Holistic care: We talk “lifestyle” medicine with a local physician and advocate.
Dr. Rose Kumar aims to meld the best of traditional and complementary medicine.
Dr. Kalpana “Rose” Kumar worked for years in what she calls “corporate medicine” – a hospital primary care clinic – but had trouble with the imperative to maximize income for the hospital with short appointments and multiple hospital admissions. She felt the practice prevented her from really connecting with her patients. Since leaving that system, the India-born internist set up the Pewaukee-based Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, where she combines standard medicine and numerous complementary practices: acupuncture, homeopathy, reiki, yoga, psychotherapy, nutrition counseling and massage therapy. These therapies are performed, often at Ommani, by professionals she’s vetted, and she emphasizes the importance of knowing their credentials. She summarizes her approach as the “Four Body System” – arguing that health care shouldn’t treat just patients’ physical bodies, but also mental, emotional and what she terms “energy” bodies. Kumar specializes in treating women with menstruation-related problems, especially complications of menopause and pre-menopause; 85 percent of her clients are women. Here, Kumar explains the value of complementary medicine.
MilMag: Are people in this area becoming more open to complementary medicine?
RK: It is gaining in popularity, and part of it is information on the internet. And people are wising up and not trusting the traditional medical system anymore, so they’re going elsewhere for their health care. I think part of what I’m doing is educating people who come here as to what are the strengths of traditional medicine
and the importance of it, and where can a complementary medicine assist?
MM: Are there ailments that respond well to complementary medicine, either alone or in tandem with other approaches?
RK: Some of the greatest successes I’ve seen in complementary medicine alone: menopausal symptoms in women. Acupuncture, for example, is extremely successful in balancing women’s bodies, at least their symptom management. Anxiety is another one, where massage therapy, reiki, acupuncture are very good. Homeopathy is really good for chronic illness that standard medicine is really bad at, such as chronic eczema, skin conditions, asthma. Muscle pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, those are some of the areas, even chronic pain. For people with PTSD, EMDR, which is a technique for eye movement desensitization that’s extremely successful.
In terms of combining the two, what I find is that [for] people who are undergoing cancer treatment, [it’s a] fabulous combination with acupuncture, massage, reiki and the meds that they’re on. These practitioners are just fabulous at helping them with their anxiety and the fear. Just having someone touch you, and have that kind of connected care, it just doesn’t happen with your oncologist, or in the traditional medical approach.
MM: What are some of the most pervasive health problems you see in your practice? RK: The general problem in our society right now is a really bad gut. Taking a broad-spectrum probiotic, cleaning up your diet, and making it more plant-based, and really minimizing alcohol use. And getting plenty of exercise. If people did that, half the problems would just disappear, because a lot of problems in our society are lifestyle diseases. MM: You specialize in treatment of menopausal symptoms.
What would you recommend to readers regarding lifestyle changes they could make to help alleviate these problems?
RK: The first thing is minimize or cut out alcohol. Alcohol kind of occupies your liver, and then once the liver is occupied, all systems are going to be sluggish. The second thing is, I’m always trying to get people to move more toward a plant-based diet. When women start switching over to a plant-based diet, they just feel a lot better. The weight starts coming off, they feel better, they can think better.
When I get women on this kind of a lifestyle, their families’ health changes, so it’s like four for the price of one. They’re cooking for their family. Their husbands are losing weight, their cholesterol [levels] are dropping, the women are feeling better, and not just to feel better but to really age better.
MM: Milwaukee, with its drinking culture, is probably a hard place to preach quitting alcohol.
RK: If I can do it here, I can do it anywhere. And I’m doing it. People who drink every day have stopped drinking, just by experimenting. I tell them, don’t take my word. Just stop it for two weeks and see how you feel. They don’t go back, because they feel so much better.