How can Naturopathy help me?
Naturopathy is a non-symptomatic practice like Ayurveda. As such, patients consult naturopaths in a preventative capacity. This may seem counter-intuitive, especially as we’re conditioned to seek out healthcare when we’re sick. But if you stop to think about it, it makes complete sense! Why would you want to present with symptoms at all or be sick?
Despite this non-symptomatic primary aim, many patients still consult naturopaths after they have been diagnosed with an illness or present with symptoms. In fact, naturopathy may be useful for the management and treatment of a number of conditions and symptoms. These include:
- digestive problems, IBS & constipation
- stress & anxiety
- fertility issues & pregnancy
- autoimmune disorders
- food allergies & intolerances
- nutritional deficiencies
- high blood pressure &hypertension
- hormonal imbalances
Origins of Naturopathy
With origins rooted in the beautiful continent of Europe and more specifically, Germany, in the 1600s, naturopathy is a healthcare system that has constantly evolved with the times and yet, has stuck to its roots, especially in terms of healing techniques. The three tenets of naturopathy – healing, herbal medicine and hydrotherapy are actively used even today based on principles and theories institutionalized in North America.
The beauty of naturopathy is that it can be practiced and availed at any corner of the globe. Individuals in developing countries need not worry about the availability of equipment or trained specialists given that naturopathic therapy doesn’t need a state-of-the-art laboratory or technologically advanced machines that offer treatment.
Principles and Theories
If we were to define naturopathy, it would best be described as “a natural treatment method that relies on the internal purification of the human body, by removing unwarranted substances and elements such as toxins”. In layman terms, naturopathy is a drug-free, pure and fully natural form of treatment that prides itself on using nature to treat a wide range of human ailments.
The principals of naturopathy such as disease prevention and health promotion, healing through the power of nature, treating the cause, treating the whole person etc. are reflective of its basic premise of being as pure and clean a form of treatment as possible. There are also certain theories that form the basis of naturopathy, namely, emunctories, therapeutic order, humoral theory and the theory of complex systems that form the basis of treatment and cure.
With the help of the above principles and theories, naturopathic practitioners administer treatment in various forms ranging from hygiene therapy, Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, botanical medicine, and clinical nutrition among others.
Medicine that’s au naturel
As naturopaths believe in the healing power of nature, they use traditional medicine and scientific evidence to determine how health problems and imbalances occur. As a result, they may recommend herbal medicine , homeopathic remedies, lifestyle changes or other natural therapies to improve your body’s ability to heal itself from within . The remedies offered will vary on a case by case basis and aim to empower you to take control of your wellbeing. At your first consultation, be prepared to answer a lot of questions so that your naturopath can:
take an holistic approach by understanding your lifestyle, behaviours and health situation
ascertain the root cause of the imbalance, concern or condition
treat the cause not just the presenting symptom(s)
provide a customised treatment plan for you In addition to asking questions about your health and wellbeing, your naturopath may also use other methods to ensure they have the whole picture.
Different techniques used in Naturopathy
Depending on the intended goal, naturopaths involve the use of different techniques and modalities such as:
1) Nutrition based therapy: In most cases, deficiency in nutrients leads to a condition where fat can’t be processed effectively, leading to difficulty in losing weight. Our body needs nutrients throughout its lifespan and while we as adults should ideally be able to ensure we get our daily intake; we often end up taking our health for granted. Consulting a naturopath will prove to be beneficial to us as he/she will be able to suggest the right foods and ingredients we need to consume in order to achieve our goals, whether its weight-loss, immunity building or simply a question of staying fit and healthy in our old age.
2) Homeopathy: While homeopathy is widely regarded as a separate practice, it can also be regarded as an extension or branch of naturopathy given that it has similar treatment styles – focusing on diet and lifestyle along with natural medicine. It originated in the 18th century and its basic premise is providing medicine as per the patient’s symptoms. Homeopathy is one of the most sought-after and widely-accepted treatment techniques given that patients find it to be a more natural and pure therapy, without any major side-effects.
3) Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy involves the use of essential oils, which are basically liquids extracted from plants. These liquids emit fragrances that soothe our senses. They are also used during massage therapy to improve circulation and overall wellbeing. Floral essences, which are scents extracted from flowers, spring water, and blossoms are used in tandem with essential oils that aid in the overall healing process.
4) Manual therapies: Naturopathic manual therapy aims to re-align balance in both skeletal and neuromuscular systems and is rooted in the belief that impairment needs to be treated from both, muscles and joints to experience a complete recovery. It includes various treatment options like massage and manipulation of impaired joints.
5) Diet and lifestyle: The age-old philosophy of staying fit and eating right holds true even today. The saying goes that ‘you are what you eat’. If we eat foods high in saturated fat, we can’t expect to stay in good health, let alone participate in the annual marathon. Accordingly, it’s no strange coincidence that diet and lifestyle form key parts of naturopathic treatment that strive to remove harmful toxins from your body.
6) Herbal medication: As per estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 75% of the world’s population uses herbal medicine as part of their treatment regime. These medicines are usually available in the form of powders, extracts, herbs, and tablets. Different types of roots, flowers, stems, leaves, seeds and at times, the entire plant is used to produce herbal medicine. Herbal medicines are considered largely due to three main qualities – no unwarranted side effects, multiple actions in one medicine and the ability to act as modulators that can control cellular reactions.
A further note on naturopathy & nutrition
While nutritionists and dietitians can also provide nutritional advice, the advice provided by naturopaths is different. Naturopathic nutrition incorporates scientific evidence in the context of natural medicine. This means it draws on traditional methods of treatment from a variety of systems of medicine. Consequently, this holistic, individualised approach can yield treatment plans that incorporate a variety of elements.
A few examples of how naturopathy can help you include the following.
#1 High blood pressure be gone!
If you’re sick of high blood pressure or hypertension, or taking pharmaceuticals for them, seeing a naturopath can help. Naturopaths may be able to identify the cause and offer natural ways to treat the condition, together with positive lifestyle changes that may help. Additionally, as naturopathy takes a holisitic approach, you may discuss factors that can contribute towards high blood pressure or hypertension such as:
- amount of time spent in a sedentary state
- level and type of exercise undertaken
- nutrition and diet choices
- current health conditions or concerns such as obesity
- other lifestyle choices such as smoking and caffeine intake
#2 Digestive issues unblocked
Digestive issues can include irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, celiac disease, constipation, burping, bloating, gas and indigestion. They may also indicate the presence of other conditions. In fact, digestive issues may also lead to other problems including allergies, acne, dermatitis, headaches, bad breath, insomnia, and thyroid disorders. As such, your naturopath will undertake a thorough examination of you to determine the root cause of your poor digestion. This is consistent with the naturopathic philosophy of treating the person as a whole and not just the presenting issue. Naturopaths may advise you on how you can improve your digestion such as:
- managing stress and anxiety
- avoiding excessive fluid consumption prior to & during meals
- limiting vigorous exercise after meals
- eating slowly rather than gulping down food
- mindful eating rather than having meals on the run
- reducing soft drink and sugar intake
- switching fried and processed foods with whole foods, complex carbs & healthy fats