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!
Are you one of those people that tries ad tries to lose weight but it just never seems to come off?
Does it feel like if you have one mouthful of something fatty or sugary that you will immediately put on 3kg?
You are definitely not alone. Years ago if you wanted to loose weight all you would have to do was move a little more and keep off the sweets and fatty foods for a month. Then you would be right as rain!
Unfortunately many of the patients I see have a complex mix of factors that affect why they can't loose weight. Key ones being:
These are just a couple of the factors that play into problems loosing weight. But surprisingly more and more I have noticed that there is a primary contributing factor that can underpin many if not all of the factors listed above.
Gut flora or probiotics as it is commonly called.
Now you may or may not have heard of your microbiome or gut flora. It is kind of all the rage lately. More and more research is being done to identify just how much of an impact gut flora has on all the functions of the body. And we are finding out, it's actually a lot (Naturopaths have been saying this for a while so it's nice that everyone is finally coming to the party :D).
So basically in your gut/large intestine (that is the large tuby thing in your tummy) is home to lots and lots of bacteria (try not to think about it if you are squirmish about bugs). Now ideally your large intestine would be home to lots of "beneficial flora". This is the technical term for happy bugs that help to keep you healthy.
Research has found that certain strains actually help to regulate your digestion, your mood, how well you fight colds and flus, how healthy your skin is and how well your metabolism is functioning!
It's actually pretty exciting because it means that if you have plenty of happy healthy gut flora then all these functions should be happy and healthy to!
These beneficial flora not only help to break down food so that nutrients can be absorbed to help support these functions, they also produce certain gut chemicals that help to regulate everything as well. The best studied of these gut chemicals are Short Chain Fatty Acids. These little chemicals do a surprising amount of work and they also affect the habitat of the large intestine as well.
See it is very important that the habitat in the gut is just right for your beneficial flora. Otherwise they are no longer able to thrive and that means that bad flora can come in and take over.
When this happens that's when we can start to see problems with skin, mood, digestion and how well we can lose weight.
That is why it is super important to make sure you are looking after your gut health. You can do this by:
If you are struggling to loose weight and suspect that you may have something going on in your gut; the best course of action is to get a gut test to see whether your have any naughty bugs that may be affecting your health.
It's super not uncommon for people to start feeling down as the days get shorter and the weather gets colder. Colds and flu go around and its difficult to get your washing dry as every other day is cold and wet (I am all about Laundry Hacks in the Summer or Winter Months).
For many people this time of year sucks. Not for me however :P because, one - I am an Autumn baby who loves the cool weather (bring on #scarfseason yo!); and two because I am a crafty Naturopath who knows the one important trick to keeping my immune health in check (I haven't got time for colds, I'm too busy buying scarves and splashing in puddles!) and stopping me from getting a case of the sads during the winter months.
The secret is VITAMIN D!!
Most people reach for the Vitamin C or the Echinacea to ward of sickness during the cooler weather. These are great (although Echinacea is definitely not my first choice when it comes to warding off colds - I will save that rant for another time) but the under appreciated nutrient that helps keep you immune health happy is Vitamin D. Recent studies have shown that it not only keeps your immune system pumped and ready to go, but it is also the primary nutrient needed for treating Seasonal Affective Disorder otherwise known as SAD.
Check out the link for more details but basically SAD is depression or low mood that comes with the changing of the seasons. More commonly during the winter months.
Vitamin D is the stand out nutrient I recommend in clinic for treating this and the good news is you can get most of the Vit D you need from diet and lifestyle. Some people may need to supplement which is totally cool to. My favourite over the counter brands are:
Thompson's Vitamin D3
Blackmores Vitamin D3
Try to avoid brands like Ostelin or Swisse as they are made more cheaply and in my experience not as greater quality or efficacy.
However ideally you'd be getting your Vitamin D from lifestyle and food. Everyone knows that sunshine helps to boost levels of Vit D but many people are unsure of how much sunshine in enough and when to get it and not increase risk of skin cancers.
The best time for getting your sun in mid morning.
Best and (statistically) safest sunshine is from 9.30am until 11am. So if you get a break at work during that time or you can sit outside with your morning coffee, that would be perfect. Ideally for 30 minutes but if not possible for as long as you can.
The best patches of skin to help absorb some sun and produce some Vit D are the:
Then finally the best source for Vit D in the diet bar none is fish particularly salmon. Which just so happens to be my favourite kind of fish! Probably another reason why I do so well in the colder weather!
You can check out this Vit D Foods hand out that also details vegetarian/vegan sources of Vitamin D as well. But for those that do eat fish, keeping on top of your Vitamin D can be as simple as:
If you are doing this you should be absorbing more than enough Vitamin D to ward off the sickies and ward of the sads.
If you have any questions about this feel free to leave a comment below or contact Naturaljaz for more info :)
- Jaz xx
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.