Gregory Lutz

Photo: Courtesy of Gregory Lutz

Ever heard of a skin shrink? Or a holistic dentist? Such doctors are part of a creative breed of specialists striving to fill holes in our fragmented healthcare system. Their focus is on the underlying causes—physical and emotional—of health problems; instead of surgery or a drug, they might prescribe hypnosis or yoga. Meet four innovative practitioners and learn what their fields can do for you.

The Physiatrist
"When it comes to back pain, we believe medication is mightier than the scalpel." —Gregory E. Lutz, MD, New York City

Chronic back pain sufferers tend to choose one of two options: alternative medicine (like acupuncture) or surgery, says Lutz. "Physiatrists bridge the gap between those two extremes." Their goal is to help patients heal with minimally invasive care, using physical therapy, drugs, and biological treatments that stimulate the body's immune system to repair degenerating discs. About 95 percent of Lutz's patients are able to avoid an operation.
Lina Garcia

Photo: Lina Garcia

2. The Holistic Dentist
"The mouth is a window into your overall health." —Lina Garcia, DDS, DMD, South Barrington, Illinois

Poor oral health isn't as simple as cavities and swollen gums. Infections in your mouth allow bacteria to reach other parts of your body, from your arteries to your lungs. "Teeth aren't our main concern—avoiding future health issues is," explains Garcia. To that end, holistic dentists aim to treat the sources of your periodontal problems—with natural rinses, diet counseling, even meditation—in addition to the symptoms.
Olafur S. Palsson

Photo: Olafur Palsson

3. The Hypnotherapist for IBS
"Hypnosis appears to calm the GI tract." —Olafur S. Palsson, PsyD, Chapel Hill, Noth Carolina

Only about half of irritable bowel syndrome patients will find real relief after six months of treatment. This statistic led Palsson to develop a radically different therapy—a hypnosis technique that soothes the digestive system. After seven sessions, patients see a 50 percent reduction in their symptoms, on average. More than 400 mental health professionals in the country use this method.
Josie Howard

Photo: Josie Howard

4. The Psychodermatologist
"We're often called skin shrinks because we help you heal from the inside out." —Josie Howard, MD, San Francisco

Stress, Howard says, triggers the release of inflammatory hormones in the body, which can aggravate conditions from acne to eczema, psoriasis, warts, and rosacea. Rather than doling out creams and pills, the practitioners in Howard's field focus on addressing troubling emotions through treatments like talk therapy, yoga, antidepressants, and biofeedback.

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