Naturopathic philosophy is what underlies naturopathic medicine. Combined, they form a complete system of medicine that views a person as an interconnected whole of body/mind/spirit and environment - with all of these factors contributing to health and wellness. When one or more of these elements are out of balance then 'dis-ease' can occur.
Unlike a conventional doctor, a naturopath does not treat 'named conditions or diseases' because each person’s experience (even of a similar condition) will be unique, therefore what is required to return to balance needs to be personalised and not an 'off the shelf or one-size-fits-all' approach.
Naturopaths draw equal insight from both traditional medicine and contemporary research, with Bachelor degree qualified naturopaths being comprehensively trained in clinical sciences, as well as counselling and stress management. They are experts in the naturopathic modalities, which include herbal (botanical) medicine, nutritional medicine, dietary and lifestyle therapy; and many have additional complementary skills that can be incorporated into a treatment plan, for example, they may also be certified in wellness coaching.
Naturopaths work to identify and eliminate the root causes of disease and are guided by six basic principles which include:
1. Do no harm - this includes encouraging patients to stop behaviours that are harmful to their health;
2. Utilise the healing power of nature - e.g. by using nutrition, lifestyle modifications and herbal medicines;
3. Identify and treat the causes - not simply focus on symptom suppression;
4. Treat the whole person - taking a bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach to whole-person wellbeing;
5. Focus on preventive medicine - by optimising all aspects of health and wellbeing; and
6. Practice in partnership with the patient - collaborating at all times.
As mentioned above, naturopaths recognise that both health and disease are the result of an intricate and intimate interplay of physical, emotional, spiritual, familial/social, occupational and environmental factors. Failure to address all aspects relevant to a patient’s pattern of health and disease fundamentally ignores the complexity of the human experience.
Whilst clinical naturopaths are informed by many of the same biomedical sciences as orthodox physicians, a naturopath takes a more holistic approach to patient care, aiming to support the body's self-regenerative powers where possible. For example, by eliminating harmful and inhibitory behaviours, optimising nutritional status, and encouraging positive lifestyle changes. Due to this focus on whole-patient wellness, each treatment is individually tailored to the patient and emphasises both prevention and self-care. Patient wellness is achieved through patient-practitioner collaboration. The practitioner works at all times to create an ambience of trust, honesty and positivism in the therapeutic relationship, and the client is encouraged to take responsibility for their health and wellness choices.
The body has its own intuitive and sophisticated mechanism of healing given the right environment within which to do so. The naturopath’s role is therefore to support and facilitate the body’s natural ability to heal itself. Naturopaths take into account the emotional, psychological, spiritual, genetic, and environmental factors that are influencing each persons' health in general, but also as they may pertain to any imbalance experienced.
Unlike orthodox medicine, which focuses primarily on symptomatic treatment, naturopathic medicine looks to address the root cause of imbalance with a range of natural therapies to optimise function and support a return to wellbeing. This is akin to the principles now adopted by those interested in functional medicine - meaning a clinical naturopath understands that even in the absence of disease, a person can be unwell due to a functional disturbance that can be corrected, therefore leading to a return to optimal wellbeing. As such, many clinical naturopaths use functional laboratory testing as required to investigate some of the causes of a persons 'unwellness'; though this is certainly not required in all cases.
Naturopathy for optimal wellbeing
For those in generally good health, but who feel they could be more energetic, manage the pressures of a busy life better, or who would simply like a regular 'check-up'; a complete naturopathic health assessment can help identify areas that could be improved upon; energy levels can be further optimised and/or wellbeing strategies can be discussed so you can enjoy vitality and healthy ageing along your life path.