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Dr. Wendy Zhou

In today’s consumer world, buying products that are individualized with unique aspects that defines them is a common occurrence.

In the field of health care, individualization can play an important role. Afterall, not everyone gets the flu during flu season, some family illness seems to skip generations, and people can get illness that are without a label. All those examples are areas where we see variability in our health and humanity. It is also one of the core reasons why cookie-cutter protocols of 1st line therapies in the conventional medicine will not work for a fraction of people.

In order to answer the question of what it means to have personalized lifestyle and medicine, we should talk about our genetics and epigenetics. According to the New England Journal of Medicine published by John Hopkins Professor, Andrew Feinberg, MD, MPH, epigenetics are “in addition to changes in genetic sequences” which include process that modifies genetic function without changing our DNA.[1] The modification can be done through series of signals that travels between the cells. Those signals turn on specific genes in response to the exposures we experience in the outside world. For examples, some well-known influencer of epigenetic changes are heavy metals, pesticides, tobacco smoke, hormones, viruses, bacteria, radioactivity exposure and much more. Without a trigger, our less-desirable genes may never be activated to display its full effect. [2]

In the 21st century living where we are constantly bombarded with information about health and wellness, we can be confused as to what to do. Do we go to the gym or exercise outside? Do we eat gluten or it does not matter as long as we feel fine? Do we follow the new diet trend or shall we do what we know works? All those questions have one thing in common: we are seeking for a lifestyle that can make us last a long time on this Earth. With new discovery on epigenetics, we now know that the lifestyle changes we make right now may last longer than us by influencing the next few generations. By changing our environment, we may change our epigenetic signalling to improve functionality in our lives. When we choose to change our lifestyle, not only would we be able to prevent diseases from progressing, we can prevent it from happening in the first place. In addition to disease prevention, we can boost cognitive, emotional and physical function by balancing out our lifestyle in a way that make the most sense to our lives. Changes do not have to be difficult and painful, it can be stepwise direction on the right path. Even by eliminating a single trigger, we may prevent countless hours of suffering. People may find higher productivity, better emotional control at time of duress and feeling physically stronger by modifying their behaviours in the correct way.

Personalized lifestyle medicine is a powerful tool for the chronic diseases we see today – cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune, Alzheimer’s disease – just to name a few. We know now that those diseases are called ‘chronic’ disease because they are probably stemmed from inflammation in the body that began decades ago. We work upstream and systematically with lifestyle changes: what we eat, drink, move, think and supplement. This way, we prevent inflammation which can lead us to avoid the diagnosis. [3]

In today’s society, a lot of our thinking is still rooted in the past medical way which is a pill for every ill we have. However, it has not always been successful with our chronic diseases. Instead, we should look at a multi-dimensional approach where we utilize multiple concepts of how a disease can be controlled, and use them synergistically together. This is where naturopathic medicine really shines.

Naturopathic doctors function similarly to a family doctor in terms of diagnosis. The similarity ends there. Not only do we understand how conventional medicine approach a problem, we know pharmacology to avoid interactions; we know western herbs along with Chinese herbs; we learned about the traditional German and Europe medicine as much as we did for traditional Chinese medicine. On top of that, we understand and can perform the function of most  alternative therapies such as chiropractic manipulation, ultrasound for pain management, physiotherapy and massage. Referral is common for you to obtain the best care for your personal needs. Because naturopathic doctors spend more time with a patient, they truly can apply the concepts of personalized care. Dr. Wendy Zhou at Pacific Wellness Institute routinely screen for ways to optimize a patient’s health – physically, cognitive and mentally. She believes naturopathic medicine can be used as ‘complementary medicine’ not just as an alternative to conventional care. Book a consultation with her this January to kick start your 2019 in the right direction. Personalize your lifestyle. Personalize your Health.

[1] Feinberg AP. The key role of epigenetics in human disease prevention and mitigation. N Engl J Med. 2018;378:1323-1334.

[2] Weinhold B. Epigenetics: the science of change. Environ Heath Perspect. 2006;114(3):A160-A167.

[3] Hunter P. The inflammation theory of disease. The growing realization that chronic inflammation is crucial in many diseases opens new avenues for treatment. EMBO Rep. 2012;13(11):968-970.

Dr. Wendy Zhou has been providing naturopathic services at the Pacific Wellness to existing and new patients. She has experience treating stress-related illnesses, digestive issues, hormone imbalances, thyroid dysfunction, and autoimmune diseases. She also welcomes cancer patients for naturopathic adjunctive cancer care consultations.