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Business Focus: Practitioner offers different approach
Sharon Wheeles treats health issues with herbs, supplements, preventative measures
A morter and pestule for pulverizing herbs highlights the corner of Dr. Sharon Wheeles's desk in her Statesboro office as she studies the questionnaire of a patient. Wheeles practices “integrative medicine,” where she incorporates drugs with herbs and dietary supplements to help people achieve healthy lifestyles.
    After spending several years in the medical field as a nurse, Dr. Sharon Wheeles began to have some concerns about the direction of health care. Specifically, she was worried about a growing reliance on drugs and medicines to treat illnesses and other conditions instead of preventative measures and lifestyle changes to help some health issues.
    “I started researching health care and after doing a lot of research and reading about the efficacy of herbal and nutritional supplements,” she said. “I looked at the scientific studies and there were a lot of valid points, so I decided to devote my career to naturopathology.”
    In layman’s terms, naturopathology means Wheeles is a drugless practitioner who uses herbs, natural supplements and lifestyle changes to deal with chronic and acute health problems. Wheeles is the only naturopathologist in Statesboro and one of only a handful in Georgia.
    Unlike alternative medicine, in which no drugs are used to help treat issues, Wheeles said she practices “integrative medicine,” where she incorporates drugs with other aspects to help a person get better. She calls what she does “complimentary” to Western medicine.
    “Medicine has its time and place,” she said. “I try to focus on preventative measures and also enhancing medications and enhancing diet so whatever the problem is becomes better.”
    Wheeles earned her Masters in Holistic Health from Clayton College of Natural Health in 2004 and her Doctorate of Naturology from American Institute in 2006. She also has a national health care provider number.
    She said she treats a wide variety of patients, from those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and multiple sclerosis to fatigue, obesity, diabetes and even those suffering from the flu or a common cold. She also treats some with Attention Deficit Disorder.
    Upon a person’s first visit, she asks them to fill out a questionnaire describing their eating habits, stress levels, symptoms they may be having and other health issues. She’ll then score the questionnaire and from that determine a course of action that needs to be taken, whether it be a change in diet to cut back on something or to increase something else.
    And while she recommends the use of herbs and supplements to treat illnesses and other health problems, she said they can “dangerous and deadly if not done properly.”
    She said national publications are noting an increase of people who attempt to treat themselves, diabetics for example, and end up in the hospital for hypoglycemia as a result of mixing supplements.
    While Wheeles’ methods may be considered unconventional compared to more traditional forms of medicine, she said she’s had a mixed reaction from doctors.
    “There are a lot of doctors who are quite receptive to it and understand nutrition is a vital part to any human being’s health,” she said. “Then you have those who are very dogmatic in their beliefs. A patient comes in, you give them a prescription and that is a cure-all.”
    “I have patients who are on numerous medications,” she said. “I try to use diet and supplements to enhance what they are already doing. I look at the person as a whole, nit in pieces, per se.”
    Integrative medicine is where chiropractors were a decade ago, Wheeles said, noting that 10 years ago many insurance companies wouldn't cover chiropractic treatment. However, that has changed to the point that many insurers now do cover such visits.
     Wheeles said naturopathic medicine can’t cure all diseases, but that isn’t necessarily the goal.
    “The goal is to get them to their optimal health level – to take them as far as I can through this type of medicine,” she said.
    <I>Luke Martin can be reached at (912) 489-9454.
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