Payam Kiani was on the pathway to becoming a conventional physician when a university classmate mentioned an interest in naturopathic medicine.
The words didn’t create the proverbial “lightbulb” moment. But it did arouse the young student’s curiosity. And the more he examined the field, the more he became intrigued, and discovered how its philosophy aligned with his own.
“It really resonated with me because it’s about not just treating diseases in the body, it’s about treating a person as an individual and improving their health to overcome diseases, prevent worsening of diseases, and improve their quality of life overall,” noted the 41-year-old Dr. Kiani.
After earning his bachelor’s degree in Life Sciences at McMaster University, he completed the four-year program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto and graduated as a Doctor of Naturopathy.
Nova Health Launched
Shortly afterwards he joined Burlington-based Core Link Wellness Centre as an associate, and launched a naturopathic division – Nova Health Integrated Medicine – where he currently serves as clinic director.
“Specializing in naturopathic and integrative medicine, Nova Health is committed to providing patients with researched, evidence-informed, natural treatments that integrate with the conventional medicines or therapies they may be receiving,” notes Dr. Kiani.
“Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is based on the healing power of nature and it supports and stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself. Naturopathic medicine is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural therapies including: botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture, lifestyle counselling and health promotion and disease prevention.”
Source: Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND)
Naturopathic medicine focuses on the whole person – assessing, diagnosing and treating underlying causes rather than simply managing symptoms of a patient’s disease or condition. Nova Health represents a step forward with its collaborative approach to patient care.
Merging of Medical Approaches
Dr. Kiani, who served for 10 years as a faculty member of CCNM supervising interns in teaching clinics, believes the worlds of conventional and alternative medicines are merging in new and exciting ways. Even the term “alternative,” which, in the past has referred to treatments like naturopathy, osteopathy, acupuncture and chiropractic, is going by the wayside as Canadians seek multi-dimensional healthcare and wellness support.
“I prefer complementary and integrative therapies because I don’t think health is meant to be one or the other,” notes Dr. Kiani, who is a member of the College of Naturopaths of Ontario; the Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians; the Society of Integrative Oncology; the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors; and the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
“Conventional research, including clinical studies and clinical trials, is catching up and we’re learning how to integrate nutrition, herbal medicine, acupuncture, vitamin therapy, bioidentical hormone therapy and other modalities with conventional therapies for an effective way to improve people’s outcomes and their overall health,” says Dr. Kiani.
The Nova Health team treats many chronic and acute conditions – from diabetes to stress to digestive issues – but Dr. Kiani’s major focus is on treating cancer patients. He is a Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology, one of a handful of naturopathic doctors who have completed this level of specialized training.
He is committed to finding and offering the best of all medical worlds to his patients. In fact, he says studies show that cancer patients who choose only natural treatments and reject conventional treatments like chemo, radiation and surgery, fare far worse than patients who choose strictly conventional treatments, or a combination of conventional with complementary, natural therapies.
“There are plenty of studies that show with conventional therapies combined with evidence-informed natural therapies, patients had better outcomes, fewer side effects, lived longer, had better quality of life, recovered faster, and had fewer complications like infections,” noted Dr. Kiani. “That’s our drive for doing integrative cancer care.”
Seeing is Believing
One 71-year-old woman who had severe scoliosis was on high-dose steroids, which contributed to muscle loss. When she came to the clinic, she was using a walker, and did not have the muscle mass in her legs to stand upright or get up a set of stairs. After taking her measurements with the InBody 570, including weight, muscle mass and body composition, Dr. Kiani recommended a treatment plan that included physiotherapy, rehab and nutrition with a focus on rebuilding muscle mass, especially in her legs. “She was not accustomed to exercising and she wasn’t thrilled with the idea, but she understood why it was important, she saw the numbers and was motivated to do it,” noted Dr. Kiani. Two months after she began her program, she had successfully put on muscle mass in her legs, with a 2% improvement. She was able to go up the stairs and did not need her walker. She was very motivated to continue doing her therapy and strengthen and recover from what she’d been though, and the InBody numbers showed evidence of her improvement.
Healthy Weight is Key
Healthy weight monitoring is a key part of that care. Obesity can lead to increased risk or worsening of many chronic conditions, from diabetes to cardiovascular disease. It can also be a contributing factor to developing certain cancers, like breast or pancreatic cancer. So for Dr. Kiani’s patients, losing weight can be part of their cancer prevention plan.
For patients receiving post-op treatments like corticosteroids, which can add weight, or who become weakened and sedentary from medications and fatigue, weight loss and energy gain is part of their recovery plan.
Some patients – especially seniors – may be at risk for losing too much weight after cancer surgery, leaving them weak and vulnerable.
How InBody Plays a Role
Dr. Kiani’s treatment arsenal includes an InBody 570 body composition analyzer. Whether a patient needs to lose weight, gain weight, increase muscle mass, or decrease fat mass, InBody provides ways to monitor and measure a healthy balance of fat and muscle, essential for long-term health.
He can track a patient’s weight, fat, muscle mass and body composition before, during and after conventional treatments like surgery, radiation and chemo. A pre-habilitation plan can help as much as a rehabilitation plan.
By covering all stages of treatment and combining modalities, Dr. Kiani can ensure patients are eating right, putting on or maintaining muscle mass, getting the right amount of proteins and good fats in their diet, exercising to build strength and energy, and finding ways to overcome fatigue from surgery and medications.
“InBody provides an easy, non-invasive and precise method of measuring and monitoring body composition,” he notes. “The time it takes to test, interpret, and make recommendations is between 5-10 minutes for first time measurements. For follow up testing, it’s much less.”
“Patients who lose weight are always motivated, but this device further motivates patients who see muscle building, regardless of weight,” adds Dr. Kiani. “This is particularly true in older patients, like seniors, who are trying to build strength to avoid falls, or those doing pre-hab and rehab around surgeries.”
Dr. Kiani’s works closely with oncologists to determine the right course of action for patients. With more than 2,400 naturopathic doctors currently in this country, there are increased opportunities for this type of collaboration amongst healthcare professionals who share common values and approaches to patient health.
“We hope the future of healthcare in Canada includes a greater number of multi-disciplinary clinics that include naturopathic doctors,” says Dr. Kiani. “We’d love to see more integrative clinics and a greater number of practitioners of all healthcare modalities working collaboratively together, opening each others’ minds to different types of therapies. That’s what I hope for the future of our clinic and for the fields of naturopathic medicine and other complementary therapies.”
“And that’s really our goal for all our patients.”
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