Recently, I was asked by my aging but active and healthy parents to read the book Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, MD. This book contains extremely valuable information for anyone who will die someday or anyone who has loved ones who will die someday. Last I checked, that was all of us.
In his New York Times bestselling book, Dr. Gawande questions western medicine’s approach to death and dying. He argues that an acceptance of mortality, rather than consistent aggressive medical intervention, is often a more appropriate way to treat patients in their final months and days. As he explains his philosophy, the author details some of the physiologic changes involved in the aging process. He reminds us that nothing we humans do can stop us from aging and eventually dying. He argues that in many situations, the best medicine is to lay heroic measures aside, and to support patients in maintaining optimal health, wellness, peace, and joy during this journey.
As naturopathic doctors, our training and philosophy guide us to “first do no harm” and to the best of our abilities, help support normal, healthy physiologic function. By these principles, it occurs to me in reading Being Mortal, that holistic providers such as naturopathic doctors, may have some of the best training for our senior population.
The popular “anti-aging” craze has always rubbed me the wrong way. Aging is what we do. I think that this terminology degrades a natural, cyclical process and adds negativity to a phase of life that our culture does not value in the way traditional cultures do. In fact, we should all strive to age in a healthy way. For most of us, aging is far more desirable than dying in an accident or losing a young loved one to an unexpected terminal disease.
I would rather see an “aging gracefully” craze: a society that celebrates healthy, joyful aging, rather than demonizing the process. Imagine a world in which we look to our elders as role models for our future health and outlook, rather than thinking that getting old stinks. This paradigm shift will require more difficult discussions, like that of Dr. Gawande, as well as a shift in our medical approach. “I would rather see an ‘aging gracefully’ craze: a society that celebrates healthy, joyful aging.”
Naturopathic medicine, in its fundamental philosophy, can play a big role in this transition to healthier aging. Naturopathic doctors are trained in nutrition and lifestyle counseling. We have a deep understanding of how our choices affect health. Naturopathic doctors have the best medical training to coach patients in safe methods to support cardiovascular, neurologic, and bone health, to decrease inflammation and support the immune system, and to optimize energy and quality of life. We are trained to educate patients on the benefits of exercise, fresh air, and healthy mental-emotional states. Naturopathic medicine uses gentle, safe, natural therapies whenever possible, in order to reduce prescription medications that can cause harmful side effects and accelerated degeneration.
It is our passion and our pleasure to share the benefits of naturopathic medicine with our Summit County community and neighbors. We look forward to supporting you, our patients, in staying optimally healthy as you walk your life’s entire journey, up until the very end.
The doctors at the Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic in Frisco would like to thank you for the opportunity to provide naturopathic services to our community for nearly fourteen years. It has been our pleasure to serve you, and we look forward to many more years.
Look for us at MountainRiverClinic.com, call (970) 668-1300, or stop by our clinic and retail shop, the Backcountry Herbal Apothecary at 507 Main Street, Frisco.