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Naturopathic Medicine

What Is Naturopathic Medicine?

The organs and systems that constitute your body are interdependent – if one system isn’t functioning normally, very often dysfunction soon manifests elsewhere as well. Naturopathic medicine sees the whole picture of your body, not just individual organs or systems. A naturopath treats conditions with an emphasis on interrelation, integration and a holistic view of good health.

Everything that you eat, drink, do and think can influence your overall state of well-being. Instead of focusing exclusively on an upset stomach or a headache, a naturopathic medical approach seeks to understand the underlying causes of these symptoms and to restore overall health. When the root cause of symptoms is uncovered, the individual symptoms are often resolved when treated with a sensible combination of dietary adjustment, lifestyle management and natural medicines.

As a form of evidence-based practice, naturopathy often works in conjunction with conventional medical care. Doctors didn’t know that scurvy, a disease that plagued sailors on long voyages, arose from a severe vitamin C deficiency until the vitamin was isolated in the 1930s. However, ancient records of Phoenician and Roman physicians detailed the importance of eating certain foods or drinking decoctions of herbs rich in vitamin C. Naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine have historically overlapped in such a fashion many times.

Education is fundamental to the naturopathic process. Under naturopathic care, you become actively involved in your own wellness. Your naturopath relies on the feedback you supply regarding your health, so becoming conversant in the symptoms you experience and understanding how they relate to other systems in your body is an important aspect of your care. In turn, your naturopath will supply you with an in-depth education on how your diet, lifestyle and health regimen affect your wellness.

Who Needs Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic practice starts with the view that the natural state of the human body is one of vigour and health. Any condition that diminishes that state of glowing good health is a potential reason to visit a naturopath. Because it looks at the whole person and not just a constellation of isolated symptoms, naturopathy may help a number of chronic conditions. If you suffer with allergies, naturopathic care can give you greater control over them. Many ongoing conditions such as gastrointestinal complaints, fibromyalgia, food sensitivities and depression respond well to holistic treatment from a naturopathic practitioner.

Only after an appointment can a naturopath accurately assess your overall health and offer the care that will benefit you most. Because it involves the interplay of so many factors that influence your health, naturopathic medicine does not lend itself to a quick, band-aid type fix.

What Happens During a Naturopathic Consultation?

Education is a cornerstone of naturopathic care, and that includes educating your naturopathic practitioner about yourself. During your initial consultation, set aside plenty of time to give a detailed history of your health. Include all medications, supplements and herbal preparations that you currently take; like any medicine, natural medicine can interact with other medications and cause side effects, so your naturopath needs to know everything.

Be specific about what brought you to the naturopath’s office. Even symptoms that you feel are unrelated could suggest something very different to a naturopath who spends years studying the way each system in the body affects every other system.

What About Herbal Medicine?

Plants cannot run away when a predator wants to eat them, so they have evolved a host of deterrents. While some plants have sprouted spikes or thick bark, others have resorted to chemical warfare to protect themselves. These naturally occurring chemical deterrents have other properties that make them uniquely valuable to people. When you enjoy the flavour of a spicy curry or repel insects with a lavender and lemongrass scented candle, you’re taking advantage of the chemical systems that plants developed to arm themselves against becoming food.

Other chemicals in plants have well-documented medicinal properties. Both naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine rely on plants to stock the modern pharmacopoeia. Pharmaceutical drugs isolate a single active compound within the plant; herbal medicines contain the plant itself, supplying other compounds that work synergistically with the primary active ingredient. Many people tolerate natural medicines better and with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical products that lack the phytochemicals that play a supporting role to the active compound.

Not every compound that plants produce to protect themselves from becoming dinner has a beneficial effect. Just because a medicine has a natural source doesn’t make it universally safe. Improper dosage, allergies, and harmful interactions can occur with plant-based medicines just as they do with pharmaceutical drugs. Consulting a naturopath, who has studied natural medicine, is vital to using these medicines safely and effectively. Keep your naturopath and every other health professional who provides your care updated on all of the natural and pharmaceutical medicines you take.