Naturopathic medicine is based upon the principle that each individual has an innate wisdom and ability to heal themselves if given the opportunity with which to do so. As such the term ‘naturopathy’ does not encompass a specific set of modalities but instead reflects a philosophical understanding. Naturopaths are not medical doctors. Naturopaths are trained specialist practitioners who utilise natural medicine in the form of herbs, vitamins, minerals, dietary and lifestyle changes to create a more harmonious environment in the body.
The whole is more than the sum of the parts
Naturopathic philosophy embraces a holistic approach to health promotion. Therefore, a naturopath acknowledges that all individuals have physical, mental, emotional and energetic/spiritual aspects. These aspects are completely interconnected, so how we think and what we believe creates an emotional state, which can then affect us biochemically/ physiologically. In addition, as individuals, we also interact with our outer world (our social/environmental connection) and thus can both influence and be influenced by the world around us.
True wellbeing requires balance
An imbalance that manifests as a functional disorder in your physical or mental wellbeing may occur for many reasons. Therefore, to return to a state of wellbeing is likely to require a multi-disciplinary approach. For example, although there will often be the need for therapy that influences the physiological state, there will also be a need to rebalance the emotional and energetic aspect of ourselves in order to achieve a sense of wellbeing.
Naturopathic medicine incorporates various disciplines, though all aim to support you in achieving balance in your life. The modalities that each naturopath may utilise to assist you to reach your goals will, therefore, be dependant upon their level of naturopathic training, any additional qualifications they may hold plus their area of special interest.
Note: In response to questions I’ve received regarding experience – I recommend that ideally, you see someone who holds a bachelor degree level qualification specifically in naturopathy (which is a minimum of 4 years training), or an accredited advanced diploma in naturopathy plus a minimum of 10 years actual clinical practice.
Finding the right ‘fit’ requires some questions
I also recommend that whoever you choose to see as your naturopath, you first ask some questions of them – such as what are their areas of special interest, do they have additional training in fields other than naturopathy, and whether they prefer to use herbs, nutritionals, homoeopathics, or perhaps a combination of these and other modalities; as it is important that you feel comfortable and confident that you will collaborate with your chosen practitioner with ease.
In addition, the practitioner you choose to see should be qualified to give any and all of the advice they may offer (to ensure it will be well informed and appropriate for your situation), is a member of a recognised and relevant professional association, is fully insured with a code of ethics, and is open to working alongside other qualified health practitioners, such as medical doctors, osteopaths, and/or chiropractors to help you achieve your health goals.
What to expect during a consultation
Each practitioner will have their own approach, however you are likely to be asked to share information about your sleep quality and quantity, gut health, digestive capacity and dietary choices as these are all relevant regardless of what your symptoms are; as is hydration, movement and how well you support your nervous system.
It is also not uncommon, at least in the short-term, to be recommended a natural intervention identified as being of benefit, such as a herbal tonic, dietary modification or a nutritional supplement to help you regain balance, along with some lifestyle changes and/or ‘homework’ to do to get you back on the path to optimal wellbeing.
Note: If not detailed in the consultation, it is reasonable to ask how long any intervention is expected to be needed so you feel informed, and it is important you disclose any allergies you have or any medications you take or change during the length of your treatment plan so that this may be accounted for in any prescription.