BY BILL PHILLIPS
Like most people who work with the public all day, Mike and Tara Webber are susceptible to all the latest colds and flus that travel around town.
For the owners of XConditioning it’s tough enough going to work every day with a cold, but Mike and Tara are also competitive powerlifters, so the sniffles can put a snafu in competitions they have trained months for.
About three years ago, they got to talking with one of their clients who was working out in the gym. That client was Dr. Jason Boxtart, owner of Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine on Victoria Street.
“Jason started coming to our gym and he told us about what they do (at the centre), how they do it, and suggested it would be good for us as athletes because we’re always doing something that’s harming our body … to try the IVs to help us recover,” said Mike.
The IVs are intravenous doses of vitamins and minerals. Boxtart, and his team at the Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine, have developed the treatment over the past 15 years.
“The big deal with athletes is the training and competing is a big huge stressful event,” said Boxtart. “Every time these guys do a max effort day at the gym, Mike might get under 900 pounds when he’s doing a squat or Tara might pull off a 600-pound squat. These are not average examples, but they are huge physiologic stressor events. When you have these big elevations in cortisol, with these athletes and others, that causes temporary immunosuppression and other challenges. These IVs, a relatively simple vitamin/mineral IV, can help counteract those kinds of problems.”
The treatment, while very beneficial to athletes, will help anyone who is dealing with the stresses of life. Boxtart says the centre’s clients range from professionals to businesspeople to stay-at-home moms to anyone who’s burning the candle at both ends.
“One of the problems we see are the downstream effects from modern living … tired, getting sick frequently, digestive problems, these kinds of things that may not necessarily be a frank medical pathology but can impact your quality of life enough that you might want to seek help,” said Boxtart. “People come in exhausted and totally at the end of their rope. We can get them back on their feet and feeling well again, using these IVs and other tools, inside of four weeks. We can make a big difference and people’s lives in a relatively short period of time.”
The intravenous treatments, putting the vitamins and minerals right into your bloodstream, are much more effective because they go right into your bloodstream. It’s called the ‘first pass’ effect, says Boxtart. When you take something orally, he says only about 10 per cent actually gets into your bloodstream after it gets past your stomach, liver and everything else.
“When you use them through an IV, now you get a much different and a much stronger effect,” he said. “Vitamin C, orally, is an anti-oxidant at 500 milligrams at a time. When you use an IV at seven grams, it works as an immuno-modulator (stimulating antibody formation). It works in a totally different way.”
It’s something that both Mike and Tara can attest to.
“Just being able to recover faster makes everything better,” said Tara. “You have more energy throughout the day. When I don’t get them, then I find I go home and feel like I need to sit down and rest.”
Professionally it’s good because Mike and Tara don’t miss days of work and can always be there to help their clients.
“As an athlete, it makes it so we can train harder and never miss days leading up to a competition,” said Mike. “We usually have 12-16 weeks of heaving lifting going into a competition. If we can prevent ourselves from getting sick during that time, we can put the most into our workouts and have the best performance when we go to our competition.”
The athletes IV, which has several variations, helps with stress modulation but also increase growth hormone production which is beneficial because peak athletic performance results in growth hormone suppression.
Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine
The Northern Centre for Integrative Medicine has been operating in Prince George for 15 years and it keeps growing.
It is run by Dr. Jason Boxtart and Dr. Cher Boomhower.
Boxtart is a naturopathic physician, but is also very pragmatic in his approach to treating patients, which means the centre has more in common with a traditional family practice than it does different.
“We use, interchangeably and without bias, natural ingredients and drugs to their best effect,” Boxtart said. “I’m not bent towards natural things because I’m a naturopath. I’m looking for the best intervention for my patient at that time. I prescribe medications every day because they have a place inside medicine that’s crucial. We help lots of people with them.
“We also use these kinds of tools that are under the natural health kind of things, that also work really well. We combine those in a way that’s rational and well thought out so we can bring the best of all that to our patients.”
The centre helps people with people with lots of different health problems from colds and stomach problems to really complex health problems.
“In the IV suite we help people who have had heart attacks and strokes, we help people with auto-immune disease, a little bit of cancer care, it’s a broad spectrum,” said Boxtart.
The centre will also help patients with musculoskeletal injuries.
“One of the special tools I use is platelet-rich plasma,” said Boxtart. “I’ll take a sample of someone’s blood, spin it in a centrifuge, harvest the platelets and inject them back into the injury. The growth factors in the platelets actually re-model that soft tissue injury. So if they have chronic tendonitis or ligament damage, that will help resolve that injury usually inside of about two to four weeks. These are sometimes injuries that are years old.”
Prince George is a really active community, so the service is very much needed.
The centre’s services, however, aren’t covered by the provincial Medical Services Plan, which means patients, unless they have a private plan that covers the treatment, pay for the treatment they receive. That, says Boxtart, puts the pressure on him and his staff to deliver results.
“We really have to bring our A-game because people expect something different from a medical service like ours when they are paying for it out of their own pocket,” he said. “So we set our bar really high in terms of what we expect in terms of results and patient experience.”
That patient experience is less-rushed environment as Boxtart tries to get to the root of your problems.
“You can’t just say ‘oh you’re a liver disease patient,’ that’s a disservice,” he said. “You have to understand the context to get to the why. The biggest difference between us and mainstream medicine, is I’m looking for the why. I’m looking for the what, but I also want to look at the why so I can go upstream and maybe make some corrections there, so maybe now they’ve changed the trajectory of their disease course.”
By and large, people get into medicine because they want to help people, he said, and he’s no different. He also likes interacting with patients and actually getting to know them.
“For us, the powerful part of being in practice is helping people, helping people find their way,” he said. “Often they come here because they’re confused about what to do next. They’ve been on the internet and they’ve Dr. Googled their way into total confusion. Our goal for people is for them to not to need us anymore.”
The centre has been involved with the Northern Medical Program, offering internships for medical students. The centre is located at 1811 Victoria Street.