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Have you ever wondered about the stark realities of long COVID?

We unpack this pressing issue with Dr Mark Donohoe, a renowned integrative GP and president of ACNEM, the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine.

Our candid conversation touches on the 2023 ACNEM conference, traversing the terrain of long COVID’s prevalence and contrasting the official figures with the real-life situation.

Prepare for a sobering deep-dive into long COVID’s impact in Australia. Dr. Donohoe sheds light on the staggering statistics, indicating that 1 in 50 Australians grapple with long COVID. That’s about half a million people, and the number isn’t dwindling. This episode will leave you with profound insights into the pandemic’s long-standing effects on our health. So, if you want a fresh perspective on this ongoing health crisis, this discussion is a must-listen.

About Dr Donohoe
Dr Donohoe has worked in the field of MS/CFS for over 35 years and is considered one of Australia’s leading practitioners in this area. He is currently President of the Australasian College of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine (ACNEM).

Dr Donohoe sees patients from around Australia and overseas with complex illnesses, including chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), .myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), fibromyalgia (FM), chemical toxicity and sensitivities (MCS) and chronic inflammation.

Connect with Dr Donohoe
Mosman Integrative Medicine




Andrew: This is “Wellness by Designs,” and I’m your host, Andrew Whitfield-Cook. Joining us today is Dr. Mark Donohoe, an integrative GP of great renown, current president of acnem, the Australasian College of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, and a true vanguard of patient health here in Australia, for many, many, many decades. Doctor Mark Donohoe, welcome to “Wellness by Designs.” How are you?

Dr. Donohoe: I’m great, Andrew. Why does this feel so familiar? I don’t…I have this déjà vu feeling that you’ve said these words before, and I just cannot place where.

e today.

Andrew: Now, Mark, today, we’re gonna be discussing, or recapping, really, the proceedings of the recent acnem conference, held in August 2023, down in Melbourne, and it was on Long COVID. And we’re gonna be discussing what we’ve learned from that, because it’s quite enlightening, somewhat different from what we thought. So, firstly, can you just take us through the official prevalence of Long COVID, what the “authorities” say, versus what you are seeing as an integrative practitioner in your practice?

Dr. Donohoe: Yeah, I can take you through, but remember, I have a very particular medical practice, and so, I can tell you official figures, ones that are derived from data from the UK, which has been recent. The official figures are that at present, Long COVID is approximately 2% of the population are affected, of which 1% of the population are severely affected to the point that they cannot work. So, roughly 1 in 100 people is disabled enough not to be able to work. One in 50 people, in the whole of Australia, is suffering Long COVID. Now, you know, what does that translate to? Probably 500,000 people. And those numbers seem to not be diminishing. A bit of the problem depends on what we call Long COVID. So, some people call Long COVID, “I’m still sick 8 weeks or 10 weeks after.” There’s an official duration of 12 weeks. You have to have a set of particular symptoms, and unfortunately, now we’ve got a handful of definitions, where everybody disagrees. But, at the basics of our best available definitions, let’s just say one in 50 people in Australia now suffers Long COVID.

That’s opposed to 1 in about 100 people who suffer myalgic encephalitis/chronic fatigue syndrome, the old MECFS. So, we’ve already got twice the number of Long COVID people, compared to maybe 30 years of accumulation of MECFS. It’s quite an issue to see that doubling. In my practice, that means that now two-thirds, roughly, of my patients are either Long COVID, after a COVID infection, a Long COVID-like illness after a vaccination injury, or MECFS. I see very little that’s not fatigue syndromes related to one of those three things.

Andrew: Can I ask there, with regards to the definition of Long COVID? Are we talking about, if there’s the infection, and forgive our listeners, let’s say point A is the infection. Are we talking about a continuation of symptoms from point A ongoingly? Or are we talking about a recovery from symptoms from point A, and then a resurfacing of different or related symptoms after a period of time of supposed wellness or recovery?

Dr. Donohoe: Yeah. Well, it is both, right? So, initially, it was, you know, basically, put as people not recovering from COVID. And that’s not the case for the majority of people that I see. They go through COVID, the acute infection. A lot of them have cough, a lot of them have typical symptoms of an upper respiratory infection. A lot of people with vomiting and diarrhea, interestingly, as well, which gives us a clue maybe about what we should be looking for. But the typical story is, they get better around about the two to three-week mark. They may grumble on a bit, but they’re either back at work or they’re back doing whatever they did, and say, you know, “That was nasty.” And then, somewhere around about the two, three, four week afterwards, the fatigue kind of hits again. Symptoms recur, but not necessarily the same as the acute symptoms.

So, when Long COVID comes back now, with Omicron, it’s not so commonly the cough or the breathing difficulties, as it was when we had Delta. So, it does seem to be that there is one illness which is the acute illness. There is then either a partial recovery or actual recovery, and then there is a second hit, a second problem that arises, typically built around fatigue, post-exertional fatigue, and cognitive decline. And it’s typically those people, those three things that we now see as the primary indicator that something has gone wrong post-COVID. And that’s what we’re calling Long COVID.

There’s a bunch of other symptoms. The WHO, the RECOVER trial in the USA, which is kind of taking dominance. There’s a bunch of other ways of diagnosing it with symptom checklist, which we’ve in fact copied for our questionnaire and our checklist. But those are just ways of trying to categorize people to say yes or no. To a clinician, it’s a tired person, tired all the time, can’t focus. When they do something, they pay for it for a long time afterwards, and they will just say, “I never recovered,” without recognizing that there probably was a two-week recovery or so before things went on.

And I also have to, you know, say, there are some people for whom they just got sick and never came out of that sickness. There wasn’t a day, from the time that they had the COVID or the vaccine, where they ever felt better again. So, that’s the same that we saw with old glandular fever, with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Andrew: Yeah.

Dr. Donohoe: Some people got glandular fever, had a bit of a recovery after a nasty illness, and then fell down, and plenty of them just never got better. They could say, “The day that I got sick was the day my glands swelled up,” and, you know, that gives you a bit of an idea that there’s a post-infectious problem, that can be continuous, but more commonly has a bit of a grace period, where there’s a partial recovery and then it goes on to a stable state of ill health.

Andrew: Can I ask about original aberrant immune response? Is there anything that’s been seen? Were any of the speakers alluding to an initial aberration in the immune response? We heard in the media that, you know, for instance, those people that suffered more severe disease during a COVID infection might have a heightened immune response, and I’m wondering if there might be something weird going on there.

Dr. Donohoe: I would like to separate those. There are people, especially in the, you know, original Wuhan Alpha and Delta, in that period of time, there were plenty of people who were going to hospital with respiratory disease, and, you know, people were dying of that as well. So, there is, separated from the standard Long COVID, there’s this post-ICU syndrome. You’re probably aware of it. You go to ICU with any kind of disease, and you get ventilated, and you get drugged, and you get, you know, your life is saved, and there tends to be a cost at the end of it, without going back to really full recovery. So, I think, at the moment, the post-ICU group are separated out a bit because they tend to have lung disease. They tend to have identifiable pathology. So, that apart, there is data that people who test positive on the RAT or PCR for more than two weeks are definitely in a group who are more likely to get Long COVID. And I’ve seen, you know, today in my practice, I’ve seen yet another person for whom that was the case.

Some people, without any predisposition, just seem to have a virus land on them, have time to do whatever it does, and then like a bad, you know, a bad visitor, just declined to leave. They won’t disappear. And so, there is a feeling that the duration of illness, outside the ICU group, the duration of the original viral infection may well be the thing that gives it a head start to predispose to Long COVID. There’s still the thought, well, where does the virus hang out if it’s hanging around so long? And emerging evidence, which we heard at the conference as well, is that it gets to the gut, where there’s plenty of ACE receptors and not the same type of immune defenses. And there is a lot of research, and I have a personal view, that the people who have that long infection tend also to have the gastrointestinal symptoms. And my money is on there being a persistence of the virus in some people, that is managed by a healthy gut. And if your gut is not healthy, once again, the naturopathic medicine, if your gut’s not healthy, there’s an open doorway for something to just make a home in you in that place.

Andrew: So, I was going to ask about the, you know, any sort of hallmark symptoms of Long COVID, but I think you’ve well answered that. Is there anything, though, that we haven’t covered that we need to be aware of? You know, you mentioned the brain fog, the gut symptoms. What about pain? And certainly migrating pain around the body?

Dr. Donohoe: Yeah. No, that…this is, I mean, as you’re aware, we tried to divide the conference up a little bit, to say, “If you think of Long COVID as the disease, you’re probably thinking wrong.” Just as any CFS is not the disease. It’s an umbrella term that captures a lot of different people, as an ongoing illness of unexplained origin. And so, what we tried to do in the conference was divide it up. There are some that are clearly autoimmune in nature. Why? Because you get swollen joints. You can actually see the immune system, activated by the virus, go on to do damage of a different type. And what we have learned from the conference is that damned spike protein of the virus, and the spike protein that we induce with vaccination, is a bugger of a protein. It has cross-reactivity with dozens of human proteins in the body, and has the potential to trigger the immune system to fight something it shouldn’t.

So, that is one group. There’s another group for whom, especially young women, we’ve found this a lot, is people who are otherwise well, suddenly, they’ve got heart rates, when they stand up, going to 140 beats a minute. They are collapsing. They really can’t maintain the pulse rate or the blood pressure or both. And we think of those as POTS patients. And the reason for thinking of that is, when a person’s young and healthy, if you can get the pulse rate back under control, what’s remarkable is how much they recover and how quickly they recover. There are others with mitochondrial disorders. There are others where coinfections, like Epstein-Barr flare up. Mycoplasma. So, we have all these different categories, and we’re, in trying to tease them apart, it turns out, in my view, that we’re falling back into, it’s useful in medicine to be specific about something, but then we’ve got to integrate it back into the whole person again. So, it’s no point saying, “Oh, you have lung disease, and that’s all there is.” We miss the opportunity for the person who’s adapting and trying to manage to pick up that there could be a bit of autoimmunity. There could be dysautonomia. There could be mitochondrial dysfunction. There could be mast cell activation.

So, what I was proud about with the conference is, we had experts in all of the different areas, who had massive crossover of the treatments that they would use that crossed over with the other areas. So, we separate them to say what will best help this individual, and then we try and integrate it back to say, “How do we put health back together, so that this person recovers?”

Andrew: I understand the issue of supporting a patient through the acute phase of the infection, and even chronic phase of the infection, I guess, using those nutrients, those herbs which might support the immune response. But I do wonder if, given the… Chronicity is too weak a word. When we’re talking about this constant, unabated stress that people have experienced throughout this planetary lockdown from COVID, and then re-emerging into “a new normal,” which, for some people is vastly different from prior, I wonder if we really should be looking at those, what was termed the chronic, nourishing, rejuvenating, adaptogenic type therapies. I wonder if we should really be employing them way earlier. What’s your take on that? How should we be… Separating, or combining?

Dr. Donohoe: No. You are so right. What we have is hard data on acute COVID. But in the Women’s Health Study in America, there was a 32% to 35% reduction in acute COVID bad outcomes by a healthy lifestyle. But all they did was look at people, and a healthy lifestyle, for Americans, is not that healthy. I’ll be blunt with you. It was minimum standards. They were allowing for plenty of soft drink and anything in that trial. But, you know, the sleep, the exercise, all of those areas that combine for health, reduced COVID outcomes by 30% to 35%. One in three people who got sick and hospitalized need not have been. I think, personally, that we, what we termed “comorbidity” is just a failure of the medical system. What does that mean? We didn’t go for health. We go for pills that make you not complain about your health problem. So, the people who are in nursing homes with arthritis were on immunosuppressive drugs. It’s a miracle that works until a virus comes along and says, “Hey, fertile fields here. No immunology to protect me.”

And so, the failure to pursue health over the last 50 years, the kind of idea that medicine is a miracle, and can make you healthy, even though that’s not health, that left us vulnerable. And a virus, you know, viruses, pathogens, they’re usually good at finding the weak points, and making those people pay more than the average person would. So, I think that if there’s a lesson from this, the failure to pursue health as prevention of disease was our number one problem. Health is in fact cheaper than vaccination programs, drug programs, hospitalization, all the other dramas that we went through, a commitment to health, no morbidity, instead of comorbidity, would have been a good investment. And I think, in retrospect, we should all notice that, but no one’s talking about it. Everyone’s talking about how to prepare for the next pandemic, how to have a good drug available, a better vaccine. That’s the wrong thinking, in my mind. Resilience is a thing that you earn by lifestyle, and by your diet, and by rest and relaxation. And those people that then tortured everybody pretty well, with lockdowns and stress and terror, and calling it a fatal infection, did no good for anybody who finally became infected. That fear, I think, has a cost, that kind of moral injury that doctors experienced is, we were treating things that should have been part of our brief before we ever saw those people, and we’re forever playing catch-up with a virus that could mutate and get away from every effort that we made. So, next time, we go for health. How do you change that? I mean, that’s what acnem, that’s what this whole conference is about, is we’ve gotta sort out the problems that arose. But next time, prevention has to really take prime place there.

Andrew: Speaking with Professor David Putrino about the physical symptoms, and, I mean, gosh, that bloke’s a saint. But what he’s come across, and how he has had to, holding somebody’s hand, and by no means covers the work that he’s done, but, you know, passive versus active exercise, and the whole gamut of what he’s had to put up with in his clinic, in…it’s a hospital clinic, isn’t it? Where he’s based?

Dr. Donohoe: It is. It’s, well, it’s within…

Andrew: When we’re talking…

Dr. Donohoe: It’s within this Mount Sinai Hospital environment, but it’s a rehabilitation clinic. That was different from a hospital admissions clinic. So, yes. It is a clinic.

Andrew: Yeah. So, when we’re talking about, you know, the whole range of therapies that we could and possibly should employ, can you take us through, and I get this is a piece of string, I understand, but those therapies that might give us better bang for buck, when we’re talking about tired all the time, POTS, reactivation of immune issues, brain fog, blah, blah, blah, how do we start to put together a regimen, being mindful that these are people that in many cases can’t work optimally, or in some cases, at all?

Dr. Donohoe: They’re extraordinarily limited in what they are able to do, and so that is one of the challenges that I think David very eloquently covered at the conference, the idea that you do not do what many of the clinics around are doing, of push them back into more activity. You don’t bludgeon them at a time when they’re vulnerable, and when they have post-exertional malaise. And so, that’s been, I think, one of the great failures of MECFS since we got into cognitive behavioral therapy, graded exercise therapy. Those two harmed more people than they helped, in my view. It may be that I see all the failures, and there were successes I would never see. But we have to be so careful, and David was very eloquent about that. Do not push them. Stay within an energy envelope. Those kind of approaches. Rehydrating people, doing the simple stuff first. And my passion for this now is, there’s stuff that we can do with mind-body before you even get to what therapy we do. How do you get the brain calmed? How do you break the panic that the world went through.

Breathing, which David alluded to, breath work as a means of reorganizing and realigning the autonomic nervous system. We all think it’s on autopilot. We all think we know how to breathe. We don’t, right? Especially when we’re in panic and things escalate out of control. The type of breathing seems to re-coordinate autonomic function, is able to stabilize pulse and blood pressure, is able to build resilience. If you’re in panic, you’re not resilient, almost by definition. You’ve got an autonomic nervous system on that edge. And I really took, you know, what David said is something that everyone is able to do. This is not rocket science of high-powered drugs, where they U.S. is spending billions on it. This is learning how to breathe, learning how to reestablish the pulse, the autonomic response, the sweating response. But these are things that are in the power of everybody, not simply, you know, rocket scientists who are looking at drugs that are going to cost $1000 a week.

So, that’s step one, is mind-body. There’s evidence there, saw the evidence as well for meditation, mindfulness, things like Qigong, Tai Chi, stuff that is not costly, is open to everybody, is a start to re-establishing a foundation for health. And then David goes on to then pass on the baton to, you know, as we saw, Jason Kaplan, that if the simple things don’t work, we move on to high-demand amino acids, or salt, and we try and reestablish the pulse and the blood pressure. If that doesn’t work, we can move on to medications that can hold it under control for a while, but the goal is always to see the person’s autonomic nervous system take control back on the other side. It’s not pills for life, that make a drug company a lot of money. It’s pills to hold the target still while we regain our health.

And I thought those were some of the best there. We had fabulous talks from Christabelle about reestablishing a relationship with nature, how powerful it is to get out into the forest, how powerful it is to have sunlight. We all know that vitamin D did a lot of work in preventing the severe outcomes of COVID. Vitamin D was free, until we got terrified of the sun, as you’re probably aware. So, getting what effectively is a dose of nature. And that was, to be truthful, my big learning experience. I knew some of the medical stuff. What I failed to grasp was there’s this idea of salutogenesis. How do you build health? And you would think as a doctor, from Hippocratic origins, that they would teach doctors this. Why is it I get to I won’t say what age, but old, and a lot of time in practice, how do I get there and never have heard of that term, as salutogenesis, I can’t even pronounce it, as being an entry point to prevention, and reestablishing health? That was the eye-opener for me, that, for a change, we had naturopaths, doctors, chiropractors, we had a whole group of healthcare professionals, who have a much higher alignment in reestablishing health, rather than finding symptomatic treatment. And what I learned from them, and what I learned from Christabelle, and the naturopaths who were attending, was a whole new way of seeing this not as a disease problem, but as a failure of the foundations of health problem, that we have to go back and hold the person while they recover, to literally do what I think Dave was metaphorically saying, that they need to be safe, they need to feel safe, they need techniques that they can use, not go broke along the way, and then find the pathways back to their own recovery.

Andrew: I interviewed, at that conference, your wife, Fiona Donohoe-Bales, and she almost screamed about, why do we still persist in using nutritional therapies and supplementation therapies first, when, as you so poignantly say, we’re talking about the foundations of health, is things like light, movement, love, exercise, music, and we don’t use that in our practice. We go, “Okay, let’s use the food and the nutrients.” And then we’ll add these, you know, lifestyle modifications, or concentration on lifestyle things last. We add them last. And she was almost screaming, going, “Ahh…” But, along that line, now…

Dr. Donohoe: She has screamed at me as well.

Andrew: Along those lines, though, now that Long COVID is officially recognized, and it’s officially grouped together, almost, with chronic fatigue syndrome, myalgic myeloencephalitis, that CFS/ME, and we have these beautiful… I mean, talk about a firebrand group, called Emerge. Now that we have these changes, we have the acceptance by government, like, “Yes, there is a problem. We recognize it,” where is… What needs to happen? What needs to change, being ever mindful that there’s only so much money in the healthcare purse?

Dr. Donohoe: And do you know the reason why there’s only so much money in the healthcare purse? Because we’re paying too much for health, by pretending medicine is health. The cost of medicine escalates exponentially. It has escalated over all the years that I’ve been in there. The failure to actually have a healthcare system. The misnomer of Medicare as healthcare. It’s exceptionally good disease care system that keeps people from falling off the perch, when they could have done something over the decades before. So, what I think we need to understand is we’re not stealing from the medical system. The medical system’s got out of control in costs because of our failures of prevention. It’s a reflection of how little we invested in health that we now have a medical system that does complex issues poorly, chronic conditions terribly, and we now have more years of unwell life than we had at any time in our history.

So, medicine takes credit for extending life. The extension of life has increasing years of disability, not decreasing years of disability. And so, if there was a lesson that I would love to be learned from this pandemic, a positive that comes out of it, is, we change our way of thinking. Nature will find us every time that we think we’ve got away with something, to think we’ve got…we’re cleverer than nature. I listen to this argument of, “We’ll find a pill that cures it. It will bend to our will,” without giving anyone the power or the ability to know how to look after themselves. And I just love the idea that if you build resilience, if you build in convalescence, another thing we forgot, which Stephen Myers and Fiona both point out over and over, is convalescence used to be a big thing when you couldn’t do something so clever medically. Now, what happens is, you get an illness. How many days does it take before you can be back at work? We’ve got something mixed up there, that recovery after an insult, after the trauma that we’ve been through with lockdowns, after all of that, recovery takes time.

And there’s no substitute for time. You can’t hurry it up with a pill. If in that time, we learn techniques that keep us safe in the future, that’s a great use of convalescent time. And it’s something that used to be built into our medical system when it was less powerful. Now we think a pill can get you back to work, and you’ll be productive again. Nearly every person that I’ve seen with Long COVID says, “I tried to get back to” X, whatever that X is, family management. “Tried to get back to work. I tried it over and over. And I was never well. I was always pushing to the edges.” And I think that’s our failing, is that we’ve lost something that my dog, Mr. Digby, will do. If he’s injured, he takes a week off. No one’s pushing him to work. He can just go about his own life. Cats are the magnificent ones at this. They don’t do anything, don’t move a muscle if they don’t want to. We go back to work. We get back into socializing. We have to be productive. And I think that that mismatch has seen a lot of people, lot of doctors, especially, when they become unwell, get disillusioned with the medical system, and kind of withdraw from it, and look for something better somewhere else. Byron Bay, I think, is thriving on the doctors that have had to kind of migrate there. But other people thinking of change of lifestyle, that, I think, is a good outcome, not a negative outcome unless the only value you have in society is the GDP.

Andrew: Yeah. Now, just part of, going on from that sort of comment is, how do you teach patients who are champing at the bit, or indeed have dire need to get back to physical exertion, work, caring for others, whatever? How do you teach them about how important it is to learn that word called “pace?” Because this has been, you know, for decades, anybody who’s looked after chronic fatigue patients knows that it’s eternally frustrating, because they just, as soon as they get better, they want to do everything. And it’s really frustrating to say, “You needed to do a graded response, a graded introduction back to physical activity.” Have we got anything that we can say, “Do this now. Do that tomorrow. Do that on Wednesday?”

Dr. Donohoe: If we don’t say it, nature says it. So, this is, you know, one more version of Long COVID is, it’s nature’s way of telling us, “No, no. You got back to work too early. No, no. You did something a bit too early.” So, I don’t know that we have an option there. I think that what needs to be built into what we consider a social system, a system of recovery, heaps of people cannot take a week off work without risking going broke and not paying rent. So, I don’t… This is not an option for some people. If they don’t work, they don’t feed a family. That’s a societal issue. That’s why we had, you know, Kerryn Phelps, why we had Tracey Spicer, why we had Anne Wilson there from Emerge, is, there’s a medical issue, but there’s also a social justice issue. There’s access to quality medical care issue. All of those things play a part, and a fair society is one that makes the time available for a person to be covered during the time of recovery.

We did it somewhat with acute COVID, just on the belief that everyone would be better a few weeks later, and that’s all we had to do. And so there was some ability for people to recover from the acute COVID better than they would have if they’d been starving. And then we pulled the plug on it, as though everybody else can just get better magically of their own accord. So, I do see, and I said this at the conference, I think the most important presentation there was not the technical one. It was, literally, Kerryn and Tracey and Anne saying, “You guys have got answers for us, but we don’t have access to you. You need to do better, to stand up for the people suffering, rather than just have talks about the technicalities of which way you make something better.” And I think that call, especially from Anne, you may remember, Anne’s call was, “You gotta talk with orthodox medicine. There’s not this ability to have separate systems.” To a person who’s suffering, they want the best care they can have. And if the Medicare system only funds 10-minute consultations, then we’ve gotta change the Medicare system to fund a deeper engagement with people.

If social services, or if the NDIS is refusing people with ME/CFS or Long COVID, then we’ve gotta change that system to give people the resources and time that they need. On our end, as acnem, one of the joys of this is I think that we’re spending our time now joining up with other health professionals who really are involved in health. The naturopaths, the chiropractors, and others have recognized things that, as doctors, we’re never really taught. We think getting better from symptoms is the same as getting healthy. And it’s not. It’s less symptoms, but the vulnerability is still there. So, my joy from the conference was the number of natural healthcare practitioners who were involved, saying, “Yeah, well, we kind of knew that.” And I’m saying, “You knew what? Really? You knew that? Why didn’t you say something?” What’s the obvious answer? Because there’s a medical system that doesn’t listen to natural healthcare. And there’s a friends of science in medicine in the middle that makes sure those parties are separated forever, that if you go down the natural health path, you’re not evidence-based in some ways. What we’ve done with the conference is we’ve audited the conference for the evidence presented, to satisfy the science. And we’ve brought in the people who’ve got concepts of salutogenesis and health recovery to join in that process. They’re not two worlds. We’ve just separated them somewhere in our past, by having fights that were unnecessary and never helped the people who were suffering. And that’s what Anne pointed out. People are suffering. It’s time to drop all of this differences, establish a healthcare system that’s properly funded, and then reduce the disease burden on society, not simply escalate the cost of handling it.

Andrew: And indeed, reduce, somewhat counterintuitively, reduce the dollar cost on the society as well, with medical that… There was a very pointed question asked by an audience member about, “How much is all of this going to cost?” And I couldn’t believe, Anne, whoa, that woman is a firebrand. She knew exactly what it was gonna cost if these people didn’t return to work. And so, the cost of not helping these people far outweighs the cost of helping them.

Mark, one of the things that just, I was overjoyed with at the conference was seeing all of these different clinicians, from all walks of fraternities, forgive that really poor syntax there, but from all fraternities…

Dr. Donohoe: Sororities.

Andrew: …and coming together from, thank you, for a medical perspective, the researcher perspective, physio perspective, the energetic perspective, but, you know, Leo Galland, giving a real deep dive into the biochemistry, and what was happening at the molecular level. So, there was something for everyone there, so that they could learn from not just a practical level, but also a theoretical level, and say, “That’s why we’re doing this stuff.” It was really quite enlightening to me, and when, you know, speaking afterwards with people like, you know, registered nurse Jille Burns, and there was her colleague, there was a nutritionist that I interviewed that had done the fellowship program. It was just, it was really lovely to see everybody coming together. That was one of the highlights for me. It was great.

Dr. Donohoe: That will be my dream, that we all participate together in healthcare. There are walls, internecine walls, and there are all kinds of problems that go with trying to bring a healthcare system together. Domains, you know, kingdoms, and kings of those kingdoms. What I loved about Anne and Tracey and Kerryn was, say, there’re walls that get in the way of healthcare. All you’ve done is perpetuate a problem by going to war and saying, “We’re right, we’re right.” Everyone has their own way of thinking about it. We’re all right. This is the elephant, where, depending on which part you’re grabbing, you think of it as in one way, and we don’t see the full picture, and the action of the conference, in pulling back and seeing, yes, here’s the details, but they come together as a whole, and we call that Long COVID. But if you’re subtle about it, and you can bring it down, there is a mind-body, a naturopathic. Beth Steels, fabulous, on every one of those subjects.

The thing that did get me before the conference was, again, my wife pointing out, you’re putting on a conference, claiming to be holistic, yet you’re breaking it down into disease categories. And it was quite a challenge. “Yeah, that’s true.” Why do we break it down into smaller chunks? So we don’t get overwhelmed by a thing which is not one thing. We don’t get stompled on by the elephant, which, its toes we do something in the areas that we can. And the job of acnem, and the job of naturopathy, and the job of healthcare is to bring those back into a kind of recipe, rather than a treatment. A recipe for how to recover, a recipe for how to stay well, and practices that are not gonna cost you an arm and a leg, or make you sell your home in order to participate.

And I’m thoroughly enthused about what we can find from everything, from meditation mindfulness, to go all the way up to the most powerful drugs known to man, ones that may have direct antiviral effects on the gut, to have that in one conference, to me, was just unbelievable. It was an opening up of pathways to health, as well as awareness of what broke with those people’s health along the way. And that conversation, I just have an absolute desire to keep that going. The naturopaths there, I was worried when Leo was talking about all of these technical terms. They are so well-trained these days. They knew, better than most GPs would ever know, what he was talking about. The deep dive into biochemistry is certainly part of naturopathic education now.

So, there is no division between healthcare practitioners except the ones we manufacture. And it’s time to drop that. I think medicine, my own profession, still has a place. When things fall apart, when a person’s, you know, approaching an inability to find any way back to health, we’ve got magical drugs that can do that job, at $1000 a week or $2000 a week or $200,000 a year. If we can spend $500 educating a person on self-care, meditation, mindfulness, if they can have access to clean air, clean food, clean water, have a convalescent time, we don’t cost anybody anything. We create something called health. And if I have one dream, I’m too late, you know, in my career to do it, that we actually have a healthcare system that is true healthcare, rather than disease care, I think that’s a goal that we should have for our future as acnem, to participate in healthcare, not deliver it to doctors and try and convert the orthodox profession.

Andrew: Doctor Mark Donohoe, it doesn’t surprise me anymore that you deliver wise words. I’ve known you for so long now, because I’m old too. Mark, thank you so much for taking us through what your experience has been, both in practice, but also attending the acnem Conference 2023 on Long COVID. And thank you, as always, for your care, not just for your patients, but also the other professions, not just the medical profession, but the allied professions that interact with you, and teach you about herbs. Thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been an absolute joy.

Dr. Donohoe: And I thank you as well, Andrew. You’ve been at the vanguard of delivering information. The podcasts, the interviews, what you’ve been doing over the last decade, at least, of your life that I’ve participated in, has been joyful, and so contributed to the conversation that’s moving us forward to that healthcare system. So, thank you very much.

Andrew: Thank you, sir. And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. You can catch up on all the other podcasts and the show notes for this podcast on the Designs for Health website. I’m Andrew Whitfield-Cook, and this is “Wellness by Designs.”



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