We were lucky enough to catch up with Deirdre Nazareth for a quick chat recently, and we covered all manner of subjects including her extensive studies (Deirdre is a fully qualified Osteopath, has a Masters in Pain from Kings College London and is a certified Functional Medicine practitioner), how she keeps a healthy work-life balance, some insider info on what’s next and even her favourite restaurant tips! Read on for our exclusive interview with this genuinely warm and super-talented practitioner.
Nutri Advanced: So, Deirdre, we’re really interested to find out how you combine your role as an osteopath with functional medicine? How do you weave these together in your practice?
Deirdre: Osteopathy and the functional medicine approach are actually quite similar in their application. They both stress the importance of learning as much as you can about the person sitting opposite you for effective treatment. As an osteopath, one is taught to look at the whole person in the context of their mental and spiritual wellbeing. We see illness or pain as the absence of vitality and this can be seen and felt in the tissues when we observe and palpate the body. This diseased state can be influenced by mental, physical and spiritual factors. Likewise, the functional medicine approach uses a similar lens in discerning how someone became unwell. It allows one to listen to the patient’s whole story and understand their present state of ill health within the context of their environment and mental, spiritual and physical states. Osteopathy uses naturopathic principles alongside manual therapy, so a treatment will also include looking at the patient’s lifestyle and diet. Additionally we do not prescribe drugs, rather we advise the use of hydrotherapy while facilitating the body with manual therapy to unlock its natural ability to heal itself. Both have the common goal of searching for the root cause(s) of ill health, looking as far upstream as possible rather than symptomatic treatment alone.
N.A: Before training to become a functional medicine practitioner you studied for a Masters in Pain at Kings College in London. We’re intrigued to find out more about this. Are there any key findings you can share with us?
D: Yes, I was keen to learn more about the neuroscience behind what I was treating in clinical practice, which is mainly chronic pain. The nature of chronic pain makes it the most challenging to treat effectively. Some of the key findings I took from my studies are that as clinicians we influence our patients not only by what we do physically, but equally and possibly more importantly, by how we portray ourselves and the energy we exude. Pain is the most motivating and debilitating experience; it can virtually take over every aspect of one’s life. Every person is in control of their pain, even though it doesn’t seem like it when one is in it. Effective treatment is about empowering the patient to take back control by teaching them about their pain and giving them the tools to manage it in the future.
N.A: How often do you see patients affected by stress? What is your view on the relationship between chronic stress and pain? And how do you support these patients?
D: Every day! I would say there isn’t a single patient not affected by stress in some way, even though they often don’t recognise they are. Stress is something that is often dismissed as a reason for ill health, and even pain, but it can have grave consequences. Patients don’t immediately make the connection that chronic stress can not only trigger but also maintain their pain and ill health. I think this is because the patients I see generally operate at a level of stress that has sadly become the norm. It is also a consequence of living in a busy city like London where not only is there constant stimulation, more often over stimulation, and people are always rushing. When pain comes back repeatedly to the same area, it is not because that area is always getting damaged. It is the consequence of work or lifestyle stress that keep the brain and body’s response pattern in a sympathetic state of constant arousal or in fight or flight mode and an inability to shut off. I try to teach how to engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows one to ‘rest and digest’. This can be as simple as how to breathe properly, to get up and move often, to move away from the desk and not to eat in front of the computer whilst also talking on the phone or doing other tasks.
N.A: Do you often recommend functional and / or genetic tests in your practice? Which ones do you use? Are there any that you recommend frequently?
D: I do functional tests often with patients and I am doing more genetic testing. It is useful for the patient to see how the genetic predisposition aligns with the results of the functional tests as well as how the patient is presenting symptomatically. The ones I recommend the most are Gastrointestinal testing first and then either adrenal, thyroid or sex hormone depending on the patient. I often do organic acid tests in conjunction with any of the above.
N.A: What are the key features of your own diet and lifestyle that help you to prioritise your health amid such a busy schedule?
D: I wish I could say that I prioritise my health all of the time, but it’s not always easy. My job is very taxing physically and mentally, and I am running around London between clinics often. I just try to eat healthily the majority of the time. I obviously have the odd off day or two, but I always take probiotics, Vit D, fish oil and NAC. They accompany me on my trips as well. As a result, I don’t get sick often and when I do, it doesn’t last long. One major plus of London city life is that it’s pretty easy to get to places by foot, so I try to take advantage of that too. I really enjoy yoga and dance, and I do this as often as my schedule allows as well. The most important thing I do is switch off when I get home. I really believe one’s home should be as zen as possible, because this is where you spend most of your time. It should be inviting and cosy; a sanctuary that you look forward to coming back to and waking up in. A positive and clean environment has so much influence on your brain, and how your body feels. Clutter and noise promote anxiety in the subconscious mind. I avoid clutter, switch off my phone and I play music I love. I have lots of plants everywhere, which clean the air and also are naturally calming for the nervous system. I also have pictures of things and people I love or who inspire me all around. Natural light streams in from the garden, and that is probably the best and most calming effect of my flat.
N.A: Do you have a favourite restaurant? You can choose anywhere in the world!
D: This is such a hard question because it is impossible to only choose one, and from anywhere in the world! If I were to pick a current favourite it would be Farmacy in Notting Hill. I am a huge chocolate chip cookie fan and they have the most amazing gluten free, refined sugar free one that comes with a little glass of almond milk on the side. It is just heaven! The restaurant itself is beautiful too with loads of plants everywhere and lots of natural light. My other favourite would be Bond Street Sushi in NYC. I have had so many fun memories there and the sushi is amazing.
N.A: Could you share with us your top 3 tips for anyone struggling with chronic pain?
D: My top 3 tips for people in chronic pain are:
1. Exercise or move as much as you can. I always marvel at people in third world countries where being sedentary makes the pain worse.
2. Get as much rest as possible. Restful sleep is so important for renewal and cell repair so if you don’t get enough or can’t, use tools to manage this. Think how bad you feel when you don’t get enough sleep.
3. Try to distract yourself from ‘fear-related thoughts’ or negative thoughts about the meaning of the pain. Use positive mantras or reinforce positive behaviours that have an effect on your psyche and vice versa. We all like a little cuddle or reassurance when we don't feel well, so be kind to yourself and keep doing the things you enjoy often, within a range you can manage.
N.A: Your journey so far has included osteopath training, followed by a Masters in Pain and now certification in functional medicine. It’s inspiring to meet someone with such an incredible passion for learning! What’s next on the horizon for you?
D: Thank you, I just always have loved to learn or read since I was a kid. I think we are learning all of the time. I am always learning from my patients just through the nature of what I do. I would love to get my yoga teacher training. It is something I have wanted to do for years but just didn’t have the time to dedicate to it the way I wanted so maybe this year might be the year I do it.
N.A: Thank you Deirdre for being so generous with your time. Click here to read Deidre’s fascinating article on pain - ‘What’s pain got to do with it’ – get ready to change the way you think about pain for good.
About Deirdre Nazareth
Deirdre is one of only 13 practitioners in the UK to have completed her functional medicine training to become a fully certified Functional Medicine (IFM) practitioner.
Deirdre’s career path in health and wellness started in NYC where she worked in the Department of Human Genetics at Mount Sinai Hospital as a research assistant. She simultaneously worked as a personal trainer at the exclusive Crunch Fitness Gym with people of all ages and experience, including celebrities. She was certified though NASM and being one of the top trainers there, was awarded several opportunities on television as a result. She moved to London and completed her osteopathic degree at The British College of Osteopathic Medicine and shortly after completed her masters in pain neuroscience at the prestigious King’s College London. She has also completed the health coaching course through the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and courses in Acupuncture and cranial osteopathy.
She treats many chronic musculoskeletal and visceral issues with osteopathic medicine in patients of all ages while integrating her knowledge about pain and neuroscience in her treatments to educate patients about their pain. Furthermore, she utilises the functional medicine approach learned in her certification with IFM to provide a truly wholistic lens through which she treats autoimmune conditions and other chronic complex diseases that stem from gut dysfunction. She continues to attend courses to further her osteopathic, pain and functional medicine knowledge. She is currently building a virtual practice which allows her to treat patients globally from Brunei, NYC, Argentina, California, Lebanon and all over the UK.