From managing illness to supporting wellness

By Erica Matluck, Tia Director of Wellbeing, ND, NP

Have you ever been asked by a medical provider what optimal health means to you? Have you ever proactively gone to a doctor’s office to gain tools to support your wellness goals, as opposed to receive treatment because you are sick?

As an integrative provider, most of the patients I work with are considered “healthy” by conventional standards. But, they are not thriving in their lives for a plethora of reasons from chronic fatigue, to IBS, to extreme PMS that can make some women feel depressed ten days out of the month. As a holistic women’s health practitioner, my aim is not only to help my patients avoid sickness, but achieve wellness.

Achieving wellness requires more tools

In the United States, most of us avoid the healthcare system until we feel ill or something is wrong. It is part of our culture, which may stem from a time in history when simple infections and injuries were life threatening. Conventional western medicine is excellent at responding to these types of issues and lengthening life expectancy. We have procedures that save lives and pharmaceuticals that control pain and illness. We are great at crisis management because our model is more reactive than proactive.

While infectious disease is not remotely as life threatening as it once was, chronic disease is on the rise and demands that we become more proactive about health. According to the CDC, six out of ten adults in the U.S. have a chronic illness, and four in ten adults have two or more. Chronic disease and non life-threatening health issues that impact our quality of life require a new perspective and broader set of tools that are often accessible in conventional medical practices.

While many of these health conditions don’t keep us chained to a hospital bed or prevent us from going to work or, they are real obstacles to wellbeing and life satisfaction. Working through these obstacles often requires lifestyle changes, nutritional education, stress management, body literacy and counseling. It can be time-consuming, which is inherently in conflict with the “quick fix” approach that tends to define our health system more broadly.

Supporting wellness in a clinical environment

When patients want to go beyond what is conventionally considered “healthy”, they turn to non-medical sources for guidance. Health coaches, books, blogs, wellness websites can be great sources of information to support lifestyle changes. However, they can also be very confusing and often times, misleading or lacking evidence. Many people arrive in my office desperately seeking guidance after attempting to navigate the world of wellness on their own. They are confused about what to eat because their health coach recommended one diet and their favorite blog recommended another. They are taking multiple supplements but unsure about the dose, what they are for or if they have been effective.

As an integrative provider, I am committed to thoroughly exploring the root cause of any dysfunction or ailment, big or small, to prevent it from becoming a recurrent, chronic issue. With a root cause identified, I then consider many nonpharmacologic tools — nutrition, exercise, nutrient supplementation, herbal medicine, mind-body techniques, bodywork, psychotherapy, acupuncture and other modalities — to help support my patients’ personal wellness goals.

For example, so many of my patients are “healthy,” but they have trouble managing stress, and their stress is impacting their energy level, their sleep, their sex drive, or other indicators of their quality of life. Since we don’t have a magic pill for stress management, achieving their wellness goals requires a more inclusive and holistic approach to care. This is why supporting wellness — and importantly, pairing alternative modalities with conventional ones — is essential in a clinical environment.

A wellness-oriented model of care can support those dealing with chronic health issues, as well as those looking to prevent disease and optimize health. In medicine, it is important to be able to offer continued support and guidance to those who already feel well. What if this type of proactive support was a part of our medical system? What if your yearly physical exam was about more than screening tests and being disease free? What if it was an opportunity to define wellness, identify your yearly health goals and have access and gain tools to achieve them?

Tia’s approach to holistic female health

At Tia, we believe that wellness is a proactive, human-centered approach to care. Our care team includes gynecologists, naturopaths, acupuncturists, and family practice providers all of whom are trained in an integrative approach to female health that treats the “whole woman” — including her lifestyle. As an interdisciplinary team, we are equipped not only to manage illness, but to truly support wellness through every 1:1 appointment, workshop and community event we design for our members. We want our patients to define what being healthy and well means for themselves, beyond the recommended screening tests and yearly physical exam (though of course, we do that too!).

To us, the absence of disease does not equate to wellness. Wellness knows no limits and relies on the expertise of the patient to know herself, her body and her goals. A wellness orientation to women’s health empowers you to create a deeper connection to yourself and create the kind of health that radiates positive change into all areas of your life.

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The Tia Clinic is a modern gynecology and wellness practice designed to help women thrive. Become a Founding Member of the NYC Tia Clinic today at www.asktia.com.