For John McKenna, becoming a doctor was never going to just be about prescribing basic pharmaceutical medicines.

After first training as a scientist, he worked in Africa for four years.

Following his subsequent medical degree, he was eager to learn about natural medicine and took courses in chiropractice, clinical ecology and nutrition in Canada, England and Austria.

While in Austria, he studied with well-known naturopaths and has spent 15 years in practice in both Europe and Africa.

Now based at the Natural Health Clinic in Dyke Road, Brighton, Dr McKenna is combining the best of his knowledge of conventional and alternative medicine.

He said: "I have always believed there is a need to sit back and take a close look at everything that is going on with a patient without just treating the symptoms.

"To me, throwing drugs at a problem is not really healing. You need to look at the lifestyle and behaviour of patients, as well as what they are eating and drinking."

Travelling around Europe and Africa has enabled Dr McKenna to build up his understanding of a wide range of treatments and medicines which he is now putting into practice.

This broad-based knowledge has made him more open-minded to natural remedies and taught him to always look for alternative options before going for the obvious pharmaceutical one.

Dr McKenna began his career in natural medicine by treating back and neck problems.

Later, he built up a large paediatric practice after successfully treating infections in young children by using natural alternatives to antibiotics.

He also has extensive experience in weaning patients off sleeping tablets and tranquillisers and antidepressants.

Because of his work and training in gastro-intestinal medicine, he now treats many patients with digestive problems.

Dr McKenna said: "I like to focus a lot of attention on what people are eating and drinking. You cannot underestimate the importance of nutrition.

"I am now interested in going into schools to speak to children about the importance of a good diet. The idea is to get them thinking more about the nutritional value of what they are eating and drinking."

Dr McKenna treats people for a range of problems, including those who are overweight and others who are too thin and need to put on the pounds to reach a healthy weight.

Other conditions include food allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, recurrent infections such as sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma and blood pressure problems.

A number of conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis can be triggered by stress.

Dr McKenna said: "This is why a holistic approach is needed. There are many factors that can lead to certain illnesses and conditions and there is a lot that can be done to ease them without having to rely on pharmaceutical drugs.

"I aim to help people develop a sense of awareness and, by doing so, help them have more control over their lives.

"A lot of people are walking around in a fog and it is my job to help them find their way out."

Holistic medicine is a system of healthcare which fosters a co-operative relationship between the patient and the practitioner.

The eventual goal is to achieve physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual aspects of health.

Lewes GP Michael Edwards said he appreciated that some people preferred alternative medicine to conventional.

"There is a growing number of patients who are interested in trying out different types of treatments and I respect their choice in doing so.

"All I can stress is that with some conditions there is little choice but to eventually use conventional treatment, including drugs and possibly surgery."

For more details call the Natural Health Centre on 01273 561845.