Why Naturopathy? – A Prototypic Example

One of the first questions I ask a new patient is, “have you ever seen a Naturopathic doctor before? Do you know what we do?” And almost every time I inevitability get, to no fault of the patient, “You use natural things to treat people.”

Well yes and no.

I feel the problem lays within the title of the profession, often leading the public astray to think the only difference between us and conventional medicine is that we use natural therapies as opposed to pharmaceuticals. It is difficult to quickly and concisely sum up “what is a Naturopathic doctor or Naturopathy”, and I know a lot of practitioners struggle with it for many years, including myself. After countless hours of thought and debate on the issue I think I have a reasonably thought out a relatable situation for the patient who is new to naturopathy.

Example of Seasonal Allergies

So say a patient came into the office in May suffering from seasonal allergies. They tell me this occurs every year at this time and they want some relief.

Here we can directly compare conventional treatment and naturopathy for the acute symptoms caused by seasonal allergies. Conventional medicine may recommend some anti-histamines, which work very fast and tend to relieve symptoms. These medications however are not always side effect free (dryness, drowsiness, etc.), not to mention possible long term negative effects if taken year after year.

Now naturopathy for example may recommend some nettle and eyebright to relieve the symptoms of the seasonal allergies. Yes these are natural therapies to deal with symptoms, much in the same way as conventional medicine through an anti-histamine effect. These remedies will often work a little slower and often not as strongly as the pharmaceutical counterpart. This can be referred to as “Green Allopathy”, treating the symptoms in the same matter as conventional (allopathic) medicine. However, the benefit of this approach is that it is often gentler without the negative side effects mentioned previously. As well as possible other benefits depending on the therapy. For example, nettle is a great nutritive and full of chlorophyll.

Nevertheless, where naturopathy really shines is in preventative medicine. So if that same patient suffering from seasonal allergies came into the office in March saying that every year they suffer from allergies in May we would then be able to put together a protocol for them to implement right away to prime the body to prepare for the allergens. Depending on the patient they may see very little if any symptoms come May even without taking any anti-histamines, natural or otherwise. Again depending on the case this could be repeated the following year until the priming or the symptom relief is no longer needed for seasonal allergies in this individual.

This is a good example to share with patients or the public who are interested in naturopathy, as it highlights the gentle, natural approach to acute symptom based care. While also mentioning the even greater importance of treating the body as a whole and addressing the underlying root cause of the problem.

Lastly, even though this case could be considered one of biological disorder, I think naturopathy is equally good at treating what I refer to as “lifestyle disease or disorder”, such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, etc. This can be viewed as typical cases of lifestyle causing whole body problems in these individuals.