12 Questions You Should Ask Your Healthcare Practitioner

Whether it be a western medical GP, naturopath, TCM practitioner, Ayurvedic doctor, nutritionist, or healthcare specialist of any kind: if you are entrusting somebody to guide you along your path to wellness, there are certain questions that should be asked before you give them the power to advise you. These questions are here to open the doors of communication between you and your healthcare provider. There are so many points of view when it comes to health, and the questions below are what enable me to know if the relationship is a good fit.

So often we give our total power away to a healthcare practitioner right off the bat- I know this because I have done it in the past. We show up for a doctors appointment and basically go quiet, waiting for him or her to give us direction. Asking questions allows you not only to know your doctor, but for them to better know you. An open line of communication enables you both to serve each other better.

At the end of the day, your healthcare practitioner works for you. So many people stay with a doctor they don’t fully trust, see eye-to-eye with, or even get along with. You are driving the car, only you can truly be in charge of your own health. That being said, you have to be mindful that a practitioner can only do his or her job if you speak honestly and openly with them about your life. The questions below will inspire you to connect with your practitioner, and understand if their values align themselves with your own. Whether you want to literally print the list out and go at it interview style, or just keep these vaguely in mind and try to incorporate them semi-casually into the conversation… knowing how your practitioner feels about these subjects will allow you to see if the relationship should move forward. Of course, knowing how you feel about these questions is even more important.

This list is not exhaustive, but it gives you an idea of topics of conversation that are healthy gateways into understanding how s/he thinks about the world, health, healing, and how the mind/ body/ soul plays into all of that. It’s actually less about the answers they give, and more about how the questions are taken, and how open a practitioner is to being honest and vulnerable when it comes to knowing or not knowing their own points of view. The point of most of these questions, really, is to see if you align yourself with the views of the person to whom you are entrusting your health, and how comfortable you feel communicating with them.

12 Questions You Should Ask Your Healthcare Practitioner

I’ve numbered the 12 questions, and written how I personally feel about each question. You need to understand how you feel about question so that you can better connect with your healthcare provider, my thoughts below are just personal rhetoric- they are not “the” answer; consider them food for thought. I’ve also included a few links to further investigate most topics.

1. Why did you choose your modality of healing (i.e. medical doctor, naturopath, functional medicine doctor, knee specialist, etc)?

The answer to this question will give you insight into the practitioners views of life and healing. The most important thing I’m looking for here is passion and authenticity: a genuine quest to help others heal. This questions segways into question 2.

2. What is healing/ how does the body heal?

The body heals itself. So often in the western medical world we’re pushed into believing that the doctor is the one that heals; but the reality is that the body is the only thing that can actually do the healing. Having a healthcare provider that understands that s/he is only there to help us get out of the way is so incredibly important and the answer to this question will give you insight into if s/he has a God complex or not.

I would also be looking to see what role they suggest the mind plays in healing the body.

Watch this: Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves? | Lissa Rankin, MD

read this book: Anatomy of an Illness As Perceived By the Patient: Reflections On Healing And Regeneration

Read this: Science vs. Magic

3. What role does food/ nutrition play in my wellbeing? Can you tell me a little bit about your food philosophy? How do you feel about fasting?

We’ve heard it a million times: medical school only covers nutrition for one class (or something of the sorts); how does your healthcare provider feel about the role food plays in creating health?

Food is information- it is one of the programers of how our genes express themselves. The government’s dietary recommendations are shameful, corrupt, and outdated; and so making sure your healthcare provider is up to date with concepts like the importance of good fats, and organic/ pasture raised animal products is paramount. One of the biggest signs personally would be asking them how they feel about saturated fats in the diet and its relation to cholesterol; anyone preaching to me that saturated fats are unhealthy would (kindly) lose their position as my healthcare provider.

Fasting is such an integral part of healing the body, and more and more scientific evidence is catching up to this ancient ritual. A physician that understands the role that not eating can have in healing the body is truly invaluable.

read this: The Diet-Heart Myth: Cholesterol and Saturated Fat Are Not the Enemy

Read this: It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig

Read/ watch this: Testimonies in Water Fasting

read about my 7 day water fasting experience: HERE

4. What role does the gut have in determining my overall health?

If you’re a healthcare provider in 2018 and don’t have a relatively good grasp on the importance of gut health…. I would be very concerned about your ability to give me sound advice. The gut-brain connection is well established, and the power of our microbiome in regulating not only how much nutrients we absorb, how well we age, mood (and depression), brain disorders (ranging from ADD to Alzheimer’s), and physical ailments like IBS, leaky gut, etc… there’s just so many factors intertwined with gut health that it’s imperative your practitioner is up to date with the literature.

Watch this: Dr. Mercola Interviews Dr. Perlmutter About Gut Microbiome

Read this book: Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain– for Life

5. What role does light (and circadian rhythm) play in my wellbeing?

This is a big one, more so even than food. Light is a controversial topic today because we live in a society that blames skin cancer on the sun, and promotes the use of chemical-ridden sunscreens as the answer to the problem. This information is so wrong it physically hurts my brain to even think about.

Our circadian rhythm is one of (if not the) biggest determinants of our mind/ body health. We are a part of nature, and our body takes its hormonal cues from exposure to natural sunlight. A physician that understands the healing powers of the sun, as well as the harmful effects of artificial blue light is a must.

Watch this: Light heals: Dr. Mercola Interviews Alexander Wunsch (Full Interview)

Watch this: The Dark Side of Blue Light - with Dr. Jack Kruse

6. What are your thoughts on tap water/ filtered water in the paradigm of wellness?

This one is a no-brainer for me. We’re told tap water is safe, but it contains neurotoxic and gut destroying chemicals. Things like fluoride (etc) are not a conspiracy theory, but can be harder to see eye-to-eye with with certain practitioners. The easiest point to make is to ask about the effects of chlorine on bacteria. Any practitioner should know that indeed chlorine kills bacteria (that’s why it’s used to “clean” water). Now ask about bacteria in our own microbiomes (both gut, and skin)- and the effects that bathing and drinking chlorinated water daily would have on the body.

If drinking filtered (or ideally spring) water is not one of the first recommendations that your healthcare provider makes to promote health, I’d be hell-a suspicious about anything else they suggest.

Importance of clean water: https://www.lukestorey.com/waterguide/

Podcast on clean water: The Lifestylist: What’s In Your Water with Igor Milevskiy

7. How do you feel about prescription medication/ antibiotics, what role do they play in healing?

This answer is not black and white. In the past, I would have said all forms of medication and antibiotics are the devil’s work, but a much more pragmatic approach is to see these pharmaceutical products as a last resort, and as a bridge. I would want to know that my provider will suggest any and all natural options first. What is their knowledge of herbs and using natural products to battle infections, viruses, and other ailments? If the answer is none, then I would make sure I am working with a GP as a part of a bigger healthcare team- and making sure they are all willing to communicate with one another (see question 12).

I don’t think all medications are off limits, but they should never be the first course of action. Has the practitioner addressed the root cause of my ailments (question 1), do they understand the importance that food/ light/ water has on my wellbeing (questions 3,5,6)? And finally, if an antibiotic or other pharmaceutical is the suggested route: is this short term (a bridge) to then returning to an unmedicated life? What understanding do they have about the impact of this medication on my gut health (question 4), and is it possible that this medication will cause me more harm than good in the long term?

Listen to this podcast: Natural MD Radio: Herbal Alternatives to Antibiotic Resistance

Read this: 6 Ways to Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics & Why You Should

Read this: Two Reasons Conventional Medicine Will Never Solve Chronic Disease

8. How do you feel about hormonal birth control/ can you tell me about some non-hormonal contraceptive options?

We’ve been lied to about hormonal birth control, and this topic is important for both men and women- because anybody having sex should be aware of the implications that hormonal birth control has on the body of a woman. If this is a subject you don’t know much about- I urge you to explore it. Hormonal birth control doesn’t fix anything, it suppresses everything. Any problems that being on HBC “fixes” will comes flooding back (often worse) when you come off of it. This is generally done at a time when a woman wants to get pregnant, and will be faced with hormones that are completely out of whack, and for many women that means an extended period of infertility. Please educate yourself on this subject, and make sure your doctor is inline with your perspective.

Moreover, HBC is being prescribed as a “fix” for many hormonal imbalances with is ludicrous. It does nothing to regulate your hormones: the regular period brought on by things like the Pill is not a real period; you don’t actually ovulate, and the bleed is just a breakthrough bleed brought on by a smaller hormonal dose that week. The “fake” bleed was actually only included in the mix as a marketing tactic to make the Pill feel more “real”- if you’re on the pill there is no difference (healthwise) if you take the sugar pills or not.

Read this: Drop That Pill – Why I Want My Patients Off Birth Control

Read this: Coming Off the Pill, the Patch, the Shot and other Hormonal Contraceptives: Learning How to Restore Menstrual Cycle Health and Endocrine Balance after Stopping Use of Hormonal Contraceptives

Watch this: Sweetening the pill: Could some birth-control methods kill you? | Guardian Docs

9. how do you feel about vaccinations?

This is a heated subject, and the most important thing here would be that your personal views align themselves with your doctors. Although I am personally against all forms of vaccination- I am not here to preach to you what you should or shouldn’t do. Investigate and follow your heart when it comes to this subject. Ask questions.

Honestly I think every human being should watch this 7 episode mini-series, called “The Truth About Vaccines”. Do yourself a favour and watch (they are free). click Here.

10. how do you interpret lab results/ what is your take on lab results in general?

Lab testing is one of the pillars of modern medicine, but it isn’t without its faults. Two things that are important to understand is that first of all, markers of lab tests (like urine or blood) are often compared to the average person, which indeed is the average sick person who is getting labs run in the first place. So when we hear “your blood test came back normal”- what exactly does this mean? Normal compared to who? The bar is set incredibly low and so first I would want to know my own markers are being compared to that of a thriving persons.

Just because something is common, doesn’t mean it’s normal.
— Chris Kesser

Secondly, I would want my doctor to clearly understand and express to me that lab markers are just a snapshot of the overall moving picture. The results of one lab test isn’t all that different than seeing one person’s profile picture and assuming they look like that all the time. Related to this, I would want to know that if my symptoms (described orally to the physician) didn’t match up to the lab results, that they would take my word over the results of the test. I have heard time and time again how people are dismissed by their doctors after labs come back negative (this is a massive problem in the realm of autoimmunity and thyroid health), and the patient is then dismissed or worse called crazy, because they know something is wrong- but it’s not showing up on a piece of paper.

This question can be tweaked to ask your functional medicine (or TCM, Ayurveda, etc) practitioner too. Understand the mechanisms by which they are assessing your mind/ body/ soul. Ask questions. You don’t necessarily have to understand all that is at play, but have a general idea of why your pulse is being taken, your tongue is being looked at, etc, and how it plays into the bigger picture of helping you heal.

Read this: RHR: Why Your “Normal” Thyroid Lab Results May Not Be Normal

Read this: When “Normal” Blood Sugar Isn’t Normal (Part 1)

Read this: RHR: Which Lab Tests are Essential?

11. What can you offer me?

The relationship you have with a healthcare provider is a dance, in which you are the lead. You have the ability to fire them (and vice-versa). Understanding the services that they can offer is imperative to knowing how the relationship will work. This needn’t be condescending at all, but genuinely ask your healthcare provider what services they can offer you is a good way to see how this balance of power is going to work, and what you can expect from the relationship.

What would be important for me to hear is that they are they to support me in making my own decisions.

12. Are you OK working in conjunction with my other healthcare practitioners?

Related to the previous question, it’s important to know how open this practitioner is to working with other members of your healthcare team. All these different modalities (GP, naturopath, TCM practitioner, Ayurvedic doctor, etc) are like tools in your toolbelt. You are still the one in charge of seeing which is best suited for the job, and know that they all work as a part of a team to get the job done. They need to be open and willing to communicate or at least listen to your relaying of information from one practitioner to the other, and be willing to respect different points of view.

For example, in Canada our healthcare coverage does not include holistic modalities like naturopathy. My GP doctor, however, is so supportive of my holistic path and knows A) that I work with a naturopath and actually B) helps me out by ordering the blood tests requested by my naturopath (within reason). This is next level support, but you want to at least know that your different “tools” are aware that you’re in charge when it comes to your health. No one practitioner should feel like they are God when it comes to your wellbeing. Teamwork makes the dream work!

final thoughts…

If you don’t feel comfortable asking your doctor anything- please explore how problematic that is. This person is here to support you, they are an extension of you. If you’re using them to guide you towards physical and spiritual health, there needs to be an incredible degree of trust and transparency.

And if you broach some of these topics with him/ her and are met with ridicule or shame- fire them.

I truly believe the most important aspect of any healing modality is your relationship with the healthcare provider. When you feel seen, understood, and ultimately loved: your body finds itself in the capacity to heal. Find a practitioner you can connect with, and you’re laying the foundation for a thriving life.

Dive Deeper

Great read on the body’s ability to heal itself.   Click image for more info.

Great read on the body’s ability to heal itself.

Click image for more info.

Great read on power of gut in healing the body.   Click image for more info.

Great read on power of gut in healing the body.

Click image for more info.

Great read on the importance of food in creating a healthy body.   Click image for more info.

Great read on the importance of food in creating a healthy body.

Click image for more info.