Naturopathic Medicine is a unique form of primary and complimentary healthcare, which works by stimulating the natural and innate healing abilities of the body and treating the root cause of disease. Treating both acute and chronic conditions, naturopathic medicine looks at disease from an individual perspective.
It is based on the belief that no two illnesses are manifested in the same way and therefore no two treatments will have the same effect on the same disease. There are a variety of Naturopathic modalities (methods of treatment, or tools, as we commonly refer to them as) that a practitioner can use to bring the body to a state of better health.
Botanical medicine uses a variety of constituents from plants and herbs to help individuals recover from illness, and support the normal functions of your body. Naturopathic physicians prescribe botanical medicines in many different forms: teas, tinctures (alcohol extracts), solid extracts, salves (creams), tablets, capsules, and poultices. Botanical medicines can be very effective when used properly, however, they can be toxic when used incorrectly. Naturopathic Doctors have extensive training in both botanical and conventional pharmacology, a solid understanding of herb-drug interactions, dosing, potential side-effects, and compounding formulations. Your ND has the training to use botanical medicines safely and effectively.
Homeopathy is an effective system of healing which assists the natural tendency of the body to heal itself. It recognizes that symptoms of ill health are expressions of disharmony within the whole person. In 1796, a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, discovered a different approach to the cure of the sick which he called homeopathy. Hahnemann discovered that diluting and succussing (shaking) remedies, which homeopaths call potentisation, not only produced fewer side effects but also produced better results. Homeopathic remedies are drawn from the natural world, using plant, mineral, and animal substances.
Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture
Tongue and pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbs, nutrition, and acupuncture comprise the ancient practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Using these practices, Naturopathic practitioners pay special attention to the tongue, looking at coat, colour and form, as well as the wrist pulses. These two areas (among others), according to TCM, that provide valuable information regarding the patients’ overall constitution. These findings tell the practitioner what treatment is needed, whether it is herbs or an individually designed acupuncture protocol.
Naturopathic practitioners believe in the powerful relationship between diet and health. Naturopathic practitioners are trained in nutritional science, and as such understand how nutrients in food are digested, absorbed, transported, metabolized, stored and eliminated. They also understand the conditions under which any one of the processes may be impaired and therefore when supplementation of these nutrients may be necessary. There are also circumstances in which dietary restrictions are necessary, as in cases of food allergy. Naturopathic doctors are trained in planning and supporting these special diets.
Hydrotherapy is the use of both the mechanical and thermal effects of water for the treatment of disease. It utilizes the body’s response to hot and cold water; hot water slowing down internal processes, and cold water invigorating and stimulating internal processes. Hydrotherapy increases circulation, raises core body temperature, stimulates the immune system, aids in the elimination of toxins and increases metabolism.
Naturopathic manipulation is the subtle adjustment of bones, particularly along the spinal column, to increase mobility and correct alignment. Naturopathic manipulation usually encompasses the use of soft tissue manipulation in combination with bony adjustments. As muscle has memory, it is necessary to relax the muscle so as to not pull the bones out of alignment again. Naturopathic practitioners are trained on both soft tissue massage and manipulations.
Here’s how it works
The first appointment with your naturopath usually runs from one hour to an hour and a half in length. The bulk of the appointment will consist of going over, in great detail, the concerns you want to address with your naturopathic practitioner. There are questions that your naturopath may ask, that at the times may seem unrelated, such as sleep habits, stress, relationship issues, and workplace and home environment. It is these factors that differentiate one individual with diabetes, for example, from another. And these individual differences will determine the most effective treatment. There are usually little to no treatments prescribed in the initial visit.
A follow-up visit is usually scheduled in a week’s time and at this point your naturopath will have decided on the appropriate treatment and should go over these treatments in detail with you. Feel free at this time to ask questions, and be clear about why you are taking the prescribed treatments. Naturopathic doctors should have a clear rationale for each chosen remedy. It is in your best interest, in terms of adherence to these protocols, to understand the benefit they will have.
Homeopathic remedies are designed for the most part to be single doses, or very short term dosing that should have a lasting effect. Supplements are usually prescribed for months at time, with duration in months being roughly equivalent to duration of disease in years. For example if you have been suffering from arthritis for the past 5 years, it is reasonable to expect a minimum 5 month treatment. Botanical medicine, depending on the form is usually dosed in a similar manner, as are Chinese herbs. Acupuncture usually requires weekly visits, usually a minimum of 5. You may notice results with acupuncture after one treatment, but in general the benefits are cumulative and tend to be more advantageous if they are given on a regular basis in order to achieve a most lasting effect. A lot of hydrotherapy treatments, such as sauna for detoxification, constitutional hydrotherapy treatments and peat baths are usually recommended the same way; approx. 5 consecutive treatments. Each individual naturopath may choose to prescribe these modalities and schedule their follow-ups differently.
Diet and lifestyle modifications that are suggested by your naturopath are for the most part, meant to be life long changes. They make take some time to get used to, but will inevitably produce significant benefit and will become a part of your everyday routine. The changes that occur based on these modifications may provide instant relief or may demonstrate a slow but steady decrease in symptomology. Be patient with all the changes taking place during the healing process, and keep in mind that these treatments are not designed to simply mask a symptom, but to both treat the cause of the disease process and prevent any further disease from developing.
The third appointment and all follow-up appointments afterwards are scheduled quite differently depending on the modality used to treat the concern and the severity of the concern itself, as well as the availability of the patient and naturopath. Be sure to stay in contact with your ND, especially over these first few months, as they can help guide you through the healing process, and support new symptoms or emotions that may arise as the healing powers of the body are strengthened.