and then we can slowly remove that crutch again once the body’s in a position where it can handle the load it once did. So after supplementation, I do a lot with botanical medicine. I do a lot of traditional Chinese medicine so that’s not only diagnosing from through the eyes of the Eastern medicine, but it’s also treatment, which includes a lot of acupuncture, medicinal herbs, etc.. Some Ayurvedic medicine. More traditionally, I use the herbs with diabetic medicine. There’s a lot of interesting research with Ayurvedic herbs and the treatment of every single condition out there. I’ve done some work with homeopathy and hydrotherapy. I used to do a lot more with basic physical medicine, from chiropractic to massage, lymphatic drainage, etc. I happen to work in the clinic with some amazing physical practitioners, so I don’t tend to do that as much anymore. That, in a nutshell, is what naturopathic medicine is about. It is spending more time with patients to allow us the time to better understand the patient’s concerns. Then, of course, how we treat can be a long list of things in our tool belt that we can use to to bring the body back into better health.
You mentioned using that crutch in order to be able to help them to get back to some sort of normalcy. Once you have something broken in your body, can it go back to the way it was fully?
It can, but it depends on the extent of the “break” and then the system that you’re talking about. Much like a broken leg, there’s a chance that it won’t set properly and won’t heal properly. There’s a chance that there was some tendon damage and muscle damage and will never get back to the way it was, but when you’re dealing with the gut, that’s what a lot of people come to a naturopath for. We can go into all kinds of other areas if we need to later on, but if we’re talking about the gut, assuming that there’s nothing physically damaged with the gut, you know, let’s say you had a spear thrown in the through the middle of your body. If through the resulting surgeries there were some strictures or things that didn’t heal properly, there’s only so much we can do. If without the anatomy or physiology significantly being affected, I do expect a lot of cases to return to one hundred percent normal.
In today’s world, it seems like people are eating a lot of processed foods rather than natural foods. Is that one of the reasons why people have so many gut problems?
It’s hard to extrapolate causation from there. I’m not in the business of finding out why certain things might be causing other things, I think there’s a lot of researchers out there that are better equipped to do that than I am. But I can absolutely see a correlation between a lot of the foods people are consuming these days and a lot of the conditions they suffer with. So, again, without drawing a direct line of cause, I tend to help people towards a more whole food and natural diet. We do see a lot of things change and that’s not necessarily just the elimination of processed foods. There are foods that are considered natural and organic that cause people issues as well. It’s really understanding what these foods are doing to us from an inflammatory standpoint. Once we remove those inflammatory agents, health can be restored.
I know I’ve said a few things already in this talk and my goal here is not to put anybody down with doctors. I talked about how they only have five to seven minutes. A lot of doctors can do wonders in that amount of time and that’s really just the way the system has been set up to limit medicine in that regard.
I want to talk about the food industry. I don’t believe the food industry is out there to hurt people. They’re trying to do well by people. At the same time, they are a business. They’re trying to make money. In that desire to make money, perhaps there are things that people don’t foresee happening down the road and definitely, with the addition of chemicals and dyes and things we can’t pronounce on the back of labels. Although these individual ingredients are tested and presumed safe for human consumption, we are starting to see some longer-term correlations with processed foods and disease or more health concerns. I definitely see a change in people when they are able to clean up their diets.
I can certainly see a correlation. You did talk about, how you have a long consultation and how you’re able to spend a bit more time with patients. The majority of people are going to their family doctor and they will be able to help them out. Is that attitude changing and are more people going to see a naturopathic doctor? If not, how do you talk to a person to let them know that, they can come to you as well?
That’s a great, couple of questions. Number one, is the system changing and people needing more naturopaths? I believe that the two should exist together. I don’t think that one should necessarily choose to come to me versus the medical doctor. I think that there’s a place for both of us in someone’s health. If someone cuts themselves and they need some stitches, I don’t want them coming to me. If someone breaks their leg, I don’t want them coming to me. If someone has IBS, they’ve gone through their family doctor and they’ve gone through the various testing and they realize that there’s nothing more sinister here, then they should now be coming to see me. That said, I can send them for the testing as well but I want people to understand that naturopaths are very well suited for more chronic long term complications than the acute issues that might show up. So, again, it’s not necessarily an “us versus them”. It’s what do you need and make sure that whether it’s a medical doctor or naturopath or anyone else, make sure you’re finding the right practitioner for the condition that you’ve got because there are people better suited to treat you depending on what you’ve got.
This might be a slight aside here, based on your original question there, the paradigm of medicine is changing. I’m assuming you’re talking about COVID in post COVID.
I’m finding I’m doing a lot more video consults with patients, which is making everyone comfortable. I know that a lot of people are doing video consults with their family doctors as well, but I believe there is still a strong need to be reaching out to medical professionals, even if it seems inane because we’ve all used Dr. Google before where we’ve hopped online and said, oh, you know, I’ve got a cough what does this mean? and Dr. Google tends to spit out a ton of different potential ideas to you. I want people to get out of the habit of self-diagnosing because it’s a real rabbit hole out there now and especially with COVID. Oh, I got a rash on my arm. Do I have the coronavirus? Well maybe you do, but Google is not going to answer that for you. You really should be talking to a professional which can sort through all of the information you give them and give you the proper diagnosis. Regardless of where we are post-apocalypse, I still see there’s a strong need for the medical profession and both the medical doctors and naturopaths together.
I believe your second question was how am I getting myself out there to make sure that people know that it’s still safe to come on in? My apologies if I got it wrong. Is that essentially what the question was?
Yeah, whether it’s COVID or just getting people to realize that a naturopathic doctor can be the way to go and I could be wrong in my assumption, but I think a majority of people would go to their family doctor and not necessarily a naturopathic doctor. Am I wrong in my assumption?
No, you are not wrong in your assumption and there’s a couple of reasons, at least in my opinion, as to why your assumption is correct. Number one is your family doctor is free here in Canada, which is great.
Going to a naturopath is not, although most people have the benefits that would cover coming in to see us, going into your family doctor is quick.
You know, it’s kind of the reverse of what I was suggesting earlier. Go into your family doctor, get that quick fix. Off you go. Whereas coming to see a naturopath, it’s a little bit more involved than that. The right type of naturopathic patient is the type of patient that realizes, OK, I don’t need a quick fix, I need a real sustainable long-term fix. That’s the type of patient that needs to come to see a naturopath because the society we live in these days is about quick fixes. I don’t begrudge people trying to find quick fixes. So go into your family doctor for a quick fix for whatever it is you need. Go and sit in their office for a couple of minutes. You get what you need. Off you go. I understand how there is a great appeal in that and the fact that you don’t have to pay for that is a bonus. But for those people that have been suffering long enough and realizes the quick fixes aren’t working, those are the types of people that need to be coming in and consulting with the naturopath.
Do you have any lifestyle ideas or lifestyle changes that you would suggest?
Great question. And this is going to be a nice tie in to what you guys do at Fitness for All here. Number one is sleep. I think that a lot of people aren’t getting the good quality sleep that they should. There’s a whole lot of things that line up with it and the level of comfort they have while they’re sleeping, the amount of disruptions they have while they’re sleeping. I’ve got three young kids and a dog at home. I know all about being disrupted in the middle of the night but sleep is number one. If people were to spend more time concentrating on getting a good night’s sleep, I think that would be number one.
Number two is managing stress. Stress is one of those interesting things out there that no one can tell you exactly the health consequences that it causes, except that we know that it causes everything or at least is a contributing factor to everything. So managing stress becomes a big one. I like to talk about meditation with patients, but meditation has that weird connotation to it for some people. It’s really the idea of understanding when to let go of things.
That’s really what I’m trying to emphasize with people. Then exercise becomes a big part of this, too. I know that you guys have a wonderful network and a list of things that you’re able to help people with.
Exercise becomes a huge part of it. I think that you can do exercise the wrong way. I think that’s why companies like you guys exist, is to help people do it the right way. We all know the health benefits of staying active, everything from better functionality and staying on task at work to strength, all the health implications, the longevity of life, the staying active is really a huge part of it. Although different people like different things, some like going to the gym, some like working out at home, some like playing sports, some do different things than that. My whole task with my patients is to find the things that they like that they are willing to continue to do. That’s really what I suggest, number one, sleep – number two is managing stress and using tools like meditation and exercise and yoga and stretching and all of that stuff to help maintain an active lifestyle.
Where do you see the naturopathic industry going, in the next few years or into the future?
Wow, that’s a great question! I’m still dealing with the after-effects of opening practice, post-COVID here, and I haven’t had a chance to wrap my head around how it’s going to look like five years from now in this post world.
So naturopathic medicine is interesting in that it’s been around for a very long time. What’s now called naturopathic medicine 100 years ago was just called family medicine. We’ve been around for a long time. This type of medicine has been around for a long time. This type of medicine is not going away.
There’s an interesting parallel between sustainability and what naturopathic medicine offers. I think that there is, as the world population increases and who knows what the world’s going to look like five years from now. I think there’s going to be an increasing drive towards sustainability and how one can tie one’s health into the whole sustainability movement. I think that naturopathic medicine is perfectly poised to be part of that.
On a more microscopic level, what individual practices would look like, I’m already seeing there’s far more video consults happening than ever there were before. People like coming in and having that person-to-person contact but obviously these days things are a little bit different. More video consults, which create a more global market for us within reason. You know, still being a doctor, we still have to be able to perform physical exams when necessary. Sometimes it’s not possible and sometimes it’s not always necessary. So I do see that one’s clientele can become more global from that regard.
To answer your question in a short summary, I don’t see naturopathic medicine going anywhere. I do see it lining up well with the whole sustainability movement. I see that video conferencing is going to become a more commonplace practice in a lot of cases. I think video conferencing, whether it be your industry or other industries, it’s going to be definitely an advantage and a bonus to be able to do that moving forward. I think that’s one of the things that coronavirus has taught us.
Absolutely, and I was one of the first people, probably even a year ago to say that I believe social media is driving us apart and technology is driving us apart. One could go to a restaurant and see, a couple sitting there and each of them is on their phones doing something different or perhaps even texting each other. Who knows? I was firmly of the belief that technology was driving people apart because we were losing that human to human contact but through this whole coronavirus thing, it’s been absolutely necessary.
People have been downloading video conferencing apps and sites in droves. I know there’s been a lot of issues in terms of these sites being able to host that number of people. You’re seeing new apps come out of all of this, and technology has really kept people together through all of this. It’s been absolutely astounding.
I think that people are still hurting for that person to person contact. I think that we’re starting to see that a little bit more in society, especially more in smaller towns. You’re starting to see that a little bit more, especially outside in the Summer here. But technology is keeping people in touch where perhaps we wouldn’t have been able to even five years ago.
So, a slight aside here, a little anecdote. My parents are from World War 2 vintage and we’re from England. Back then they were on rations and they were told to hide off the streets for fear of bombings and being exposed to the enemy, and a lot of people were saying, “Oh, you know, this is just like those times where people were really having to bunker down”. But my parents pointed out that the major difference between now and then is back then you were encouraged to be with other people, so although there were all these food restrictions, you couldn’t buy things at the grocery stores, of course, which was we’re seeing these days, maybe not so much anymore. But the major difference back then is the human contact they were allowed to have, whereas now they’re still being discouraged from doing so, or at least encouraging a smaller number. So they say that it’s actually harder now than it was back in World War 2 and I wasn’t there. I don’t know what it’s like. There’s something to be said for human contact. No amount of technology is going to be able to ever duplicate or replace but it can help in the interim.
Oh, absolutely. I think that’s what it is doing. It’s helping, and compared to if we didn’t have the technology, we would be doing phone calls with the rotary dial-up. So, I think with the technology today that we have, it’s like a band-aid until we’re able to hug one another again and being able to talk to people face to face, which I think is absolutely necessary for a healthy lifestyle as well.
Yeah, I agree, and that’s the other side of this that they’re not a lot of people have talked about, but I’ve definitely seen a lot of my practice is the mental health aspect, although, you know, a lot of people have gone either way in terms of their health. Some people have benefited greatly from being at home, making their own food, being around loved ones. A lot of people have benefited greatly from that. Some people have suffered because they’ve not been able to get the follow-up healthcare that they’ve needed.
What is not often talked about is that the mental toll that it has on a lot of people, it’s been very stressful. A lot of people have had worse anxiety just stepping outside of their own houses than they ever did. I think that continuing to talk about that and continuing to reach out, whether it’s through social media or these video apps that we were chatting about, continuing to reach out to each other is still vitally important at this time if we can’t get within six feet of each other.
If someone wants to talk to you a little bit more about your practice, can you let people know how to reach out to you, through social media or any means necessary?
Yeah, sure, the best way to reach me is through my website, it’s www.drtimsearlend.com.
Everything that you could possibly need to find out about me is there. I’m on Facebook. I’m on Instagram, I’m on Pinterest, I’m on Twitter. Although I don’t have an active profile all the time and all of those places, everything you need to find is on my website. There are links from there to all the places that you can potentially try to find me. So that’s the easiest way. My email address is on there as well and my office information.
It has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, and I certainly hope to have you on the podcast again, where we can get in with a discussion about mental health and mental illness.
That would be great, Cam, any time I’d love to be on and if there are specific questions that any of your listeners have as a result of this, you know, fire my way.
I’m happy to respond to those as well.
Maybe that serves as another good starting point for another discussion down the road.
Absolutely. I’ll make sure that we put that on the website and maybe we’ll get some questions for you. Maybe we’ll do like a hashtag #askdrsearlend.
Perfect. That’d be great, thanks. OK, well, thanks for being on the podcast and stay healthy.