The World of Natural Health
What exactly is ‘Naturopathic Health’ or ‘Holistic Healthcare’? There is a lot of ambiguity and confusion surrounding these terms, so I thought I’d add this introductory section to (hopefully) provide a little more clarity.
'Natural/Holistic Health' actually encompasses a broad range of therapies from Nutrition to Herbal Medicine to Naturopathy to Aromatherapy to Acupuncture to Physical therapies/Massage to Hydrotherapy to Homeopathy to Flower Remedies to Energetic therapies. Phew! So as you can see, it can be a bit of a vague term.. The reality is that individual therapists often adopt individual approaches, using a single therapy or combination of therapies depending on their training or preferences. In addition, the terms can vary from country to country. For example in Australia, a ‘Naturopath’ will typically use a combination of nutrition, herbal medicine and massage therapy. Whereas in the UK, a ‘Naturopath’ generally only uses nutrition, energetic medicine and massage and generally does not practice herbal medicine! When looking for a practitioner, do some digging on what qualifications they have and what their preferred range of therapies is.
My Grouch with the Labels 'Alternative' or 'Complimentary' Medicine
Natural Health as a generalisation is sometimes called Alternative or Complimentary medicine. In truth I don’t like either of these labels. The former ‘Alternative Medicine’ almost implies that it is a less effective alternative to drugs, and also implies that you need to use 1 approach or the other (standard medicine or natural medicine) rather than combining approaches. Then latter term ‘complimentary’ I’m not too fussed about either, as it implies inferiority to standard drug therapy, something that can compliment it rather than be a stand alone approach (whereas in some areas, natural therapies are in fact far superior!) So how about just plain old ‘Natural Health; or ‘Holistic Healthcare’ ?!?
What Do I Practice?
I guess I would refer to myself as Naturopath/Natural Health Advisor as this is the closest to what I practice. Personally, I like to use a combination of Naturopathic Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Aromatherapy and general lifestyle recommendations. For more information on the individual therapies of Herbal Medicine and Nutrition, I’ve added some info under separate tabs, as these 2 combined are the mainstay of my treatments.
I’ll also discuss a little more about the specifics of my approach later, but for now here is a little more about bones of ‘Naturopathy’ as a general discipline.
Naturopathy - A True Definition of 'Holistic Health'
Naturopathy is recognized by World Health Organization as integral to public health and well-being. So much that WHO member states are being urged to formally incorporate naturopathic treatments into their respective health care systems.
Naturopathy is very much a holistic approach where all aspects of a person’s health/life are assessed: diet, exercise, digestive function, detoxification capacity, inflammatory processes, previous illness/infections, allergies or intolerances, hormone imbalance, exposure to toxins/pollutants, family history, stress levels/management.. Treatment is varied and tailored to the individual, but it can include any or all of the following, depending on the practitioner's skillset:
A practitioner will often refer the client onto another therapist, should they not be qualified in a particular area, but feel that the client would benefit.
Philosophy of Naturopathy
Naturopaths all abide by the following principles....
- Natural Balance: support the body’s natural processes to bring it back in sync. Naturopaths just help the body to do it’s job – nudging it back to health rather than taking over.
- Treat the Individual: Treat the person as a whole not just the condition/body part affected. Treat the person not the disease.
- Find the Underlying Causes: as opposed to just managing the symptoms.
- ‘Do No Harm’: Naturopaths abide by this principle and use the gentlest approaches to restore health, increasing the strength of treatments only as necessary and for the shortest time necessary.
- Holistic: Healthy Diet, Lifestyle, Exercise, Stress Management and Reducing Exposure to Toxins are the basis/foundations of good health. Specific therapies such as herbal medicine or aromatherapy can then be added to facilitate the healing process or to ease symptoms.
- Prevention: the focus is on preventative medicine and improving health in general – for long term resilience.
- ‘Doctor as Teacher’: a naturopath has 1 main goal – to teach the client how to manage their own health for the rest of their life, not to manage it for them. Taking personal responsibility is key.
Elaborating on the Above....
Naturopathy treats the Individual
Naturopathy involves treating the person as a whole using a variety of therapies and lifestyle recommendations to bring the body back into balance. The main goal is to increase vitality and general resistance, which can easily be depleted due to factors such as illness, stress, poor diet, pollution/toxicity etc… This is quite different to general medical practice, where the focus is on disease. For natural therapists, the focus is on health, prevention and feeling the best you can feel throughout your life (rather than ‘health’ simply being the lack of disease).
The first thing to realise is that there is NO ‘one fix all’ method OR a magic pill. It is a journey of discovery for each individual. The body has an amazing capacity to heal given the right circumstances and this is really the essence of Naturopathy. The focus is less about ‘what disease the person has’ and more about ‘what person has the disease’. It involves a lot of detective work.
The Importance of Time in Consultations
Unlike doctors who are unfortunately pushed for time, we are lucky in the sense that we get to spend a lot of time with each client. This allows us to dig deep – uncovering any underlying red flags or causes. Many therapists also spend a lot of time outside of the appointment time researching a particular case and developing detailed treatment plans. Time is something most medical doctors don’t have the luxury of.
The ‘Do No Harm’ principle. Safety first!
‘Do No Harm’ is a philosophy shared by all Naturopaths- The gentlest methods are always used first, only using stronger herbs/supplements if absolutely necessary. Often simple diet and lifestyle changes alone are enough to restore balance and maintain good health. See the section on ‘Safety & Efficacy’ under the next tab.
The Prevention & Gentle Management of Chronic Conditions
More and more people are turning to natural therapies- the reasons for which are varied but overall- because they want to feel the best they can without being over-reliant on medications for the rest of their lives. Modern medicine is superb at treating life threatening, acute conditions- but it is not so effective in the management of chronic diseases– such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s Dementia, both of which are on an exponential rise and risk bringing our NHS to it’s knees. Don’t get me wrong- I am not against modern medicine-if I need life saving treatments, I will go to hospital and I have no qualms about taking pharmaceutical drugs when necessary. Painkillers were mighty useful when I had a tooth abscess!!! However there is a time and place for them and on balance we are totally over-reliant on 'pills'.
Generally speaking there is a big gap in our current ‘health’ system – it is failing miserably in the ‘health’ side of the equation! In the medical world, it seems to be that a lot is known about disease, but surprisingly very little about prevention and healing – the entire model is based on the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Whereas the Naturopathic model is focused on optimal health and herein lies the difference.
Chronic diseases don’t just ‘happen’, you don ’t just wake up one morning and have diabetes, cancer or arthritis. Disease is usually an insidious process and degeneration occurs over many years. So naturally, intervention at an earlier stage will be more effective than intervention later. Unfortunately many people only seek help (both medical and natural) when symptoms become too severe to ignore and at this point treatment becomes more difficult. Preventative medicine really should be more mainstream! At the end of the day, if you look after your health throughout your life, you’ll be in a better position to ward off any health issues that crop up. So whilst you may not be able to prevent every bad/challenging event, you can make sure that you are as strong as possible in body and mind so that you are better equipped to deal with whatever life throws at you. Having said this, it is never too late to turn it around and learn to take care of you health, this can only be a good thing and you may be able to reverse the damage done or at least stabilize your condition. Ask yourself this: if you can learn to manage your health with simple diet/lifestyle changes over the long term, rather than rely on medication for the rest of your life – then why not at least give it a go?!
Both Naturopathy (and other natural therapies) and standard Medicine have their strengths and limitations and I believe that the two can work together very well, as part of a holistic treatment plan - if only our current health system made this easier. Integrative medicine is the future of medicine 🙂
Who can use Natural Therapies and What For?
Anyone can benefit from Natural Therapies, including babies, children and the elderly. Treatment is tailored accordingly. People seek advice for a diverse range of issues. Naturopathy may help with any health condition as the aim is simply to restore optimal health (or as much as is possible). Though it has to be stressed – naturopaths/herbalists/nutritionists do not claim to ‘cure’ any specific disease. Below I’ve listed just some of the conditions which can respond well to a Naturopathic approach.
- Cardiovascular Health: (varicose veins, high/low blood pressure, Raynauds Syndrome, heart failure)
- Women’s Health: (menopause, PMS, thrush, recurrent cystitis, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, beauty: hair/skin/nails, fertility)
- Men’s Health: (BPH, prostate issues, low libido, fertility, erectile dysfunction)
- Endocrine Issues: (thyroid, PMS, adrenal and other hormonal imbalances/diseases)
- Weight management
- Immune System: (autoimmune, allergies, recurrent infections, cancer)
- Respiratory System: (Asthma, sinusitis, COPD, bronchitis, pneumonia)
- Digestive Health: (IBS, constipation, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, SIBO, gastritis, ulcers)
- Mental Health: (depression, anxiety), ADHD, stress management, sleep disturbances, low energy, addictions
- Neurological: (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, MS, Epilepsy)
- Musculoskeletal: (Osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, tendonitis, injuries, muscle aches/tension).
- Athletic/Physical performance
- General Wellbeing: Energy, vitality, healthy ageing, beauty
- Travel Wellness... & more
* this is by no means exhaustive!
Next Sections: Safety, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Massage Therapy... See the individual tabs. Also, check out the 'Natural Health' and 'Environmental' Resources below for further reading: