Updated: Aug 18, 2022
So you've made an appointment and filled in your registration form, but what can you really expect from a visit to a Naturopath?
Information about health is everywhere from the television news to social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. There has never been a time when we have so much information at our fingertips. In fact, it seems everyone is able to be a 'health expert' and this might leave you feeling overwhelmed and skeptical about who you can trust for your healthcare.
Naturopathy has been around for a long time and is built on foundations including:
first do no harm - ensure that treatment doesn't make the person worse (side effects)
the healing power of nature - the body is able to maintain health under the right conditions (diet, environment, lifestyle)
treat the underlying cause - address the reason for the ill health
treat the whole person - individualised, patient centred medicine
education - provide information to empower the patient to maintain their health
As times have changed and medicine has become more evidence-based, so too has naturopathy. The modern naturopath has now studied a 4-year Health Science degree and has an in-depth understanding of anatomy and physiology as well as pathology and some pharmacology. Their study also focuses on nutritional biochemistry and western herbal medicine as these are their 'tools of trade'.
Whilst it is important for naturopaths to use evidence-based treatments that are supported by clinical studies, they must also continue to incorporate techniques that are true to their foundations. In fact, a 2019 review in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine on the benefit of naturopathy found good evidence for naturopathic treatment for many healthy conditions including type 2 diabetes, PCOS and cardiovascular disease. These studies were done using a particular treatment such as nutrient supplementation or herbal medicine. What this review also found was that relying only on evidence-based treatments may not be as reliable for naturopathy as it is for conventional medicine because it doesn't recognise the effect of the wholistic treatment (diet, lifestyle, mindfulness) that makes up naturopathy. This goes back to those foundations mentioned earlier in this article, particularly treat the whole person.
Your health shouldn't just be defined as 'an absence of symptoms'. Health is so much more than that.
Have you experienced times in your life when you've felt full of vitality, mentally strong and physically able to conquer your day? This is health, and as much of it has do with your mind as it does with your body. Most of us juggle multiple commitments in our day including work, family, study, and on top of that we all want to have 'relaxation' or 'fun' time. Often it feels like there's not enough time in the day and important things like making healthy meals and getting a good night's sleep are not given the attention they deserve.
There's no denying that our lives have sped up and for many of us this is not going to change. But you can put things in place that support both your physical and mental health so that you can experience your best life.
Naturopathy is about understanding the 'why' and 'how' of your current health, rather than just looking to remove the symptoms. For example, when I am stressed I always have digestive symptoms. Without an awareness of my stress levels, I would focus only on these symptoms and look for something that addresses them in isolation. I might take antacids or laxatives. A deeper look at what's happening for me, however, would highlight that my increased stress was causing my digestion to become out of balance. It would be more beneficial for me to look at how I can support myself with nutrients, herbal medicine and meditation to calm my nervous system.
As well as improving my digestive symptoms, this approach also supports my long term health. Understanding that there is a connection between all the systems in the body is a really important feature of naturopathic medicine. What do I mean by this? Well the nervous system is intricately connected to every other system in your body, in fact it's like a conductor leading the orchestra. When you're stressed, the increased cortisol produced by your adrenal glands can blunt your immune responses, alter your thyroid function and increase your blood pressure. Nothing happens in isolation!
Consulting a naturopath is about the rebalance of body and mind. We are all unique and the priority of the first consultation is about getting to know you and understanding your individual health needs. It's also about supporting you to make positive changes to improve your long term health.
As important as deciding what healthcare is best for you, choosing a practitioner that you align with and trust is really key to your success. Health is a life long journey and one that requires your ongoing attention. My role, as a naturopath, is to support you by using my knowledge of the human body and how it functions alongside both evidence based nutritional and herbal medicine and traditional naturopathic treatment to support you, so that you can enjoy your ideal health.