As a naturopathic doctor, I love meeting patients for the first time. It’s a pleasure to get to know someone in that intimate way, and I take the responsibility of holding space for my patients very seriously. That time is valuable, and I feel honored that a stranger is partnering with me to address their health. I’m speaking for myself here, but I know my colleagues respect the time they have with their patients just as much as I do.
To that point, there are some things your doctor wants you to know before sitting across from them in the office or on Zoom. Read on for ways to maximize your experience.
We want the truth…the whole truth.
We aren’t judging you
When your doctor asks you about your alcohol intake, or your diet, or your sex life, or any other area in your life that may be triggering, know that we are asking because we need to know. For example, if I ask a patient with constipation about their vegetable and water consumption, and they tell me how much they would like to eat and drink rather than reality, I might miss an opportunity to provide resources to help them reach their goals. Even worse, I might recommend a supplement or medication that is actually unnecessary, because I thought those vegetables and that water intake were on point. Similarly, there are medications that might interact with alcohol in a severe way, and some recreational drugs have side effects you don’t know about that could be contributing to your symptoms.
Additionally, I feel it also important to discuss any concerning sexual challenges or practices with your doctor. There is no need to be embarrassed about sexual struggles, whether they be erectile dysfunction, pain with sex, or even confusion about how things are “supposed” to work. These are medical issues, and a medical professional should be able to help you through them.
Don’t forget, most of us did not learn in detail how our hormones and bodies really operate, and your doctor would love to teach you. When you walk into your doctor’s office, (or join that Telehealth meeting), I invite you to leave the social stigma surrounding sexual function behind for a moment. If you have a concern, please voice it. Perhaps we can help, or at the very least, we can educate you about your options. We also want to help keep you safe, so we do need to know about any practices that might put your health at risk. I am personally a very sex-positive physician, but I can’t help my patients make safe choices if I don’t know what’s going on.
Trust me when I say…we aren’t judging you. But we do need to know.
Tell us about allll the medications and supplements
Yes, even the random painkillers and inconsistent vitamins
We all do this, even doctors. You take ibuprofen on occasion for headaches that happen every month, and you didn’t put it on your medication list because you don’t take it every day. Or you aren’t terribly consistent with the herbs that a past provider recommended. Or – even more important – you forgot about a medication that you don’t actually take by mouth. Contraception and topical hormones often fall in this category, especially hormonal IUD’s and implants, and topical or vaginal medications.
Here’s why this matters: We really do want to know that you have those headaches every month, even if the medication knocks them out for you. This might be an important component of your health that we need to discuss. Many of my patients are incredibly resilient, and have a tendency to push through discomfort. They don’t even think to mention problems that feel minor to them in the grand scheme of their overall health. But they do matter. And I want to know.
Another important point to consider is that a great many medications and supplements have significant interactions with other medications or supplements I might prescribe. Certain herbs cause other medications to work either too fast or too slow, and can affect dosing. Some herbs that you take for one condition might cause other symptoms you were unaware of. Berberine, for instance, is widely used to treat some GI conditions, but it can have a blood sugar lowering effect very similar to metformin. Herbs are often considered benign and safe, and they often are, but your doctor needs to know so we can help you make informed and safe decisions.
We don’t know everything
Even if we wish we did
When you are feeling unwell, it can be comforting to speak with a knowledgeable physician to help steer you toward effective treatment. However, we don’t know everything, as much we wish we did, and as much as our educational experience might have expected from us. We might need to consult with experts, or do some research to get to the right diagnosis or treatment. We might need to say, “I’m not sure, let me look into it”.
Trust that this is in your best interest. You want a doctor who is curious and humble enough to admit their blind spots. Just please…try not to Google your way to an answer. Not only are you going to encounter the very worst case scenarios that likely do not apply to you, but you may feel compelled to try treatments that are more harmful than helpful.
When you choose a physician as a partner in your healthcare, that’s exactly the role they should play – a partner. We are here to support you and help you make the most health-conscious decisions possible. Reach out when you are ready to discuss it all. We can’t wait to meet you!