My friend/partner/family member says that naturopaths are “quacks” and that there is no evidence for naturopathy.
It is a very interesting time politically in the health care sector at the moment (in fact it has been building up for some time).
Certain medical and pharmaceutical organisations have a vested interest in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine healthcare system not being available.
These organisations have significant influence over the government (both sides) and the mainstream media, and as such, you may often see articles which either “debunk” natural medicine or say that there is no scientific evidence behind natural medicine.
Notice that the “experts” who are often proclaiming this has no background or has not studied either nutrition, herbal medicine and other natural medicines.
There has even been a recent review of 17 modalities of natural medicine by the Australian NHRMC which found that there was not enough evidence to support them. It is important to understand that both international and national scientific experts have pointed out several flaws in this review – including bias by committee members, withholding information and changing the rules of methodology as they went along – to come up with the finding that they were looking for.
The Australian senate has since found that this review was indeed biased and flawed, and an enquiry into re-evaluating natural health modalities is underway, so stay posted for more on this.
I could write a book on the political nature of health care, and why the current biomedical (the use of surgery and pharmaceuticals) approach is the dominant healthcare system in this country (in a nutshell, it is for political and financial reasons, not because it is the most effective form of medicine available to us).
Don’t get me wrong – there is absolutely a time and place for emergency care, surgery and pharmaceuticals. However there is also an important place for natural medicine as well – after all – it has served us well for millennia.
What I can confidently say is that there are THOUSANDS of pieces scientific evidence available to support natural medicines and other tools of naturopathy – such as holistic nutrition, herbal medicine, holistic counselling, mindfulness and meditation.
In fact, as an accredited naturopath I am unable to prescribe any natural medicine which does not have enough evidence behind it to satisfy the requirements of the Australia Therapeutic Goods Administration – which is one of the strictest authorities overseeing medicines in the world. (This is why we shouldn’t order supplements from overseas – including the US – as they cannot meet the same strict requirements we require of Australian-made supplements).
And, I have also observed that many of the common approaches that I was trained in when I first studied Naturopathy in the early 2000s (such as probiotics, looking after the health of our digestive microbiome, fish oils, St John’s Wort etc) were dismissed as rubbish by much of the mainstream medical fraternity. Now you find the everyday family GP prescribing probiotics and fish oil to patients, and trying to keep up with the science of our microbiome.
At the end of the day however, you know your own body best and should have the right to choose the healthcare that you use.
If that is natural medicine and naturopathy, and the advice that a naturopath provides you with works for you, then sometimes you have to stand strong against the naysayers in your world and do what is right for you.
The beautiful thing about naturopathy is that it allows for an individual, comprehensive and holistic approach to each person I see. I might have 10 people come to see me about a headache, and yet the treatment plan for each will be completely different.
I do notice, however, that there are some core pieces of advice which applies to the majority of clients, and in general is good advice for everyone.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about your health, you are best to see a healthcare practitioner (like a naturopath!) to talk about your individual case.
1. Avoid gluten and particularly wheat.
Unfortunately the wheat and some other grains we consume today is not the same as the wheat that our grandparents enjoyed. Modern farming practices, genetic modification and processing means that so many people, particularly those with autoimmune conditions, are negatively affected by wheat consumption.
It used to be that generally only those with coeliac disease had an adverse reaction to wheat, but not now, as outlined in the brilliant documentary "What's With Wheat".
Gluten-free is no longer a fad, and I often find that this piece of advice results in the most dramatic changes for the better for many clients.
Modern living, medications, processed foods and antibiotics means that many of our gut flora is out of balance. Probiotics have now been clinically proven to show results for immune, skin, mental and digestive health, and even in weight management and child behaviour.
We now know that you need to be selective about which strain you use - seeing a healthcare practitioner trained in probiotics, like a naturopath, is important before taking probiotics.
3. Fish oil
Due to the processed foods in our diet, we don't get the levels of omega 3s we used to, and so fish oil supplementation is often required for cardiovascular and skin health, and for incredible anti-inflammatory action. There are some things to be aware of when it comes to fish oils though, and I've written about them here.
4. Know the foods that don't agree with you
There is more evidence that certain foods can cause inflammation or a negative immune response in the body, and can be responsible for not just digestive symptoms, but also conditions such as arthritis, migraines, autoimmune conditions, hormonal disorders, skin problems, asthma, hayfever... the list goes on and on.
You can work out which foods that don't work for you either via a rotation or elimination diet, or through an appropriate food allergy or intolerance test from a naturopath or healthcare practitioner.
5. Reduce your toxic load
We are all exposed to toxins on a daily basis, and while our liver and other organs do a great job in dealing with them generally, it certainly helps the healing process to avoid toxins where we can.
The website www.lowtoxlife.com is a brilliant resource on how to phase out toxins.
And don't forget to avoid toxic people as well :)
6. Take time out
I swear this is on almost everyone's "prescription pad" from me. Most of us simply do not get enough rest.
Whether you take a holiday, a long weekend or simply try to get to bed half an hour earlier, your body will thank you for it.
All the supplements, nutritional advice and herbal medicines in the world won't work so well unless you are rested.
7. Develop a wholesome, loving relationship with real food
I get so mad about some of the marketing claims made by processed food manufacturers - these include packet cereals, margarine, "snack bars", and drinks. Coupled with some poor dietary advice, I am seeing a lot of clients who are malnourished, and confused about what to eat.
It is also important to lose the guilt when eating foods you love, and instead focus on whole real foods that satisfy.
My advice is simple - eat real food - choose eggs and avocado or porridge instead of processed cereals; enjoy a handful of nuts instead of a muesli bar; don't buy the packaged pasta meals and make your own from scratch. Yes, I know it takes time but your health is so much better for eating real food, that you will find you have more time with all that extra energy and wellbeing. Truly!
Need some advice for your particular health needs? Book in and see me in person. I'd love to help. Head over to my bookings page to make an appointment online.
Some time ago I was gifted a wonderful, musty-smelling but obviously well-loved book. I was so delighted as I adore vintage books, and discovering that it was all about family health and medicine made it so much more special.
And what a gem of a book it is turning out to be. Titled “Modern Medical Counsellor – A Practical Guide to Health” published in Melbourne, Australia in 1959, it offers almost a 1000 pages of medical and health science of that time.
Now, I must admit that I was prepared to have a bit of a scoff at the advice given in the pages of this 1950’s text. The world in general, but especially our knowledge of health and medicine has advanced so much in 60 or so years, hasn’t it?
But after an initial flick through the title pages, my prejudices started to fall away as I spotted chapters dedicated to “Diet”, "Climate", “Mental Attitudes” and “Growing Old Gracefully". Hmmmm. This book was starting to look like it covered the pillars of naturopathic health philosophy which looks at an individual's nutrition, lifestyle, environment and emotional health when considering treatment options and advice.
And then I came to Chapter 18 “Natural and Other Rational Remedies”.
Let me repeat that. Natural and Other Rational Remedies.
It was at this point that I was won over. And surprised. I had a vague perception that by the 1950’s, natural remedies were beginning to be put aside (and even scorned) as pharmaceuticals and surgery were on the ascendant.
It made me think about how often in what we consider mainstream and orthodox medicine today, do we see the words "natural" and "rational" in the same sentence. Sadly, with many looking to discredit natural medicine in favour of new pharmaceuticals, you rarely see the word “natural” and “rational” in the same sentence today.
This text now had me intrigued. What actually was the current medical thinking on natural medicine in 1959?
Let quote directly from the book.
“There continues to be much talk about ‘nature’ and ‘natural’ remedies in connection with the treatment of disease. There is so much solid truth and good sense in this talk…we also hear the word ‘rational’ applied to various remedies or treatments. This word is properly applied to whatever is the logical or reasonable remedy given in any case. A truly natural remedy is always rational.”
“It should be self-evident that the most reasonable way to fight a disease is to find its cause and then to remove or correct that cause. And since the body has numerous natural defences and great powers of self-repair and restoration, another reasonable way to fight disease and restore health is to reinforce or co-operate with the body’s own defence and restorative forces, thus increasing the effective of these natural remedies.”
Wait, what! These paragraphs are essentially the underlying principle of naturopathy - aiming to work with the body’s own innate ability to heal, rather than fight against these natural processes.
The book then goes on further to talk about patients who “give far too much credit to the drugs and seem to think that they should seek primarily for some pill, powder, medicine, tablet or injection to use in treating every variety of disease in any of its stages. Such individuals will leave a doctor who gives their case careful study and then tells them to change their habits of eating and working but gives them no prescription to take to a chemist, and go to another doctor who takes but a minute or two in questioning and examining them and then prescribes from two to half a dozen different kinds of medicines. Sometimes a physician who would prefer to make a much greater and more nearly exclusive use of natural remedies is forced by these circumstances to write prescriptions in order to keep the patient under his care long enough for the natural remedies he recommends to take effect.”
Wow. The more things change the more they stay the same.
Now I don't want to go into the whole debate of pharmaceuticals and natural medicine right now - I believe there is a place for both where appropriate. But it would appear from this book that so many individuals look for the “fast fix” or silver bullet” to take away symptoms without addressing the underlying cause. And that this way of thinking has been in place for some time.
What I think we are starting to see now, however, (and research backs me up on this), is that more and more are turning back to natural medicines, and indeed consulting with natural and integrative practitioners who are able to take the time to really delve into a patient’s case on a wholistic level.
It makes sense. We have evolved over many thousands of years along with the plants that have provided our much of our food and medicines. Our bodies simply haven't adapted to the rapid increase in chemicals in our day to day living. So is it any wonder that we see side effects from our reliance on modern drugs, processed foods and cosmetics? And then find that the solution we really need is to take the time to look after ourselves with food and herbal medicines, just as our ancestors have for millennia?
I see so many clients are finding that the quick fix hasn't been serving their long-term health, and instead are getting lasting results by the use of herbal medicine, good solid nutrition, and living in harmony with our natural environment. This does take time and is not always a fast fix. And there can be so much to investigate with each person to figure out the right combination of natural medicines as we are all so different. An initial consultation with a naturopath can take up 90 minutes and that is really just the beginning of the journey to helping a client to bring their health back into balance.
So it is just wonderful, as a naturopathic practitioner who believes wholeheartedly that nature provides us with what we need to stay well, to have this affirmed in the pages of a medical text. Even if it is from the 1950's. I think our grandparents had the right idea when it came to taking care of ourselves - just eat real food and respect the herbal lore of our ancestors. By all means, turn to modern medicine when we need to, but let's also use the gifts of nature to stay well.
Food for thought indeed.
In the meantime, I’m going to read on, and perhaps share more wisdom from this 1950’s text on medicine in future posts.
The chapter “Survival in Atomic Bombing” is no doubt going to be fascinating...
Naturopath, Nutritionist and Herbalist