Holistic approach to chronic pain and fatigue

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Dr. Omer Ansari

Sick and tired.

It’s a feeling well known to those suffering from the vicious cycle of chronic pain and fatigue. And unfortunately, those issues are among the most common complaints from patients making visits to their family physicians, according to Dr. Omer Ansari, a family physician at Porter Regional Hospital.

Because pain and fatigue could be caused by any number of things, it’s not always easy to figure out how to treat them, Ansari said.

“It has been a challenge for both patient and physician,” he said.

A few years ago, Ansari began exploring holistic medicine as a solution, and when mixing it with more traditional treatment methods, he and his patients have seen good results. Ansari gives lectures at the hospital on the holistic approach to chronic pain and fatigue.

Built on the idea that mental and physical wellness are connected, holistic treatment focuses on treating the cause, rather than the symptom, of an issue. The first step is a thorough physical exam and extensive health history including questions about mental and physical stress, blood tests to check hormone levels, and a nutritional evaluation.

An inflamed diet

Food is, indeed, an important aspect of holistic treatment and of maintaining a healthy lifestyle that will help a patient avoid chronic issues.

“A lot of people have food hypersensitivity,” Ansari said. Different from a food allergy, hypersensitivity involves certain foods causing severe inflammation, which in turn throws off the balance of the entire body system. And much of what we eat is problematic, he said.

“The standard American diet is, unfortunately, causing some severe inflammation,” he said. “Processed food is a poison for the body. Once we ingest poisons and chemicals, it’s very hard for the gut to absorb them.”

A diet of fresh, whole foods can go a long way. Ansari recommends exploring a local Asian or Mexican market for fresh fruits and vegetables, rather than buying canned goods, and, of course, cutting any fast food from the routine.

Inflammation also causes problems with sleep, Ansari said. Many people get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep and then feel tired all day, he said. While caffeine might seem like a short-term solution, it makes people irritable and ultimately contributes to fatigue.

Holistic/traditional

Stress management is also an important aspect of holistic medicine. Practices such as yoga or other exercise, meditation or acupuncture might be recommended to a patient. It’s even better if the patient can get outside into the fresh air to exercise, he said.

Just like traditional medicine, which Ansari still practices, holistic medicine does not offer a cure-all treatment. It is used in conjunction with traditional medication, not instead of it. That said, elimination of prescription medication — and its related costs and side effects — is a goal.

“I think the best doctor is the one who tries to give the least medicine to the patient,” Ansari said.

Ansari hopes to do another presentation on holistic medicine later in the year. More information is with Porter Regional Hospital, 85 E. US 6 Frontage Road, Valparaiso, at (219) 983-8300.