Naturopathic Medicine: What are we really talking about?

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NATURAL JOURNEY BY AMY PUNKE

In my clinic, I offer a free 15-minute consultation to new patients. I do this for two reasons: the first is so that a potential patient can meet me. Every Naturopathic Doctor brings their own art of practice to the science of Naturopathic Medicine, and this free consult gives a person the opportunity to meet me and to see if I am a right fit for them. The second reason is for the patient to find out more of what Naturopathic Medicine is truly about.

So, what do you know about Naturopathic Medicine? If you have seen an ND before, how did they explain this type of medicine to you?

Naturopathic Medicine is a unique primary health care system that combines modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural medicine. It is based on the healing power of nature and the ability of the body to heal itself when appropriately supported and stimulated.

If given a chance, our bodies have a tremendous ability to heal, often without medical or drug intervention. In fact, 70 to 90 per cent of all diseases are self-limiting, that is, the body will heal itself without intervention. The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate this innate healing power of the body and treat the underlying cause of the disease.

When I ask someone during one of these free 15-minute consultations what they know about Naturopathic Medicine, one of the most common responses is, "It’s treating diseases with natural remedies." While a part of this is true, if I do not address the underlying cause of the disease, then this is not Naturopathic Medicine. Let me explain.

Everyone has heard of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential nutrient, found in high quantities in many fruits and veggies. It is commonly used as a powerful antioxidant, a natural antihistamine and as an immune booster. Vitamin C actually makes our immune system more effective when we have an infection. Taken in the right doses, it can increase our immune fighting cells. This is an example of using a natural remedy to stimulate the body's ability to heal. When taken in even higher doses, Vitamin C works as an osmotic laxative and can be used to treat an acute case of constipation.

These are two examples of treating a medical condition with a natural remedy. However, Naturopathic Medicine goes one, two, or even three steps further. In my opinion, if you are getting every cold or flu that's going around and all you do is treat it with Vitamin C  (or an over the counter cold medication), you don't address the underlying reason of why you are always getting sick. The same goes for the chronic constipation example I used above. So it is that Naturopathic Doctors look at symptoms of disease as warning signals of improper functioning of the body, and unfavourable lifestyle habits.

Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes disease as a process rather than as an entity. A Naturopathic approach to a weakened immune system, or in the second example, chronic constipation, would be to look at all aspects of the individual’s health, e.g. What kind of diet are they eating? Is it full of sugar that actually suppresses their immune system; or, are they under a high amount of stress, which is known to also interfere with a person’s ability to fight infections.

Treating both acute and chronic conditions, naturopathic treatments are chosen based on the individual patient, on what physiological, structural, psychological, social, spiritual, environmental and lifestyle factors that need to be considered. In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, natural therapies, including botanical medicine (herbs), clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture may be used as well.

Before taking another “natural remedy” from your health food store, you might consider asking yourself what you are really treating? Is your body trying to tell you something? Is there an underlying issue that needs to be addressed?

 

Dr. Amy Punké, ND, has a naturopathic practice at Whole Self Wellness Centre, 106 Stellarton Rd., New Glasgow (above Healthy Selection). Visit www.dramypunke.com or call 902-755-1210. 

Organizations: Whole Self Wellness Centre

Geographic location: Stellarton, New Glasgow

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