As a naturopath for more than 20 years, Dr. David Wikenheiser says his health care role remains the same.
“I’m still looking after people. Some things never change,” he says.
But the Kelowna naturopath acknowledges his area of expertise in B.C.’s health care world has evolved.
He’s seen change in the knowledge his patients acquire, valid or not, from ‘Dr. Google.’
Change in the equipment and technology his training has allowed him to access and provide for his patients.
And change, albeit slowly, in how naturopaths fit in the health care system, which is driven by how the government divides up health care dollars.
Back when he started, Wikenheiser said his practice dealt largely with seniors in Kelowna, something that continues today given the city’s large older demographic.
“Seniors are seniors but one thing I am seeing more of is younger patients, people who have sore hips, sore knees or other sore joints who are looking for alternative ways to deal with those problems,” Wikenheiser said.
But that awareness of naturopathy, when driven by access to the Internet to find medical treatment solutions, can also offer challenges.
Wikenheiser said patients will come to him and ask for a specific treatment they might have read about online, but diagnosis of a problem isn’t that simple.
“Because of Google, everyone is more educated but sometimes the website stuff is not completely accurate, as everyone is trying to often sell a product or service,” he says.
“You have to fact check the stuff to make sure it is accurate, and you have to determine what type of treatment is appropriate for you.
“Something that works for someone else might not work for you, and in fact could make things worse.
“So I need to work through with every patient what the problem is, what might be causing it and finding a solution to stop it from happening again.”
The career trail that led Wikenheiser to naturopathy started in Kelowna, his hometown where he was raised and his mother was born.
A graduate of Rutland Senior Secondary in 1975, Wikenheiser went on to Okanagan College and then BCIT, graduating in 1980.
After working at “a bunch of different things,”Wikenheiser returned to high school to achieve his Grade 11/12 credits for physics, biology and chemistry, then went on to university graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by four more years to be certified as a naturopath.
He returned to Kelowna to practice naturopathy for 2 1/2 years in the ’90s. He then moved to Vancouver where he co-hosted a popular weekend radio show on naturopathy and did consulting work for naturopathic health product companies before returning to Kelowna in 2003.
He moved into his present office location on Hardy Street in 2004.
Since he began practicing naturopathic health care, Wikenheiser has noticed two health issue trends become increasingly prevalent.
One has to do with how we deal with stress, the other about food allergies.
Wikenheiser is a firm believer in finding a balance between your personal life and life at work.
“What I’ve learned in 20 years is everything has a limit,” he says. “The idea that you can work harder longer—you can’t.
“Everyone has a limit and we all find it within ourselves eventually. We need to all focus more on realism, on realistic expectations and take more time to do what really matters.
“It can’t just be all about work all the time. We have to take the time to look after ourselves, take the time to exercise, eat the right things, spend time with your family, or your frustrations will grow until at some point the wheels fall off.”
While Wikenheiser says the work ethic and peoples’ drive to be successful in business is often celebrated, the rush to become a millionaire success in business isn’t in the cards for the majority of us.
“There are many people who think that way, and good luck to them, but it’s better to be realistic and less self-destructive.”
The food allergy issue, he says, has evolved from changes to our environment, which affects the food we grow.
“I’m seeing people having reactions to foods they eat that I never saw before.”
He cites the example of a professional athlete client who came to him three months ago complaining that something wasn’t right with how he felt.
Wikenheiser tested him for food allergies, the test results led to getting him off foods he was used to normally eating and three months later he is feeling much better.
“It was doing the test that uncovered the problem. Identify the problem, develop a way to solve it and don’t let it happen again.”
For Wikenhieser, that is the heart of naturopathy.
Don’t look for a magic pill to temporarily halt the pain or discomfort. Instead, determine what is causing the problem and take the lifestyle steps to stop it from happening.