The Gold Coast’s medical state

Get it’s Kathleen Loxton talks to a few of the Gold Coast’s leading specialists about the ground-breaking technology, research, and health issues affecting us all

Chronic pain and eating disorders

In the area of research looking into eating disorders and chronic pain, important trials are taking place, and studies are being put forward from the Gold Coast’s sun-kissed shores; providing vital findings in these fields of research and garnering greater medical understanding globally. According to Associate Professor of Psychology at Bond University, Dr Peta Stapleton, these developments give medical professionals help aiding the approximately one in four adults worldwide that suffer from chronic pain, and the roughly 70 million sufferers of eating disorders.

Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) or tapping — described by the Australian Tapping Institute as, “… a psychological acupressure technique…” — has been a focus of research for Peta, especially concerning chronic pain, and eating disorders. Peta explained, “Tapping has been around for about 40 years but over the last decade, especially in the past five years, emphasis and research on this technique has escalated. In the last few years there has been 48 randomized controlled trials of tapping and 40 outcome studies of tapping — 98 per cent of those 88 studies show positive results.”

This research is catching on globally at a rapid rate. Peta described, “In 2017, the U.S. Veterans Administration approved EFT as a ‘generally safe therapy’ for their war veterans. Furthermore, in December 2018, an arm of the UK government, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), acknowledged that there was enough research that meets their inclusion criteria for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) treatment. This is the first time that EFT has been acknowledged in any UK government guideline, signifying that there is an initial and promising evidence base, worthy of government-funded further research. Again, recently, back in 2018 EFT was recognised as a ‘prescribed psychotherapy’ in Ontario, Canada, for their registered psychotherapists, and all are allowed to use it.”

There was an EFT trial at Bond University in early March this year, which targeted stress hormones, specifically cortisol levels, to show subjects what actually happens through the process of tapping (the findings will be presented at the Mind Heart Connect Conference this May on the Gold Coast). The team will be applying for an international research grant come June, which is going to target chronic pain sufferers. “That’s what we’ll be doing for the next five years: giving them biological evidence. The next thing we’re focused on is hopefully helping those cases where medication doesn’t help — it goes to show their treatments need something more. If all goes well, we’ll have a site in Florida, America, too!” says Peta.

When it comes to misconceptions about eating disorders, and chronic pain, Peta spoke of the lack of realisation regarding the prevalence of eating disorders and the common belief that chronic pain isn’t ‘real’. Peta recalled a shocked reaction, even from well-informed students, about the statistics of eating disorders compared to more widely publicised
medical issues. What’s more, a staggering 82 per cent of chronic pain sufferers Peta surveyed expressed the stigma they experienced from health professionals; instead they preferred to go off to a pharmacy just to get some relief (not always the best solution, Peta noted). This is what the outcomes of these investigations and research also hopes to change.

Metabolic health and chronic conditions

We see it all the time on the news; health reports and new diets that promise a healthier life or provide shock findings about everyday food items. It’s an ongoing and important global discussion about health and personal, government and corporate responsibility.

Gold Coast’s renowned IVF Specialist, Gynaecologist, Obstetrician, and Nutritionist, Dr Tim O’Dowd, spoke to Get it about the current status and climate surrounding metabolic health – which concerns health aspects including weight, as well as sugar dietary fats and cholesterol levels – and chronic health conditions. “All health authorities promote the need for healthy weight, but we certainly don’t agree on how to achieve that,” said Tim. ‘’It is a fact that being overweight is associated with a range of chronic conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, fatty liver disease, and Alzheimer’s dementia,” he added.

It was clear that the while many of us try to make the right choices for our health, it is understandably a challenging business. “Gold Coast people are interested in doing the right thing for their health through nutrition. Unfortunately, we are bombarded with confusing advice in the media, even from health professionals. Nutrition advice can come from sources with differing motivations!” explained Tim.

It seems some studies focussing on specific foods and prevalence of diseases in correlation should be examined in context. ‘’Conclusions and subsequent advice drawn from certain epidemiologic studies are often promoted as good evidence. However, vested interests with ideology or profit in mind will issue press releases to promote their agenda, which often exaggerates their findings,’’ Tim reasoned.

Tim went on to describe how for 50 years we have been advised that carbohydrates should constitute 55 to 65 per cent of our daily intake, while fat-based products should be restricted. During this time the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions has risen dramatically.

For those wanting to lose weight and manage certain conditions, Tim highlighted the following, ‘’There are three main ways to lose weight: firstly, bariatric surgery for major obesity; secondly, calorie restriction, when a major reduction in energy giving food is ingested over weeks or months; and finally, selective carbohydrate restriction, when one restricts sugars and products with added sugar, refined and processed foods, and the inflammation causing seed oils. For those with certain chronic health conditions, more intense carbohydrate restriction will be required and beneficial. All three are now recognised by leading world diabetes and obesity societies. All three should be offered as options to patients.”

Metabolic health and diet are incredibly important, especially with regards to fertility, healthy pregnancies, and the management of chronic illnesses. For example, Tim described, “There is strong evidence that fats have never been shown to have a significant deleterious (or damaging) effect on long term health, and that type 2 diabetes can be put into remission and sustained with selective carbohydrate restriction (low carbketo nutrition).”

‘’My hope is that all of our Gold Coast doctors and other health care professionals are brought up to date with these nutrition facts. Gold Coasters need to be able to rely on the health care professionals correctly understanding and interpreting the nutrition science with all its failings and biases, so as to give genuine options to their patients,” concluded Tim.

Regenerative and integrative medicine

There has been a surge of world-wide discussion in the medical field about regenerative and integrative medicine, and these pioneering approaches are being implemented right here on the Gold Coast. We spoke to Medical Director of MasterCell Centre of Excellence, Dr Soraya Felix, concerning these.

‘’Regenerative medicine is the use of cellular engineering and molecular biology to regenerate healing in cells, tissues and organs. Allowing the body to naturally restore and maintain superior function,’’ explained Dr Felix. The cellular treatment areas being investigated by Dr Felix and her team include neurological, autoimmune, orthopaedic, and degenerative. What this hopes to achieve is to allow the body to make more of the stem cells that are involved in the function of particular body parts. For example, the neurological disorders that are being focussed on are multiple sclerosis, dementia, and other neurological degenerative disorders. The treatment aim is to stimulate natural regeneration of damaged cells by these conditions.

Cell research also gives medical professionals a greater insight, through genetic testing, into illnesses, such as cancer. MasterCell’s European allied partners have a genetic testing laboratory lab, which specializes in molecular and cell biology. The Cancer Cell Sensitivity Test, a test MasterCell Physicians consider to be an extremely powerful tool, uses a blood sample to detect what are known as circulating tumour cells (CTCs) as well as cancer stem cells (CSCs). Both of which are understood to be responsible for most of the cancer spread within the body.

The other approach to medicine used is integrative medicine. Dr Felix noted, ‘’This moves away from only performing one treatment at a time. Rather, it uses a combination of natural and biological treatments together to fight chronic conditions and increase the patient’s chance of clinical success, while building their immune system.’’ This includes, integrative oncology, hyperthermia therapy, intravenous infusions, and end of life care. MasterCell defines Integrative medicine as “… healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit) as well as all aspects of lifestyle.’’ So, in terms of cancer treatment, this would incorporate this with more conventional medical treatments. The aim in this situation is to increase treatment effectiveness, improve symptom control, alleviate patient distress and reduce the overall suffering, as well as decreasing rate of recurrence.

A fantastic example of integrative medicine is whole-body hyperthermia therapy. This takes place in a made to order German manufactured device that looks like a tent over a bed made of a flexible, thermally insulating material. The tent is placed over the bed with the patient inside during the infrared radiation, with their head outside the tent. The infrared radiation is able to penetrate the skin to a depth where the blood can absorb the heat and spread it throughout the tissue and organs. Their body’s core temperature is safely heated within one to two hours until the desired temperature is reached. MasterCell has the latest whole-body hyperthermia direct from Germany.

Dr Felix summed-up her work saying, ‘’My professional path allows me to combine the best of both worlds, natural medicine along with traditional medicine. But this also needs to be combined with technology and scientific evidence to provide maximum results. I also liaise with professionals here in Australia and overseas, who I had the pleasure of meeting through international talks as a keynote speaker.’’

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