What is Naturopathy?


Understanding Naturopathy

Naturopathy is an 'umbrella' therapy, encompassing modalities such as Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Iridology, Flower Essences, Aromatherapy, and Homeopathy. It is science and evidence based, but it does also use some older philosophies that have been around for thousands of years.

It takes a "holistic" approach, which means it considers each different aspect of the patient's health and how it may affect or interact with a particular health issue. This includes looking at health history, family health history, emotional issues, diet, lifestyle and any other area that is of concern to the client.

Naturopaths liaise with many other practitioners where needed for the client, including General Practitioners, Chiropractors, Dermatologists, Oncologists - you name it. While Naturopathy can provide assistance with most health complaints, a Naturopath must refer on when the situation calls for it for the benefit of the patient. For example, if the health complaint is outside of the scope of the Naturopath, or if the Naturopath feels as though another therapy may do the patient more benefit, either in conjunction with or instead of Naturopathy.

The great thing about Naturopathy... it acknowledges that every person is different! Say ten different people come down with the same illness. Chances are their symptoms will vary slightly, depending on how stressed they are, run down, and lacking in nutrients, etc. Even if they generally share the same symptoms, the severity of each symptom is often rated differently from person to person. Naturopathy will look at each case individually, and customise health advice to that person. This way your money is well spent, as you are getting advice for YOU, not just advice that everyone with the same condition gets. There is no 'one size fits all' with Naturopathy. Just like we each have a unique fingerprint like no other human, we each react to illnesses differently to others.

What can Naturopathy do for you?

When were you last feeling your best? Naturopathy is aimed at bringing the patient's health (mental, physical and emotional) up to the highest possible quality. It can help people with both acute and chronic illnesses.

Naturopathy works best when the client is willing to commit to improving their health. A Naturopath can help a client decide on their own realistic health goals. The Naturopath is kind of like a 'negotiator' between what the client has to do, wants to do, and can do for the best of their health. Don't be afraid to let your Naturopath know if something isn't working for you. Another compromise will be talked about and reached. The beauty of Naturopathy is that there is not just one way - there are many alternatives!

Areas of the body that may benefit from the help of a Naturopath:

  • Digestive issues, including the liver
  • Immune system
  • Respiratory system
  • Muscles & bone health
  • Skin health
  • Urinary system health (including the kidneys)
  • Male and female fertility issues
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Endocrine system (to do with hormones, thyroid, and Diabetes)
  • Nervous system (including the brain, nerves and mental health).

People regularly come to see Naturopaths for help with:

  • Men's health
  • Women's health
  • Children's health, including behaviour disorders
  • Food sensitivities, allergies & intolerances
  • Recurrent colds, flu and other acute illnesses
  • Weight loss and/or body composition improvement
  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Digestive complaints
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Cystitis or UTI's
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension or heart disease
  • PMS, menopause, fertility & pregnancy
  • Eczema, psoriasis, or acne
  • Insomnia

Please note: Naturopaths do not "treat" all of these conditions solely - that is, they may also need to refer to another practitioner such as a G.P. or specialist, in fact, it is their duty of care to do this. However, the patient can still benefit from Naturopathy at the same time, and it is entirely up to the patient's preferences how or if they want this to occur.

Some myths about Naturotherapy

Many people in Australia have no idea what a Naturopath is, or perhaps only an impartial view of what Naturopathy is.

This is such a shame, because Naturopaths have so many ways they can improve health, sometimes even where pharmaceutical medicines or treatments cannot. A lot of Naturopathic remedies have been around for hundreds or even thousands of years, and people often forget or are unaware that a lot of pharmaceuticals today have derived from these traditional medicines.

MYTH NO.1 - Naturopathy is not popular:

eg. "I've never heard of Naturopathy. It can't have that many consumers!"

Quite the contrary. Despite the fact that Naturopaths aren’t currently regulated in Australia (hopefully this will change soon - the Australian Government has started to research the potential of this and how this would benefit so many more people), the numbers are quite phenomenal as to how many Australians see a Natural Therapist each year. This number is steadily growing too. People obviously must be getting satisfactory results!

MYTH NO.2 - Supplements, even when they are 'natural', can do no harm:

e.g. “I can buy supplements from my chemist / health food store / supermarket. They are natural anyway, so they can’t hurt me, right?”

WRONG. Any substance, whether it be ‘natural’ or otherwise, does have the potential to harm your health. It is best to seek the advice of a health professional who understands the true content of the supplements and the ways that they could endanger you.

MYTH NO.3 - Naturopathy has always been the same in Australia and hasn't changed.

e.g. “I tried a Naturopath once and it didn’t help”

  • Naturopathy has been in Australia for several decades, and has definitely made many advancements over this time as a health care modality. While Naturopaths generally all abide by the same general guidelines, we all have slightly different ways of delivering the details. People all have different preferences, and I always discuss this with clients to see what the best way is to help them.
  • Another thing to keep in mind is that no treatment works instantly. The time frame for potential improvement will vary, depending on the person, the health issue, the treatment, and to some degree, your commitment to making an improvement.
  • We are all different. One of the pillars of naturopathic practice is that no two people should be treated in the same way. I consider each client’s health situation with a clean slate. The approaches will be similar, but no two approaches are identical, since we all react differently to any health treatment.
  • If you have experienced a lack of improvement or (rarely) a side effect as a result of Naturopathic treatment, talk to your practitioner about it! How will they know to change your treatment otherwise? Sometimes this may include referring on to another practitioner. If they are reputable, they will have a suitable solution.
  • It is up to you how often you wish to consult with me. But generally, you will get the best out of a treatment if you attend around 6 - 8 consultations in the first year. Unless your particular health case is very complicated, you will usually have one initial consult, then a follow-up about 2-4 weeks later, then follow-up’s every 4-8 or so weeks later. After that, consultations are generally 6-12 monthly unless your situation changes, which may call for this to be increased or lessened accordingly.

MYTH NO.4 - Naturopaths are not trained and they are 'quacks'.

e.g. “Naturopaths are ‘witch doctors’”.

  • While I cannot speak for each and every practitioner, I can say this is generally not true. I personally have completed a Health Science degree in Complementary Medicine and an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy and studied chemistry, nutrition, herbal medicine, human anatomy and symptomatology among the many subjects in over five years. I only use therapies and treatments that are predominantly evidence based, which means they have been scientifically examined and tested. I am also fully insured.
  • I do not make claims that I can ‘cure’. As soon as you see any practitioner doing so, ask questions, as this is not allowed.
  • It is true that Naturopathy is not currently regulated in Australia, but this is likely to change in coming years as Government-level & association groups continue to discuss the benefits to health care it could bring Australians. At the moment, associations are regulating Natural Therapists. Any practitioner who is not a registered member of an association or practicing in their adequate capacity should be questioned.

MYTH NO.5 - Herbal medicine can't improve health.

  • Herbal medicine is a growing faculty of health science. Did you know many modern-day pharmaceuticals originated from herbs? ‘Herbs’ are somewhat ill-named, in my opinion, as they bring to mind plastic shakers containing dried out remains of something that used to be a plant. True herbal medicines are manufactured by only a select number of companies who go through a detailed process to ensure the highest quality and calibre of plants. While herbal supplementation does occur more and more widely among the public each year, proper herbal products and practitioners who deliver them ensure they meet a certain standard.
  • Herbal medicines are tested in clinical trials, and have scientific databases and health journals to document findings, much like pharmaceutical medicine.
  • Every person responds to herbs differently. Some take time to work, others show results quite quickly. We are all individuals.

MYTH NO.6 - Naturopaths and / or the recommendations are too expensive.

  • For many years before becoming a Naturopath, I was also a consumer of Naturopathy. I can assure you that even though I am a mobile practitioner, my prices sit in the average range among other similar practitioners. Also keep in mind that my services extend beyond the face-to-face I spend in consult with you – I often spend lots of additional time at my home office reviewing your health situation if symptoms change or information gets updated in between consults, free of charge. I do this so that you are getting quality advice. For a mobile practitioner who comes to you instead of the other way around, I feel my prices are reasonable. I also offer a student or pensioner discount to those applicable.
  • It's just like when you see a doctor or specialist (when sometimes fees can extend past several hundred dollars for a brief consult) - you make a commitment to improve your health. If you health issue is affecting your quality of life, isn't it worth doing something about it?

MYTH NO.7 - You don’t get any say in which supplements to take, and Naturopaths give you gross herbal medicine!

All of the treatment is discussed with you every step of the way. Once your consultation is complete, I will ask you what your primary health goals are, or the areas for improvement. I use a ‘patient-centred approach’, which means it is all about your needs and wants. Don’t like liquid herbal medicine? Not a problem, let’s discuss it and try something else instead!

MYTH NO.8 - Naturopaths make you go on a diet and you can’t eat any of the things you like!

Not true at all! Often my recommendations to a client will include some diet changes, and sometimes there are restrictions, but these are always discussed in depth, and always include a small amount of reward. While I prefer the term ‘healthy eating plan’ to ‘diet’, it is always tailored to the client. I always include a small allowance in each eating plan for indulgences wherever possible.

MYTH NO.9 - I am suffering from a chronic condition (cancer / asthma / muscular pain / mental health issues / skin issues / reproductive issues) and a Naturopath can’t help me.

  • As part of a strict code of conduct, there are certain serious conditions that a Naturopath cannot treat. If any Naturopath claims they can ‘treat’ you for a serious condition, be critical, as this is not generally ethical practice.
  • However, Naturopaths can help or prescribe complementary treatments that are carried out with your medication and / or other treatment, perhaps if you are seeing a doctor or specialist. The main thing with this is that I will liaise with your doctor or other practitioner/s along the way to keep them up to date with your treatment.

MYTH NO.10 - I am taking medications and a Naturopath can’t help me.

  • This is another reason why it’s so important to check if your practitioner is legitimate, as there are many instances that natural supplements could interact with your medications and cause harm.
  • However, if you are seeing a quality practitioner, they will be aware of these potential issues and know what to recommend to avoid harm. There are often safe alternatives that can be prescribed safely with medications, but your Naturopath must check with your G.P. and other practitioner/s.

MYTH NO.11 - I am seeing a specialist / GP and can’t see a Naturopath at the same time / a Naturopath can’t help me.

  • Please see above.
  • Also keep in mind that since the promotion of healthy eating is a large part of my practice, this can usually be practised safely done with any other treatment.

MYTH NO.12 - I am taking medications and am worried that if I see a Naturopath they will tell me to stop them.

  • No way! This would be very dangerous, and no worthy practitioner would ever tell you to stop your medication.
  • However, there are treatments we may recommend that can safely be prescribed with your medications. These will be communicated to your doctor as necessary.

MYTH NO.13 - I have tried all the options with doctors and specialists with little improvement. Therefore I don’t feel a Naturopath can help me.

  • There are some chronic conditions that respond better to Naturopathy treatments than to medications or medical treatments. One obvious example is nutritional advice.
  • Unlike me, Doctors don’t generally study nutrition (at least in depth). I am a good place to start if this is the kind of advice you are after. Especially if you are looking to loose weight. A doctor will rarely have the time to sit down and go over your diet meal by meal and analyse which nutrients you are missing, where you might be able to improve, etc.

MYTH NO.14 - Naturopathy is not safe.

e.g. "I have heard about the dangers of Natural Therapies in the media. How do I know if my practitioner is legitimate?"

  • What profession hasn’t the media ‘exposed’ in the past, for its so-called ‘scandal’.
  • In every profession, there are a small portion of individuals who are unethical. Naturopathy is no exception. However, a lot of people are often surprised to find that the reported cases of harm caused by a Natural Therapist are quite minimal compared to reported cases of harm by a medical practitioner.
  • Make sure any health care professional you see is registered with an association, holds qualifications with a reputable college or university, and has current insurance.