Naturopathy: A holistic way to improve your health.
What is good health and why is it important?
Have you ever asked yourself what is health? The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity".
Many people pay little attention to their health and well-being until something goes wrong. For example, they get sick, have aches and pains or feel unwell. The human body is like a high performance car. It needs regular maintenance and care in order to maintain peak performance and to last the distance. Our cars play an important part in maintaining our quality of life and we generally take good care of them. We take them in for regular servicing, add the right fuel, check the water and oil levels, check the tire pressure, etc. Everyone knows that to get the best performance and life out of their car they need to spend some time, effort and money. No one would dare use the wrong fuel or oil in their cars. Unfortunately, many of us don't do the same for ourselves. Doesn't the vehicle that transports us through life deserve the same? Just like our cars, if we want to maintain peak performance and to last the distance we need to make an investment in ourselves.
Ask yourself these questions:
What impact would poor health have on my quality of life?
Would poor health affect my ability to work and earn a living?
Will it impact on my ability to do the things I want to do with my life?
Would I feel happy if I constantly felt unwell or restricted by my health state?
How much is my health really worth?
Maintaining wellness and good health is a lifelong, daily commitment.
"Take care of your body. It's the only place you have to live"
What is naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a distinct holistic healthcare modality which aims to address the underlying cause of ill health and focuses on the prevention of illness. It is distinguished by the principles upon which its practice is based and are continually re-examined in light of scientific advances. The techniques used by a well trained Naturopath include modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.
A naturopathic consultation and treatment is holistic in its approach taking into account the whole person including emotional, mental, spiritual, physical and environmental factors. It aims to promote well-being through the whole person, rather than providing only symptomatic relief. Symptoms are your body telling you that there is something not right and it is not in balance. For example, you may be feeling tired and lethargic on a daily basis and use caffeine to give you a lift in the morning (treating the symptom), but this is not addressing the underlying cause which could be attributed to poor sleep quality, poor dietary choices, lack of exercise or even not enough water intake (dehydration), for example.
Naturopathic treatments may incorporate diet and lifestyle modifications, herbal medicines, high quality nutritional supplements, flower essence therapy and homeopathic remedies. A referral and collaboration with other health professionals may also be required. In many cases, a person may already be receiving conventional treatment for their condition. Many of these treatments are invaluable in helping to manage a person's health condition. Naturopathy can assist by helping the body’s capacity to heal and to reduce unwanted side-effects from drug therapy or from drug withdrawal.
What are the underlying principles of Naturopathy?
A well trained Naturopath is guided by the following principles:
First, do no harm: a naturopathic treatment plan utilises therapies that are gentle, non-invasive, effective and minimise the risk of harmful side effects and interactions.
Identify and treat the cause: the emphasis is to identify and remove the underlying causes of ill health, rather than suppressing symptoms. Symptoms are an external manifestation of an internal imbalance due to many factors. Symptom management can be important, but it is of utmost importance to address the underlying cause(s) for long term resolution.
Heal the whole person through individualised treatments: a naturopathic treatment protocol is customised by understanding the unique factors contributing to the individual’s health state. It is the individual that is in need of treatment, not the symptom or disease state.
Support the healing power of the body: by recognising and removing obstacles that may be hindering the body’s self-healing processes. For example, there may be certain foods or lifestyle factors that are hindering the body's ability to heal itself.
Teach the principles of healthy living: by sharing knowledge, empowering and motivating the individual to be responsible for his or her own health and well-being. Health is not something you "purchase" like a commodity. Good health and well-being is something the individual nurtures for themselves by the choices they make on a daily basis. Each time you do something or eat a particular food ask this question: Is what I'm about to do / eat contributing to good health or disease?
Prevention is the best medicine: by partnering with the individual and other healthcare practitioners to assess risk factors and recommend appropriate interventions to maintain good health and reduce the risks of future ill health. It is far easier and cheaper to prevent disease than to treat a disease. A naturopathic practitioner evaluates both subjective and objective information to uncover potential susceptibilities.
What should I expect from the initial appointment?
The initial appointment can take from 60 to 90 minutes. The client may be required to complete some paperwork before the visit to guide the Naturopath during the interview. Much of the initial appointment involves listening to the person’s story. In order to understand the context of a patient’s current state of health, a Naturopath recognises the importance of this process and provides the time and space necessary for the client to share their story.
Laboratory tests and other objective data, in combination with the individual’s subjective story, is utilised by the Naturopath to determine the most effective treatment plan. The treatment is tailored to the individual’s needs and actively engages the individual in his or her own health and well-being. Follow-up visits may be required to assess progress and to make any necessary adjustments. A follow-up visit would normally take about 30 minutes, but may take longer depending on the individual's circumstance.
How do I know if the practitioner I am seeing is qualified?
Naturopathy is currently an unregulated profession here in Australia. What this means is that anyone can claim to be a qualified "naturopath", even though they may not have the level of education and experience required to practice as a naturopath. For health and safety reasons, it is important that in this current unregulated environment to exercise due diligence. Before you book an appointment with a practitioner, ask the following questions:
Does the practitioner have any formal qualifications in the field? The current education standard is a Bachelor level degree requiring four years full-time study. Historically, the minimum was an Advanced Diploma requiring a minimum of three years study.
Is the practitioner a member of a professional association? To be a member of a professional association requires the practitioner to meet a minimum standard and therefore anyone who does not meet these standards cannot become a member. Current valid associations include: N.H.A.A, A.N.P.A., A.N.T.A., A.T.M.S., A.R.O.N.A.H and C.M.A.
Does the practitioner have professional indemnity insurance? In order to obtain P.I.I. a practitioner needs to meet certain requirements.
If you are uncertain then do not hesitate to ask the practitioner to provide evidence of their qualifications, current association membership and professional indemnity insurance cover. If needed, contact the relevant association for confirmation.