So, what exactly is Naturopathy? Naturopathy differs from conventional medicine in that it has an integrative philosophy, much is congruent with Chinese medicine. It recognizes that the human body is a complex organism with multiple factors influencing its system. The concept of treating the “whole person” rather than simply “treating the disease” is at the center of Naturopathic philosophy. The conventional medical doctors focus primarily on treating disease rather than on promoting health. They see good health as a physical state in which there is no obvious sign of disease. In contrast, Naturopaths recognize true health as an optimal state of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Naturopaths see health as a continuum where each person actively takes on the path of learning, understanding, and discovering. A true physician holds true to the root of the word, doctor, or docere, meaning “teacher”, and partakes on a journey with the patient, guiding and leading him/her form a place of “poor health” to a place of “optimal wellness”. This entails that a true physician is foremost a teacher of prevention. This is especially true in chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer which in most part can be prevented if one is educated on healthy lifestyle choices, healthy mental attitude, a prudent diet, and plenty of exercise.
The Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Healing Power of Nature – This is an acknowledgement to the power of nature and its amazing ability to self-heal and maintain health.
First Do No Harm – This entails utilizing effective natural therapies that minimize the risk of harmful side effects while aiding the body in self-healing.
Identify and Treat the Cause – Naturopaths aim to identify and remove the underlying causes of disease instead of merely suppressing the symptoms.
Treat the Whole Person – Unlike the “disease” centered conventional doctors, Naturopaths recognize that every aspect of a person, whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, needs to be taken into account in treating the whole person.
Doctor as Teacher – Naturopaths are teachers at heart, educating, empowering, and motivating patients to become self-responsible for their health by incorporating a more healthy attitude, lifestyle, and diet.
Prevention – Naturopaths recognize that most chronic degenerative diseases are preventable. Thus, educating and encouraging a healthy lifestyle is the key to the prevention of disease and promotion of health.
Therapies Commonly Used:
Hydrotherapy – This is a powerful modality of water treatment whereby the heating and cooling properties of water are utilized to stimulate the vital energy of the body. This is the core and root of Naturopathic healing modality.
Diet – Based on individual biochemical makeup, each person needs to be on a diet specifically fitted for that person. Food sensitivities and food allergies are a common phenomenon in modern times. Naturopaths use several method of food testing including immunoassay tests, muscle energy testing, and electro-acupuncture meridian testing.
Herbal Medicine – Herbs work differently than drugs. Herbs carry an inherent life force which works with the body, unlike Western drugs which works against your body. A master herbalist looks at each plant’s individual characteristics and combines the herbs in a synergistic fashion to help facilitate the patient’s recovery.
Nutraceuticals – These are the supplements that are so popular right now. They include vitamins, minerals, western herbal extractions, and natural drug formulations. The efficacy of these nutrients are generally backed by Western scientific analysis. Naturopaths are the authoritative source in utilizing these natural drug therapies.
Homeopathy – It’s a system of medicine whereby dilute amounts of herbs, minerals, and animal substances are made potent and energized to treat multitude of disease conditions. Its efficacy can sometimes be better than the conventional herbal and natural drug therapies.
Naturopathic Manipulation – Bone setting is an important tool in treating both musculo-skeletal ailments as well as internal disorders.
Mind-Body medicine – Treating the whole person entails addressing the mind as well as the body. Naturopaths often promote and teach relaxation techniques, stress management skills, and behavioral adaptation training.
Health Conditions Naturopathic Physicians Commonly Treat
Digestive dysfunction – Naturopaths are the masters of the digestive system. They see that maximal absorption is at the core of one’s health. What is often under-diagnosed are disease conditions such as hypochlorydria, pancreatic insufficiency, food allergy/sensitivity, “leaky gut syndrome”, and neuro-hormonal factors affecting the digestive system.
Blood sugar abnormality – Regulating blood sugar is essential to one’s overall health. Diabetes and more subtle impaired glucose tolerance are highly overlooked. Changing one’s diet with plenty of exercise and herbal supplements are highly effective at controlling blood sugar. Often, chronic musculo-skeletal conditions are due to an underlying blood sugar abnormality.
Adrenal fatigue – In this fast paced modern society, stress is the #1 contributing factor in causing disease. The adrenals, or “stress hormone”, is constantly being over-stimulated. The adrenals can compensate for a while, but it ultimately gets drained, resulting in “burned out” adrenals. Those who need adrenal support include people that are mal-adapted to stress or people that are in chronic unresolved disease states.
Thyroid dysfunction – The thyroid hormone is very sensitive to the environment. In the United States, thyroid dysfunction is on the rise at an alarming rate. Because the thyroid is such an important hormone, naturopaths are always on the lookout for any signs and symptoms of thyroid dysfunction.
Female hormone dysfunction – The hormonal fluctuations of a women’s cycle is complex and not very well understood. Naturopaths have great success in stabilizing hormonal fluctuations with natural therapies without much side effect.
Intestinal Dysbiosis / Candidiasis – When the digestive ecosystem goes out of balance, toxic metabolites are released via microbial organisms that can cause localized destruction around the gut and/or wreck havoc to any organ system in the body. Symptoms may include; generalized fatigue, irritability, mood swings, digestive discomfort, allergies, and chemical sensitivities. The diagnosis of dysbiosis /candidiasis is not recognized by conventional medical doctors and thus the patients often have to endure unnecessary suffering.
Environmental toxicity – With an increase in the use of synthetic materials, our bodies are overburdened with toxic substances. Naturopaths are the leading experts in the art and science of detoxifying. Detox programs are an integral part of the overall healing process of leading the patient to optimal health.
Immune deficiency states – Supporting the immune system is one of the key ways to ward off sickness and disease. When your immune system is healthy and at its optimal state, your body can naturally prevent and fight off any new viruses, fungus, or bacteria. Utilizing the latest herbal, nutritional supplements, and homeopathy, Naturopaths are the biggest supporter of optimizing your immune health.
Cardiovacular Diseases – Diseases of the blood vessels are caused by unwanted metabolites (toxins) that irritate the lining of the blood vessels. Over time, the chronic inflammatory state cause a gradual destruction of localized as well as the entire vascular system. Diseases such as hypertension, strokes, heart attacks, hemorrhoids… are all preventable and treatable when we address the cause of the formation and the built up of toxins in the blood vessels. Lifestyle factors along with herbs, homeopathy, and nutritional supplements are excellent at detoxifying and repairing the toxic damage done to the cardio-vascular system.
Cancer Therapy / Prevention – Naturopathic physicians understand how to work with whole person, supporting wherever it needs supporting. We can work with patients who desire to undergo surgery, chemotherapy, radiation by supporting the body’s response to those therapies by making them more efficient as well as reducing its side effects. For those who choose not to go with conventional cancer therapies, we can work with the body to maximize its ability to detoxify, support the immune system, and use natural anti-cancer herbal / homeopathic / nutritional therapies.
Naturopathic Doctors attend a 4 year post graduate level naturopathic medical education. They are educated in all of the same basic sciences as M.D.’s but specialize in natural holistic modalities of healing for the prevention of disease and the optimization of health. For a detailed description of the level of education, you can check out the National Naturopathic Physician organization www.naturopathic.org, or check out the school I graduated from www.ncnm.edu
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic medical system which combines the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet, and movement exercises (known as Tai Chi or Qi Gong) to bring the body into balance. A Chinese medicine practitioner first observes the general characteristics of the patient, then asks specific questions to discern a relationship between the symptoms in order to establish what is called a “pattern of disharmony”. The practitioner often does a brief physical evaluation which includes a pulse and tongue diagnosis. After a thorough evaluation of all the presenting signs and symptoms, the practitioner will determine a Chinese medical diagnosis based on its own language and terms (e.g. Liver Qi Stagnation)The treatments can include any of the following methods:
Acupuncture: Sterile single-use super thin needles are inserted into specific areas on the skin to stimulate the point. Generally, there is a “qi sensation” when the needle arrives at its acupuncture point. The needle is usually removed after 15-20 minutes. Most of the people find it relaxing, and often they fall asleep during the treatment. (There is an option of using specialized tuning forks instead of needles for those who are needle shy
Moxibustion (Moxa): This entails placing an herbal cone shaped object onto the skin and allowing it to slowly burn. Not to worry, the practitioner will remove the herbal cone before it does any harm to the skin.
Herbal Medicine: Based on your Chinese medical diagnosis, an herbal prescription is given. The method of dispensing can be in the form of pills, tinctures, or teas. For external therapy, creams and poultices are often used.
Qi-gong: This is an ancient form of movement therapy aimed toward stimulating and harmonizing your mind and body.
All of the treatments are aimed toward restoring harmony and bringing balance back to your body.