Salt Spring’s generous pool of health and wellness options just got a little wider with the official opening by a naturopathic doctor of Island Natural Health on May 4.
Visitors who attended Saturday’s event were treated to informative talks by guest speakers from Vancouver and Victoria and a delicious spread from Rawsome Living Foods. That may be a level above and beyond what you’ll find on a regular visit, but the knowledge and genuine wish to heal, which could be sensed throughout the festivities, is a constant factor in the naturopathic practice of Dr. Patrick Callas.
Callas is a graduate of Gulf Islands Secondary School (class of 1998) whose education took him to medicine through a circuitous route. He started out in a general arts program at the University of Victoria and ended with an honours degree in English. Faced with the question of what to do next after a move to Vancouver, he eventually learned about a stream of study that would unite his interests in healthcare, nutrition and outdoor activity.
“I guess it had been percolating since I was a teenager, but I didn’t know it,” Callas said during an interview at his new base, the beautifully renovated ground floor suite of a chalet-style home on Long Harbour Road.
“I didn’t really know what naturopathic medicine was, but I was an active person and was interested in being healthy and preventative medicine.”
Before applying to the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, Callas was already taking upgrade science courses at the University of British Columbia and volunteering at the Royal Columbian Hospital emergency room. It was a suggestion from his partner (now wife) that opened up a world that had been waiting all along.
Gaining one of only 36 spots at Boucher in his first attempt (others apply two or three times before being accepted), Callas was soon on the road to a different kind of healing from the mainstream version — one that seeks to learn the root cause of health issues rather than just treat the symptoms, and which avoids chemical prescriptions when natural and herbal alternatives can be used.
Callas explained that the old model of naturopathy with its endless bottles of supplements is for the most part a thing of the past.
“Diet, exercise and a healthy lifestyle are often the best medicine,” he reports. Naturopaths are fully trained to be full family care providers, with the ability to prescribe medication if needed, and they work with all the diagnostic tests patients are familiar with, such as monitoring heart rate and blood pressure.
But an initial visit will involve delivering a lot more information. The naturopath assesses all the contributing factors that have led to the current state of health in general, as well as whatever particular issue might have inspired the visit.
“The quality of the relationship and communication we have with patients is usually pretty profound,” Callas noted.
Some of things that are discussed are how a patient sleeps, and what he or she eats, how it is being digested and how it is eliminated.
“We don’t always want to talk about it, but it can tell us a lot about our health,” Callas said.
Emotional and even spiritual matters can also be addressed as important factors in people’s health.
Callas offers several types of service, such as nutritional counselling, allergy testing, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments and injection therapy. Acupuncture, with its roots in Chinese medicine, is something he strongly advises for anything from stress to musculature injury, because it’s based on a system of pattern and balance.
“If someone’s coming to me, there’s some kind of imbalance in their body,” he said.
Another of his specialties is integrative cancer care, often by supplying treatment to reduce the side effects of methods like chemotherapy and radiation.
“It’s really about looking at what works or what doesn’t,” he said, explaining that means treating patients as individuals, as well as applying specific methods to specific types of cancer.
For other extreme cases, such as chronic pain or damage to connective tissue, he offers neural therapy and prolotherapy injections — methods of reducing pain while stimulating healing — and chelation, a way of drawing heavy metals from the blood.
As the practice gets established, islanders can look forward to more events with special speakers, community therapy rooms and acupuncture clinics. Callas also has a goal of working with the island’s entire web of health and wellness professionals, from medical doctors to body workers and other therapists in a collaborative rather than competitive model.
For now, though, he’s happy to begin re-establishing himself on the island he grew up on as part of a strong healing community.
“On the west coast, people are really educated about their health and willing to learn, and I learn a lot from them, too,” he observed.
More information about the naturopathic centre’s hours, services and rates can be found online at islandnaturalhealth.ca.