A naturopath is a health professional who understands the connections between lifestyle, diet, genetic, environmental, mental, emotional and spiritual influences on the wellbeing of a person. Therefore, a naturopath will take a holistic approach to health rather than see body parts as isolated from the rest of the body and its functioning. Health also needs to be understood in the context of one’s surroundings such as environment, and family and social interactions.
In practice, a naturopath will endeavour to find out as much as possible about a person so that the practitioner can make links between those influences and the person’s current state of health. The insight gained from this information will help determine what advice and/or therapies or remedies may be needed for each person at that particular point in life. The emphasis is first and foremost on prevention – retaining health is always so much easier than regaining it.
Why see a naturopath?
We live in the ‘information age’. The media, internet, books and other sources of information are readily available to most people. Therefore, when the body wants attention by producing specific symptoms information about this is already available from doctors, the health food store or pharmacy, the media or the internet.
There is one thing, though, that not even the internet can supply: individualised treatment. There are many people who have been given the same diagnosis, but none will have the same life with all its past history, genetic make-up, life events, habits etc. Each person is unique, and therefore any approach to restore health needs to be tailored to one’s particular needs. Naturopaths are uniquely equipped for this by searching for imbalances regarding how the body functions metabolically (the chemical reactions that are taking place in the body), what other influencing factors play a role, and attempting to correct those – ideally before there are outward signs and symptoms of disease and before organs are irreparably damaged.
The role of the naturopath
A naturopath will advise on any condition that is not life-threatening, that is one that does not constitute a medical emergency. Most people visit a naturopath for chronic complaints, although common acute problems such as a cold, flu, or digestive upset can also be helped quite successfully by natural means.
Naturopaths will aslo educate the patient in the best way to maintain health without the need for a professional. Lifestyle and nutritional advice are generally provided as modern day health problems are usually related to lifestyle factors (including diet, personal stresses, work and environmental situations) that are not conducive to maintaining or regaining health.
There are times, however, where good nutrition is not enough to regain health, as is the case in nutrient depletion with stress, toxic overload or in certain illnesses. Therefore, naturopathic recoomentations often include nutritional supplements and herbs to address the specific health problems the patient presents with. Other therapies or remedies may be chosen as the naturopath sees the need for them. Treatments provided usually have three goals in mind:
- the short-term goal is to alleviate any distressing symptoms such as pain or inflammation,
- the intermediate goal is to address the cause of the problem, and
- the long-term goal is to underpin factors such as constitutional weaknesses and lifestyle habits to minimise the chances of the problem returning.