Many patients see wellness care as helpful for a few limited problems, maybe for some simple back pain or mild stress or anxiety. But patients who really “get with the program” and follow through with the treatment and lifestyle changes can make significant improvements, often eliminating or reducing their reliance on medications.

When she started care, “Judy” was a 67-year-old taking five medications. She’d taken a drug for high blood pressure for 15 years, one for depression for nine years, one for back and leg pain for seven years, another for arthritis for about a year, and the last for allergies, which she’d taken for about 20 years.

Despite all these meds — or perhaps because of them — she still did not feel well. She complained of chronic fatigue. Multiple tests did not reveal the cause — she was not anemic or diabetic, and her thyroid tests were normal. She also had heartburn, still complained of back and leg pain, enough to interfere with her sleep some nights, and depression.

The goal of wellness care is to treat the cause of the problem, as much as possible. It was found she had poor adrenal function, which can cause high blood pressure, and she was given a supplement to support the adrenals. This supplement worked a little too well; her fatigue worsened, initially. But the reason for this was surprising — her blood pressure normalized, and now her medication was pushing it too low. Working with her family doctor, she quickly reduced the dose of the blood pressure meds, and within a month, she was able to stop taking them completely.

We also suggested she move to a low-carb diet, taking special care to eliminate wheat. I have seen many patients benefit from this approach, and she was no exception; within a few months she had lost almost 20 pounds, without making any other lifestyle changes. The heartburn and other digestive problems also began to improve. At the six-week mark, she reported it was about 60 percent improved.

Although there was some improvement right off, the fatigue was slower to resolve. By four months it was improved about 50 percent, and it took about six months total for her to feel her energy was back to normal.

The back and leg pain were treated with chiropractic care, including low back traction and then acupuncture. She’s reduced the pain medication dose from daily to once every three days, without worsening pain, and continues to reduce the dose gradually.

Some of the most difficult medications to get off are the ones that affect brain chemistry. They cannot be stopped abruptly, as that can cause serious problems. And the herbal treatments for depression cannot be taken at the same time as the meds. But she does want to eliminate this medication as well, so we are starting with some food-based supplements to support normal brain chemistry, and she will work with her family doctor to wean herself off these meds. Assuming she is successful, there will only be one medication she is still taking on a daily basis, down from five.

No wonder she feels better.

Of course, not every patient does this well, but many do. This is especially true when the problem is approached from several angles — not just lifestyle changes, but wellness-based treatments as well. So many patients have multiple problems and each need to be addressed. The other thing that is required is patience! While some changes can be dramatic, most are slow and steady.

Wellness care is still considered alternative to mainstream medicine, but to me it should be the other way around. Most health problems can be very effectively handled with wellness care, without relying on drugs or other aggressive therapies; they can be reserved for those cases that do not respond well.

Yes, wellness care is “real” medicine.

Dr. Michael Noonan practices chiropractic, chiropractic acupuncture and other wellness therapies in Old Town. He can be reached at