What does a Naturopath actually do?
I keep hearing about Naturopaths negatively in the news…what’s that all about?
“Naturopaths don’t use scientifically proven therapies”.
“Naturopaths can’t help with serious health complaints”.
“Naturopaths aren’t qualified health professionals”.
“Natural Medicine is a magic wand alternative – a Naturopath can look into your eyes, see what’s wrong with you and give you some pills to fix anything…no hard work required”.
These questions and statements are bandied around when the topic of Naturopaths comes up at a dinner party. I will address them all in the following article.
Naturopath’s can not only treat you for a health ailment that bothers you, but can also help you achieve wellness and prevention of chronic disease. For example, addressing a weight problem will also reduce your cancer risk, help rid your body of stored, unwanted toxins, reduce arthritis pain, prevent you from developing type 2 diabetes, reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s, help to normalise your blood lipids and cholesterol, improve your energy levels, reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, improve headaches and migraines, improve sleep quality and help to balance your hormones and improve fertility. And you thought it was just a weight loss consultation?
The same goes for other health conditions. Naturopath’s don’t just look at your health issue being single dimensional, we look at the interplay of organs and systems and how one problem can affect or be effected by other parts of your body. For this reason, we get you to complete a long case history and questionnaires when you first see us, so that we can get an idea of the big picture.
What does a Naturopath actually do?
Many, many things. We all work a little differently, so I will give you a rundown of how it works when a client comes to see me….
Before the first consultation, I get you to fill in an online Health Appraisal Questionnaire which takes about 45 minutes to complete, and saves you the time and money associated with an additional consultation. I also get you to email me a sample of what you eat and drink prior to the consultation. I then review this information prior to the face-to-face consultation. This gives me a baseline measure of your health and something we can compare further down the track.
Based on the questionnaire, I will then ask lots more questions in our face to face consult, recommend more tests – both in house and outsourced (blood, saliva, stool, urine, hair analysis for heavy metals) and possibly refer you to another health professional or your GP if I believe this would be of benefit to you. This however is a shared decision making process. I recommend, but you ultimately decide what’s best for you and what you can afford.
Once we have all the information required, I propose a treatment plan based on the best evidence available for your treatment priorities. We discuss time frames until you can expect to see and feel the results and I prescribe a combination of dietary, herbal, nutritional, exercise and lifestyle therapies to help you improve your current state of health. When formulating a treatment plan, I review the current, relevant scientific literature on databases such as PubMed to find the most evidence-based interventions for your health complaints, ranking higher in priority are interventions with a large body of evidence.
I keep hearing about Naturopath’s negatively in the news…what’s that all about?
Every single negative news article in the Australian press about a Naturopath has been an unqualified practitioner that calls themselves a Naturopath. Unfortunately, just about anyone can call themselves a Naturopath and there are no laws to stop them…however they can be sued – and we hear all about this in the news! How do you know you’re getting the real deal? Ask the person you are considering what they studied and where and whether they stay up to date with the current research in the Natural Medicine field. Generally speaking, you’re safe if the practitioner has a Professional Association membership for Naturopathy and has provider numbers with all the major health funds, which entitles you to a rebate. For example, I am with the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA).
Naturopath’s don’t use scientifically proven therapies.
For most Naturopaths, this is FALSE! All health professions are experiencing a shift towards evidence-based practice and this is the new paradigm that is being taught at a tertiary level for ALL health professionals, including Naturopaths. Most Naturopaths hold a Health Science Degree which consists of 4 years full-time study (the same as most other health professionals). This includes studying Human Biology, Disease Processes, Chemistry, Biochemistry, Examination skills, and Pharmacology in addition to the units on Herbal and Nutritional Medicine as well as extensive clinical hours being mentored by experienced Naturopaths. I myself have an Advanced Diploma of Naturopathy as well as currently upgrading my level of education by completing postgraduate Honours studies in evidence-based medicine through the University of Tasmania (even though I’m in Perth – the wonders of technology!) – Bachelor of Medicines Management with Professional Honours in Complimentary Medicine. Most Naturopaths these days explore the best evidence and prescribe accordingly. As members of a professional association, we are required to do a minimum of 20 additional hours of Continued Professional Education (CPE) to retain our membership and provider status with health funds. Last year, I personally did about 100 hours of CPE.
Naturopath’s can’t help with serious health complaints.
Search PubMed for integrative therapies for cancer. There are MANY MANY alternative medicine interventions that can help with all sorts of serious health conditions. Besides, all seriously ill people will benefit from basic dietary counseling by a Naturopath even if they are too scared to take the many safe and proven therapies. In the case of serious health conditions, you would never see a Naturopath in isolation, and you would always primarily take the advice of the medical doctor or specialist you are under the care of, however, there are many natural therapies that can improve the efficacy of the pharmaceutical medication you may be taking or evidence to show that when taking a natural medicine alongside a drug therapy, the side effects are reduced. An example of this would be the many randomised clinical trials which have proven taking a probiotic alongside an antibiotic reduces the incidence of antibiotic-associated diarrhoea, increases the efficacy of the therapy in some cases and reduces antibiotic resistance of micro-organisms!
Naturopath’s aren’t qualified health professionals.
As I mentioned above, most Naturopaths these days have at least a Bachelor degree. Most professional associations have stopped accepting anything less than a Bachelor for provider cover.
Natural Medicine is a magic wand alternative – a Naturopath can look into your eyes, see what’s wrong with you and give you some pills to fix anything…no hard work required.
Definitely not so. The clients that get the best results, do the hard work. Change is hard for a lot of people. If you’re one of those people, discuss that at your appointment, and you can go one step at a time and focus on manageable changes and alternatives. Treating yourself with natural medicines means you need to be willing to change what you eat, move your body, practice calming the chatter in your mind and you need to be prepared to pay for testing and herbal and nutritional medicines. Most Naturopaths are mindful of working within your realms of possibility and the ethical among us don’t want to send you broke or rip you off in any way. The vast majority of Naturopaths I have met are driven by the teachings of Hippocrates: First do no harm and a strong desire to help people be the best version that they can be using the healing power of nature. We aim to treat the cause of the problem, not just the physical manifestation of symptoms. We aim to help you age well, so you have the energy and strength to play with your grandchildren. We aim to prevent serious disease by empowering you with education and information. We balance along the tightrope of Evidence Based and Traditional Medicine and have faith that our clients want to feel better as much as we want them to.
Lastly, good health is a journey, not a quick fix.
Until next time.
Yours in health,
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