Posts Tagged 'Michael Cantwell'

A three-dimensional approach to healing

Dr. Cantwell

Michael Cantwell, MD, MPH

One great aspect of working in a compounding pharmacy is getting to meet doctors from multiple disciplines with unique approaches to health and healing. We recently had the chance to interview Michael Cantwell, MD, of Rising Phoenix Integrative Medicine Center in San Francisco. He talked with us about how he takes the mind, body and spirit into account when working with his patients; his experience prescribing compounded medications; and current inspirations in his work.

~Krista Shaffer, Outreach Director at Koshland Pharm, and Peter Koshland, PharmD

Interview with Dr. Michael Cantwell

Practice Approach
I believe a doctor needs to be a three dimensional diagnostician – looking at the body, mind, and spirit. It’s important to be fluent in those three areas. A doctor might treat some of those areas himself or refer out for others.

When it comes to the body, I look at issues such as the liver’s detoxification system. Some of what alternative medicine does is to see beyond the normal ways of looking at the body. Detoxification is something that is studied in conventional medicine but is often forgotten. The body’s detoxification system determines whether a person gets toxin-mediated inflammation, which probably contributes to many cases of affective disorders like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disease, and even possibly to diseases such as autism, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. So detoxification can be very helpful to look at.

When it comes to the mind, there are different psychological systems of how we progress and develop our personalities, and there are subconscious factors as well. I do a lot of subconscious work in my practice, such as hypnotherapy and guided imagery, because it’s often an area that is neglected. I also send people out for regular therapy.

Then there’s the spiritual part. I’ve written a book, Map of the Spirit, that discusses how transitions in spirituality affect health. It gives people a clear way of making that calculation. It includes all religions, including existentialism, and puts them on a level playing field. There’s a lot of spiritual disease in our society, and to not be able to treat that would mean I couldn’t really live with myself.

Compounding Success Story
I prescribe glutathione for many of my patients in various forms – oral forms that are mass-manufactured, and creams, suppositories, injections, and IV drips that are compounded. As more toxins are put in the environment (such as organophosphates and parabens), more optimal function of the body’s detoxification system is required. This increase in environmental toxins can unmask places genetically where we might have weaknesses.

Through both blood tests and genetic tests, you can get a really good idea if there are deficits in the liver’s detoxification system. In the first stage of detoxification, the liver is trying to put hydroxyl groups on everything it needs to get rid of. It then needs to substitute another group for the hydroxyl group in order to put it through the bile. The two main groups that can be substituted for the hydroxyl group are a methyl group and a glutathione group. The liver’s ability to make methyl and glutathione groups are the main variables in whether a person gets toxin-mediated inflammation.

I’ve had many successes prescribing glutathione when patients have defects of glutathione synthesis. I had one patient with poor immune function who had symptoms including rashes, nerve pain, herpes, and low energy level–symptoms which would come and go. With glutathione 500mg suppositories from Koshland Pharm, my patient’s symptoms went away and his quality of life greatly improved.

Current Inspirations
I found that working within the insurance system as a holistic doctor is very difficult. Insurance really wants to reimburse doctors to treat bodies. In the insurance system, if you’re not treating a body, it’s not reimbursable. If you’re a psychiatrist, you can bill as a psychiatrist, but you’re still treating the body as a biochemical mechanism and giving medication.

Also, there is no Medicare billing for more than forty minutes. That’s the most you’re ever supposed to spend with people. I was finding forty minutes to be way too cramped. I was losing the part that really mattered to me, which was the spiritual connection.

At Rising Phoenix Integrative Medicine Center, we set up a place that was off insurance. I keep my overhead down and pass that saving on to patients, so I can charge a reasonable hourly rate. They can then submit the bills directly to their insurance and get half of it back.

I enjoy my work at Rising Phoenix because patients really come first. It’s an old school place where pretty much if it needs to get done for a patient, we’ll find a way to do it. In a corporate environment, many times it’s easier to say “no,”
but here there’s no one to say that.

Now I think I’m ready for my next book. It’s about the four things you need to have a joyful life. The first is to know the limits of your control – know what’s under your control, what’s out of your control, and what’s mixed. The second is to have a theory of why that control exists, which relates to my book, Map of the Spirit. The third is to have a purpose, and the fourth is to carry out that purpose. Nobody ever tells you it’s that simple, but that’s it. That’s really all you need to know.

To read more about Dr. Cantwell and
Rising Phoenix Integrative Medicine
Center, see:
risingphoenixmedicine.com

To read a synopsis of
Map of the Spirit, see:
koshlandpharm.com/books

Map of the Spirit: Assessing and Addressing Spiritual Stress As a Component of Healing

Map-of-the-Spirit-Cover-smallDo you experience spiritual stress? Could this be a contributing factor to a health condition you are facing, and therefore an important area to address as a part of your healing process?

Dr. Michael Cantwell, an integrative physician who practices in San Francisco, sets out to answer these questions in his recently published book, Map of the Spirit. Dr. Cantwell gave a presentation this January at the Commonwealth Club, explaining this unique approach of looking at spirituality as one aspect of health and healing. He realized that the paradigm he had learned in his own medical training of looking at the role the mind and body can play in illness was  missing a crucial piece for some of his patients: taking into account one’s experiences with spirituality.

Dr. Cantwell defines spirituality very broadly – as a way people find meaning in their lives, or what they believe exists or doesn’t exist beyond human experience. This looks different for each individual – dualist theology (a belief in God such as in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam) might speak to some; non-dualism (a belief in the oneness of all, such as in Taoism or Buddhism) might speak to others; atheism (the belief that God does not exist) also represents an important belief system in this definition of a person’s spirituality.

What everyone has in common, Dr. Cantwell argues, no matter what form their spirituality takes, is that their health can potentially benefit from 1) determining their beliefs and 2) living out of those beliefs in their day-to-day lives. Dr. Cantwell proposes that people can experience spiritual stress, just as they can experience physical and mental stress. Because stress has a known negative impact on our health, and, it can even be argued, leads to the majority of diseases from which Americans actually die, it is important to take into account and attempt to remedy one’s level of spiritual stress if it proves to be high.

How does one assess spiritual stress? Dr. Cantwell provides a simple formula in his book: rank on a scale from one to ten how important spirituality is to you in your life. Next, measure on a scale of one to 10 how satisfied you feel spiritually. Then, subtract your satisfaction from your interest. If the resulting number is low, you are experiencing a low level of spiritual stress; if it is high, you might want to consider taking spirituality into account when making a plan for your path to wellness.

This is only the beginning of Dr. Cantwell’s theory he presents with both practical tools (such as a the measurement of spiritual stress) as well as real patient examples (patients form diverse spiritual backgrounds). For those interested to learn more, you will find in his book four different stages of spiritual development; examples of resistance that a person may experience moving from one stage to another; strategies for removing those blockages and increasing attention to spiritual development – all within the framework of thought that one stage is not inherently better than another. Rather, he suggests that the most important time for intervention in spiritual health is when, or if, spiritual stress is high.

What if, Dr. Cantwell asks, we put spirituality onto the map of what we look at when assessing overall health? Map of the Spirit provides a practical and thought-provoking approach for patients and doctors to consider when addressing health challenges.

For more information about Map of the Spirit, see Dr. Cantwell’s website mapofthespirit.com.

~Krista Shaffer, Outreach Director at Koshland Pharm


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