Whole person Wellness: How a Hampshire clinic is helping Women harness their Health
Did you know… 15 million people in England have a long-term health condition? And 2.9 million have two or more? (data from Kings Fund 2012/2013 Time to Think Differently Initiative)
Tucked away in the picturesque village of Kings Somborne is one of Hampshire’s hidden gems. The Synthesis Clinic is a functional and integrative medical clinic that has a fresh, dynamic, and connected approach to wellbeing.
Founded by Dr Nina Fuller-Shavel, whose CV makes for some seriously impressive reading, the clinic aims to create a space that connects the dots when it comes to harnessing your health and wellbeing.
Whole person approach
Having trained as a scientist and medical doctor at Cambridge and undergoing further studies in nutrition and integrative medicine, Dr Nina realised that to fully help people to lead healthier and happier lives she needed the ‘full picture’. Getting to the root cause of patients’ issues and working with a ‘whole person’ approach, rather than giving multiple medications for individual symptoms, could be truly transformative.
If you’ve been suffering from a complex illness for a while, then chances are you’ll visit several different doctors, consultants, therapists to help you find the answers and right treatment. But this scattered approach means that no one is joining the dots and different therapies may not be working together.
Her qualifications are endless – doctor, scientist, researcher, nutritionist, health coach etc, but to grow and provide the right level of care for people, she recruited an expert team to create a fully integrated approach.
Dr Nina herself is a case study for such an approach. Having been through treatment for an aggressive form of breast cancer, she really practised what she preaches and utilised this approach of knowing what to eat, when to rest, yoga therapy and a whole-lifestyle approach (alongside her conventional treatment and chemotherapy) to bring herself back to wellbeing, and it’s exactly this that she wanted to share with others.
“Looking at the full picture was vital – the choices we make and supporting them. I came out of general medicine, stepping away from the hospital setting, with a goal of setting up a space that integrates all of this”.
For instance, if you’ve been suffering from a complex illness for a while, then chances are you’ll visit several different doctors, consultants, therapists to help you find the answers and right treatment. But this scattered approach means that no one is joining the dots and different therapies may not be working together. You may end up taking an array of medications but with no real support and could wind up with several side effects to add to your list.
Your GP has just 10 minutes to assess you and to decide how best to treat you (a tricky thing to do for any professional!) but may have no additional training on lifestyle, nutrition and health coaching. This is where the frustration arises BUT where a functional and integrative practice like Synthesis Clinic can make a difference.
As Dr Nina points out “There are more and more people with chronic illnesses but we’re not looking at the roots, the lifestyle, and joining up the care. The frustration for me lies here. And that’s what the clinic is. People are exhausted with trial and error and need to find something that will help them.
“We’ve been dismissing lifestyle and diet as ‘soft’ options in medicine but THESE are essential to our health – from cancer to heart disease and hormone issues… Medication is prescribed but we shouldn’t just rely on medication and doctors to help us. We have to understand our health and help ourselves, using lifestyle medicine and a joined-up approach to treatment, knowing that drugs aren’t our only choice.”
So how does a clinic like this work?
Functional medicine takes all the different aspects of a person and brings them together. Illnesses tend to be seen in isolation by the medical world but are so often interrelated (think gut/autoimmune/stress).
Dr Nina is a problem solver of the highest kind and works with her team to ensure her patients are treated with lifestyle and evidence-informed complementary therapies but without disregarding conventional medicine either.
Each appointment starts with an initial consultation of 90 minutes to run through family history, symptoms and lifestyle, in a timeline-based approach. Dr Nina will then create a plan with everyone to decide what types of treatments and therapies are right for that person, meaning the patient doesn’t have to repeat themselves to different professionals or have conflicting treatments.
The clinic is made up of a team of 10 with areas of expertise such as functional, integrative and lifestyle medicine, clinical psychology, health coaching, nutrition, physiotherapy, Pilates, acupuncture, yoga, osteopathy, and personal training. People often self-discharge from the clinic when they feel better and are in a position to manage their symptoms. The power is given to the patient.
It’s not just conventional treatment, lifestyle approaches or complementary medicine – it’s everything, combined and blended in a way that is uniquely tailored to the individual.
We’ve been dismissing lifestyle and diet as ‘soft’ options in medicine but these are essential to our health – from cancer to heart disease and hormone issues…
What kinds of things does Synthesis Clinic treat?
Synthesis Clinic works by helping people to implement the changes that they need to make, with the right support and guidance. The clinic covers a vast array of conditions and illnesses from gut health, and mental health to hormones and women’s health, men’s health and complex and chronic conditions.
People can see the practitioners 1-1 but complicated cases will be triaged by Dr Nina Fuller-Shavel or Dr Tahera Chaudry. Lindsey Jadeja, the clinic’s health coach and practice manager, said, “A lot of people have lost faith, thinking it’s not possible for them to recover. Everyone is welcome through the door. The clinic also has a lending library and patients are prescribed books – enabling them to understand and implement the changes themselves.”
A teacher in her late twenties came to the clinic for help with long-standing IBS (bloating, constipation, stomach pains) and a recent diagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) with long cycles and erratic periods. She and her husband wanted to start trying for a baby but were unsure about how PCOS would affect their plans.
The Synthesis Clinic approach
After the initial 90-minute consultation, which included a full clinical history and a review of GP test results and lifestyle diary, the plan was made to target the IBS first with a full gut protocol and an anti-inflammatory nutrition plan with coaching support to help implement these changes.
Lifestyle recommendations included yoga practice to help with stress relief and more time spent in the parasympathetic (‘rest and digest’) nervous system. Further coaching support also targeted stress management tools and the emotional relationship with food. After the IBS symptoms have settled over a month, hormones were comprehensively tested and precisely targeted with supplementation, herbal medicine, and acupuncture.
“A lot of people have lost faith, thinking it’s not possible for them to recover. Everyone is welcome through the door. The clinic also has a lending library and patients are prescribed books – enabling them to understand and implement the changes themselves.”
And the outcome…
The daily IBS symptoms resolved after completion of the gut programme. Stress can still be a trigger for some abdominal discomfort but self-management with the right tools is working very well. And, all hormones were back to normal on testing following the completion of the hormone phase of the plan, and a healthy pregnancy was achieved without the need for PCOS medication.
‘I cannot thank Dr Nina and her health coach enough. I went to them 6 months ago struggling with IBS and a recent diagnosis of PCOS. Both annoyances were bothering my everyday life, as well as inhibiting future prospects of becoming pregnant. Together they have given me strategies and techniques that have obliterated my IBS symptoms. My quality of life has improved drastically, and I owe that to Dr Nina and her team. I have loved the personable and specific support that I have continued to receive. Thank you.’
What’s next for the clinic?
Dr Nina and her team hope that more lifestyle and integrative medicine centres like Synthesis Clinic will soon be widely available and become a more familiar model of care. Equipping people with the skills and know-how to really make a difference to their wellbeing, giving people the gift of time and proper empathy – doesn’t that sound like just what we all need!
Synthesis Clinic is currently running an 8-week small group programme for depression and anxiety called ‘Whole Mindset’. For more details head here
If you’ve enjoyed this article, you can read more from our health column, here.
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