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An Integrative Approach to
Chronic Metabolic Illness

Sky-high health care spending and cost in the United States and equally high obesity rates frustrate Dr. Bhavna Vaidya-Tank, founder of Regenesis MD, an integrative health practice in Raleigh.

Dr. Vaidya-Tank counsels a patient about treatment options suggested by genetic testing.

“We could have spent all that money making this country healthier!” she exclaims. Instead, she sees our society collectively choosing chronic disease over health— through a combination of bad diet, limited activity, and a health care industry that favors expensive drugs to treat symptoms rather than addressing root causes.

Dr. Vaidya-Tank cites common diabetes and weight loss medications that run $1,000 to $3,000 a month as hallmarks of an out-of-balance medical model that led her to design her practice of cost-effective, integrated health care.

“Integrative medicine—the comprehensive, holistic, and effective medicine that I practice—doesn’t fit the insurance-based model. In my practice, we offer individualized care to our patients, with the goal of finding the right therapies to treat a patient’s problem—not just their symptoms. Of course, we can treat the symptoms, which—unfortunately—is what insurance companies are interested in paying for. But I want to know the cause. Every symptom has a cause, and integrative medicine works to figure out how to treat that cause.

“Furthermore,” she notes, “this approach is not only more effective, it’s more cost-effective than the treat-the-symptom model. We start with extensive testing to determine the source of illness. Then we’ll know which of the wide variety of treatment options are likely to work best for that particular patient.”

The Regenesis MD “toolbox” is extensive. In addition to testing, the therapies Dr. Vaidya-Tank employs include: PRP (platelet-rich plasma) treatments; peptide therapies; intravenous (IV) nutritional therapy; stem cell therapy; health coaching; acupuncture; comprehensive weight loss programs; and more.

“By selecting the right treatments for each patient and employing many non-pharmaceutical strategies,” says Dr. Vaidya-Tank, “we’re able to keep our costs low—affordable even without insurance. Stem cells are a good example: they’re not expensive, and can often be the best approach for certain problems.

“I’m not anti-medication, but I use a lot of supplements, and I definitely take advantage of advanced testing and therapies.”

Standard American Lifestyle:
A Breeding Ground for Dysfunction

Dr. Vaidya-Tank points out that chronic disease frequently stems from an all-too-typical unhealthy lifestyle. “And this is not an exaggerated concern on my part. It was predicted recently that, in the coming year, 50 percent of Americans are going to be obese!!  That statistic alone proves the point: If you start with a normal person who eats a lot of carbohydrates, doesn’t exercise, is under a lot of stress, and maybe has some genetic tendencies—the outcome is obesity, and you can predict they are on the path to serious chronic illness.”

Diabetes, she says, is one example of a chronic disease fostered by our culture, diet, and medical model. But diabetes is preceded by multiple warning signs—which Dr. Vaidya-Tank describes as “metabolic syndrome”—a cluster of symptoms that can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic illness.

She explains that an individual with at least four of the following indicators meets the criteria for metabolic syndrome: a large waistline (increased abdominal fat); high triglyceride levels; low HDL cholesterol levels; high blood pressure; and high fasting blood sugar.

Treating Diabetes

“Treating diabetes,” acknowledges Dr. Vaidya-Tank, “is challenging, because its pathogens are so all encompassing. In medical school, a professor of mine used to say that, ‘If you learn diabetes, you learn medicine, because diabetes is so vast and affects so many parts of your body.’

“This is why an integrative approach is so powerful,” she says. “We are not only able to address the metabolic problems that led to diabetes, but we can offer treatments for many of the common complications that result from the disease. For example, while it’s widely understood that diabetes can result in vision loss, kidney issues, and nerve damage, it’s not as well known that sexual dysfunction is a common problem among diabetics. That’s because the disease affects the vascular system. So, one of the therapies we offer—called a P-shot—can be used to address the problem of erectile dysfunction in diabetic patients, by regenerating vascularity in the penis. That’s just one example of how an integrative approach addresses the whole patient.”

Lifestyle Is Important; So Are Genes

Genetic factors also need to be taken into account, notes Dr. Vaidya-Tank. “I recently had a patient—a young man from Colombia—who had full-blown type two diabetes without any apparent symptoms. Despite his lack of symptoms,” she said, “his genes offered an important clue—he comes from a part of the world with a significantly higher genetic predisposition to diabetes. And for that reason, we tested his A1C and discovered that he was diabetic.”

Working with Dr. Vaidya-Tank, he was able to reverse course. “Our objective was to improve pancreatic function while reversing his tissue resistance to insulin, by moving him to an anti-inflammatory diet and other healthy lifestyle changes. He made those changes, and his whole life changed as a result.

“Someone else would likely have put him on insulin,” she says. “He had to start medication, but we were able to change a lot of things and he’s doing far, far better—has lost weight and is on very little medication now. But the story could easily have gone differently, with him ending up in the hospital or on a lifetime regimen of insulin and other medications.”

Bringing It All Together

“Our health is shaped by so many factors,” Dr. Vaidya-Tank acknowledges, “and you can’t control all of it. But in the same way that major chronic illnesses can result from bad choices, most of them will respond to good ones.

“Whether you’re dealing with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, we can offer so much to help you feel better and heal,” she says. “At the same time, patient participation is unquestionably one of the most important success factors. You have to buy into the process. If you’re not sleeping, and you don’t exercise, and then you eat crap—what do you expect? It’s as if a fair-skinned redhead prone to skin cancer announced, ‘Well, I’m a redhead; so I’m just going to get melanoma.’ But if people educate themselves, they can really understand how to help themselves.”