Naturopathic Medicine. What?

My profession is my passion and one of my pet peeves is being misunderstood. So here’s the scoop:

If you live on the western side of North America you have likely heard of Naturopathic Medicine. If you are one of my friends or relations you have probably heard of Naturopathic Medicine. If you have had a leaning toward anything non-conventional, you have probably heard of Naturopathic Medicine. And if you have had a stubborn health issue, perhaps you have come across this field of healthcare. It is likely, however, that regardless of your encounters with Naturopathic Medicine you might still be a bit unsure about its origins, its presence as a healing art in this country, or even what the heck it really is. I am here to help you understand a bit more about my profession.

Naturopathic Medicine weaves together the art and science of medicine. It has been in North America as its own distinct profession since 1902 when the first class of naturopathic doctors was graduated from the American School of Naturopathy in New York. It hails from the practices of such physicians as Dr. Benedict Lust and Henry Lindlahr who practiced “nature cure”. The idea that nature’s inherent wisdom can heal us is not new to this century or even the last century. It was Hippocrates who first spoke of “the healing power of nature”.

Naturopathic Medicine works with this force, the vis medicatrix naturae, or healing power of nature. The human body seeks to maintain a dynamic equilibrium. It seeks balance. It possesses built in feedback mechanisms to monitor and control this equilibrium. We can call some of this balancing act “adaptive physiology”. But adaptive physiology does not always lead to a state of healthy  balance. It can lead to pathology. For example, when you inhale a bacterium into your lungs your body attempts to get rid of it by surrounding it with immune cells and mucus. But now you have to cough up that concoction of goop to rid yourself of the bacterium. In conventional western medicine we consider a cough to be a pathology; a symptom to get rid of.

In Naturopathic Medicine we see symptoms as the body’s way of communicating with us. So while we work with you to alleviate symptoms, we don’t want to squelch them entirely. We work with these forces to encourage the body to keep us aware of how effective our treatments are. We are seeking to address the root cause of the symptoms and disharmony at hand. Makes sense, right? If you suffer from migraines don’t you want to deal with the source of the headaches rather than just mask them with a drug? If you have multiple sclerosis wouldn’t you prefer to address the deeper imbalance to prevent the disease from progressing rather than deal with the debilitating symptoms as you continue to get sicker?  This is easier said than done, but the end result is worth the commitment.

To take a naturopathic approach can be hard work. It can mean changing habits you don’t really want to let go of. But it can also mean you get to discover parts of yourself you never knew. It can lead to changes on a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and even social level. This medicine goes deep, when you let it. It can transform your life. And that is not for everyone, though I wish it were!

So you see, Naturopathic Medicine is not just about giving you herbs instead of a pharmaceutical. It is not as easy as double blind placebo controlled studies. Humans are not that predictable; we are all unique. A Naturopathic doctor sees each patient as the individual s/he is by really studying the patient history, the individual’s story. What works for one patient’s bellyache may not work for you. So we spend time with you, we get to know you and we watch your story unfold.

If this approach to healthcare intrigues you, stay tuned to learn more!