When I first came on the health scene, I was studying to become a remedial massage therapist. I was chatting to a fellow student who told me she was training to be a Naturopath!
'What the heck is that??' I asked her. This was over 10 years ago and Naturopathy had been around long before then. I found out that my mum use to actually take me to Naturopath when I was a little tacker and apparently she helped a lot!
So it's not surprising that most people aren't exactly sure what it is a Naturopath does and why the hell should we care right?
Naturopaths cop a lot of flack from the general public and from mainstream medicine. And you know what the primary reason is for that?
Most people don't understand how a Naturopath can help
Which is ironic because the majority of the time, when people finally understand what we do, they are keen as a bean to get on the Naturopathy train.
I say this as one who gives talks to GPs, Specialists and other Allied Health Practitioners for ACNEM and Australian Clinical Labs. Most of the time practitioners I speak to get pretty excited to learn more about how Naturopathic techniques and knowledge can improve their practice. Which is fair enough because Naturopathy is pretty rad (puts on cool sunnies).
So to help spread the understanding, here are the top 6 Benefits of Seeing a Naturopath (sadly I had to narrow it down to 6 :P).
1# Naturopaths Think Holistically
So although going to see your GP or a specialist is fantastic, the benefits of seeing a GOOD & highly recommended Naturopath (This is an important point as not all Naturopaths are made equal. Just like GPs and Specialists, you get your crappy apples that aren't worth the paper their qualifications are printed on - best to get a recommendation from a friend, read reviews and/or have a chat with the Naturopath in question before booking an appointment to see whether they actually know what they are talking about!)
is that we think holistically.
This means that we won't just look at one system of the body like a specialist would. We take into account everything that is going on for you.
So if you were to come in to see me for PMS, I wouldn't just be asking you about your PMS. I would be asking you about your stress health, your digestion, your diet, your immune health and your lifestyle. Because all of these have an impact.
A Naturopath wants to know who you are. Knowing who you are and what the background of your health is like gives us context. And context is what helps us to treat the cause. Which leads me to the next benefit of seeing a Naturopath..
2# Naturopaths Treat the Cause
One of the things I see time and time again is poor patients who have horrendous symptoms that get worse despite taking large doses of certain pharmaceuticals. Whether it is horrendous bloating and constipation; horrendous period pain and heavy periods or chronic stress and fatigue.
These are all symptoms of a conditions, not conditions themselves. Whether these symptoms are a sign of:
Bloating & Cramping = Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Coeliac Disease or Dysbiosis
Period pain & heavy periods = Fibroids, IUD (IntraUterine Device) or Endometrosis
Chronic Stress & Fatigue = Nutrient deficiencies, MTHFR mutation or Andrenal Fatigue Syndrome
When treating these symptoms, you actually have to treat the underlying condition as well. If you don't, the symptoms will just continuously come back. Sometimes the symptoms come back with a vengeance.
This is why usually patients come to see Naturopaths when the usual symptomatic treatments aren't cutting it anymore.
Naturopaths go back to the origins of the symptoms. Figure out their cause and address it directly.
To me, this is the logical way.
3# Naturopaths Treat Through Diet & Lifestyle
A Naturopath worth their salt will not prescribe you 19 different supplements to help treat you. As Naturopaths, we are taught that Diet & Lifestyle come first. Diet & lifestyle have the greatest impact on our overall health and vitality. So starting here is the logical place to go.
For example many people believe that if they take certain supplements they will negate any naughty lifestyle habits that maybe affecting there health. Such as drinking no water, binge drinking alcohol every night, leading a hellishly busy lifestyle and eating no fruits and vegetables.
A good analogy for this kind of sentiment is:
If you were consuming arsenic on a regular basis, do you think a multivitamin tablet is going to stop it destroying your insides and killing you?
I hope it doesn't surprise you to learn a multi-vitamin ain't going to do squat. Think of your crappy lifestyle and diet choices as the arsenic you consume everyday.
This is why a good Naturopath should be leading you away from the Arsenic and toward the rainbows and sunshine where a balanced diet & lifestyle live so you can start to feel better and stronger.
4# Naturopathic Care is Personalized
Because Naturopaths look at you as a person as appose to a disease, they look at your treatment and personalize it, as appose to giving you a protocol.
If things don't work, a Naturopath adapts treatment. If you don't feel comfortable or aren't compliant with recommendations, a Naturopath adapts treatment.
Naturopathic care is not intended to be about giving you a supplement and sending you on your way. It's about understanding the factors in your health, diet and lifestyle that has brought you to this health condition and how we can lead you out of it.
And that means understanding you, your preferences and what it's going to take to get you on the straight and narrow health wise again.
This is why often Naturopathic treatment can take longer. Because it's all about give and take. Test and adapt and responding to life changes.
Because not only is a Naturopath trying to lead you out of the maze of your health problem, they are also trying to educate you and give you the tools to understand how your health got to this stage & how you can avoid it in the future.
This leads me to the next benefit...
5# Naturopaths are Teachers
I've lost count of the amount of times I have drawn a uterus and ovaries or an IUD for a patient. I've lost count of the times I have helped to explain how absorption of nutrients affects stress health. I've even lost count how many times I have explained why you need to drink water!
And you know what, I'll go on explaining it because when a lightbulb goes on behind the eyes of a patient I am teaching, I remember why I became a Naturopath.
I (and I am sure my community of Health practitioners would feel the same) take for granted what I know. I understand perfectly how your menstrual cycle works. I understand perfectly why MTHFR mutation affects heart health. I understand perfectly what is happening to the villi of the intestinal tract when someone with Coeliac Disease eats Gluten (or more specifically Gliadin).
But for the majority of patients I see, their talents and knowledge lie elsewhere. They barely know where organs are let alone how and why they work. That is where a Naturopath can help.
To help explain what is going on in your body and why it may be struggling. This is why education is usually such a huge part of Naturopathic treatment. Because we want you to understand your own body.
So when things fall out of sync, you have a better understanding as to why.
Change comes with education
And this is at the heart of naturopathy. Education and understanding is endorsed so that patients are better able to make wise and beneficial decisions about their health.
6# Pharmaceutical Companies Don't Like Us
Which really sucks because when mainstream medicine and integrative medicine (Naturopathy/Nutrition etc.) powers combine it is pretty fantastic.
That's why more and more we are seeing integrative GPs and specialists who use Naturopathic principles in their practices because it just works so beautifully together.
Imagine you develop cancer and you need to start chemotherapy treatment. The side effects of chemo are legendary and you develop them all. Excess nausea, fatigue, hair loss, depression and foggy cognition (just to name a few).
Would you rather suffer with these symptoms or use integrative medicine alongside that can help to address symptoms and also speed up recovery time?
That is exactly what places like NIIM (National Institute of Integrative Medicine) and MLOG (Melbourne Integrative Oncology Group) help to do.
To me, it's just a logical choice, but for many, the stigma and prejudice is so strong they can't see the synergistic benefits that would be gained from the integration of mainstream medicine and integrative medicine.
That's why Naturopathy is part of the Integrative medicine umbrella. Because we integrate perfectly with mainstream medicine.
Problem is though, that Naturopaths teach you how to bring your cholesterol down without the use of Statins. We teach you how to deal with mild-moderate depression and anxiety without medications. We teach you how to fix your reflux without going on proton pump inhibitors and treat your constipation without the need of pharmaceutical laxatives.
So we don't really help big pharmaceutical companies to make money (which is a shame for them) because our primary focus is on helping you (which is fantastic for you!).
And to me, unless you absolutely need to be, I don't feel leaving you on a drug for the rest of your life without any end in site is helping you. I say the same for supplements and herbal medicines.
Unless it is absolutely vital to your health and wellbeing, I don't believe that any of my patients should be left on a drug or supplement without any end in sight.
And that is the beauty of Naturopathy. The aim of any good Naturopath is to have their patient receiving all the care they need from their diet and lifestyle. Not their pill cabinet!
Jaz is a Naturopath, Pathology Testing Adviser and educator. She practice as a Naturopath in Melbourne, Australia and via skype worldwide. She teaches fellow practitioners on pathology testing and educates pracs and the public on the bridge between Naturopathic care Biomedicine.