Do we have to choose? Modern medicine and Naturopathy.

This is a HUGE favourite topic of mine to talk about! The amazingly beneficial relationship that can co-exist between modern medicine and natural, preventative medicine.

For a long time I have been fascinated with shows on TV such as "RPA", or lately the ABC favourite "Keeping Australia Alive". These shows look at the frontline of our medical system and I am in awe of the incredible skills and dedication these health providers have to help save lives everyday. It is completely undeniable to me that we need modern medicine... it has helped our species stay alive for so much longer than we could have expected and provides pain management and specialized life saving skills. Broken bone? Go to ER. Life threatening case of pneumonia? Go to ER. Car accident? Snake bite? Emergency C-section because your baby has the cord wrapped around his neck? Cancer diagnosis? The list goes on.

It is so important though to understand why I am so passionate about both models of healthcare. Because they are each completely DIFFERENT and thus should be appreciated in different ways. This is where I come to one of my sayings "we can have the best of both worlds". Natural and preventative medicine does not have ALL the answers. And neither does modern Western medicine! (will we ever even have all the answers?)

Think about naturopathic medicine as bringing about overall body wellness - we increase and promote resistance. We support the body, mind and spirit. We increase resilience through advising on proper nutrition, nurturing the emotional beliefs, and bringing about strength and empowerment to the individual so that they are able to overcome adversity - both emotional and physical, because in our line of thinking it is all connected. We identify nutritional deficiencies and look at the root cause of illness. We look at the person who has the disease, not the disease the person has. We work to prevent common illness from even developing in the first place.

Western medicine has diagnostics. They have the life-saving options such as dialysis machines, and surgeons who can operate on brain tumours or perform open heart surgery after cardiac failure. They have trained paramedics who attend car accidents and keep people breathing before they will arrive at the ER. They have medications that can sometimes mean prolonging life for certain individuals, or making life more easier for them due to certain conditions.

Keep in mind in line that YES; with my values there are many modern medical practices that don't join up with my naturopathic beliefs. The oral contraceptive pill to "treat" heavy periods or female reproductive system disorders for example. Pharmaceutical companies as multi-billion dollar companies and the selling of their products to GP's and "poly-pharmacy"; where patients are often prescribed medications to stop side effects of their previous medication without being offered lifestyle or dietary advice. Bowel conditions being diagnosed as "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" without proper GI and stool analysis, and anti-depressant medication being prescribed easily without any referrals to counselors or psychologists and without proper supervision or follow up.

BUT... this is where you can see natural medicine has it's benefits. We have so many options to help manage female reproductive disorders. Food intolerance's and GI dysbiosis can be helped immensely with naturopathic treatments. Research shows depression can stem from different aspects such as diet deficiencies or gene poly-morphism's rather than from chemical imbalances which is what anti-depressants treat. But I don't believe I can throw the entire Western medical model into one basket just because there are some elements I don't necessarily agree with? Which could be said exactly the same for those who believe natural preventative medicine doesn't have a place in society. They may not believe in detoxes, or juice fasting, or herbal remedies. But they do believe in the power of emotional well-being, proper exercise and a nutritional diet in being well. Should the entire naturopathic profession be thrown into one basket because of this? Of course not. Life isn't that simplistic, it never is.

I suppose I'm here to tell you you I don't believe we need to CHOOSE A SIDE. You don't need to feel like you are a fraud if you like both options of heath care. I certainly don't, even by working in the profession I do! I certainly believe naturopathy can offer so much more than people sometimes give it credit for, but I've never been a "black and white" choice kind of person. I prefer to weigh up all the options and choose what's best for me - which is exactly what I'd love my clients to be able to do. Pick and choose from each of us to obtain the best possible care!

You don't need to come and see me and feel like you need to tell me you hate taking medications because "naturopath's are against Western medicine". It is not my job (or my scope) to judge you or advise you to stop taking medications. My scope of practice is to ensure you are aware of any side effects and to ensure that any herbal remedies or nutritional supplements I prescribe will not have any contraindications with the medications you are taking. It is well out of my scope to advise you stop any medications, I instead will try to ensure you have explored all available options, and I will outline other options if I believe they are in your best interest, and if unsure request you re-visit your GP to re-evaluate.

There are no judgement's at Luonto Health... I am here to accommodate you and educate you, not push my own belief's onto you. Whether you are taking daily medication for epilepsy because it is the only thing that stops you having 5 seizures per day, to whether you have realised you have tried everything under the sun to conceive a baby but now need fertility treatments and want dietary and emotional support to help you through. To someone who chooses never to take any type of pharmaceutical medication at all, to those that have been on blood pressure lowering medication for 10 years. For those who are undergoing cancer treatment but want to also eat nutritionally well and help keep their immune system and emotions in balance. Naturopathy can assist you. As can Western medicine. We don't need to take sides.

So what is Naturopathy?

Welcome to my very first post! I’m Shan, and I’m a Port Hedland based naturopath and western herbalist with a huge passion for helping people understand and trust their own bodies. You can find out more about me here.

So it’s always the case that when a client walks in to my clinic room that I ask whether they have seen a naturopath or natural medicine practitioner before. Most people have a general idea of what it is exactly we do, others have seen naturopath's their entire life! Some have just come to see us because we are their last resort at finding relief for whichever health issue has been plaguing them for years. So if they haven’t – what do they know about us?

Are we all left-wing hippies who hug trees and speak in riddles to flowers and plants?

Some of us are!

 Do we live a perfectly healthy life with organic, home-grown veggies and grass-fed meat and eat eggs that our own chooks have laid that morning?

We try our best but it’s not always the case!

 Are we all “anti-big Pharma”, and hate on GP’s and modern medicine?

Not necessarily! Many naturopath's understand the importance and need for modern medicine and embrace it with open arms, finding great understanding and joy in its advancements. Others may prefer to solely base their treatments on traditional practices and knowledge. So in terms of the type of naturopath you would like to work with, it really also depends on you and what resounds with your personal beliefs surrounding health care. It is important to know however that naturopath's study pharmacology, biology, anatomy & physiology as well as chemistry units. Much of our education is evidence based science! Herbs and nutrients are utilized based on a combination of traditional use and scientifically studied use.

 Me personally – I have the utmost respect for modern medicine and what it can do for health. In many situations using medications and following medical advice is the choice between life and death. Never will I advise a client to disregard what their medical professional advises. My real concern is the overuse of medications when many health issues can be diminished with proper nutrition, exercise, meaningful relationships and dealing with emotional hurts which linger in our sub-conscious, and can’t be “fixed” by medications.

 So back to what it is we do! Basically I explain naturopathy as a type of health care model. If you look at modern medicine it can be looked at as a “sickness” and “symptoms” based approach. What are your symptoms? Where does it hurt? And what can we give you to get rid of those symptoms so you feel better again? Naturopathy falls more under a “health” based approach. It is a health care system based on thousands of years of Eastern medicine that models itself more on prevention of illness and restoring the body to optimal health through nutrition and healthy living practices. This then means there is often no reason for there to be any symptoms at all – because everything is fine-tuned and working well!

It is holistic – which means rather than look at the body as separate, mechanical parts as Western medicine can do – we look at the entire body and how all of the physical systems and mind work interactively with each other. This includes how your stress levels may be affecting your health, what you are eating, what type of work you do, and the type of people you surround yourself with.

An example of this is a woman reporting menstrual pain and irregular cycles. Modern medicine may see the symptom and give medication to “fix” it – i.e.: the oral contraceptive pill, or fertility medications such as Clomid if the woman wishes to conceive. Whilst this will fix the symptom – it doesn’t usually fix the problem. As soon as the medication is stopped, the symptoms can return – more often than not worse than when they began. Naturopathy would instead look to why there is pain and irregularity… Is there so much stress in that woman’s life that her stress hormones (cortisol/adrenaline) are affecting her reproductive hormones (oestrogen/progesterone) and causing the imbalance? Is her diet deficient in certain nutrients such as essential fatty acids, or fat soluble vitamins A, D, E & K – all of which are essential to make healthy hormones? Or does she have an underlying thyroid condition which is affecting her Ovarian Adrenal Thyroid (OAT) Axis and thus producing irregular periods?

Naturopaths look to the “root cause” of why you are experiencing certain symptoms. We then work with you to restore the balance within your body with nutritional advice, herbal remedies, lifestyle advice, and emotional balancing. We will also often look at what environmental triggers may be affecting your condition and suggest alternatives - items such as personal hygiene products you are using, as well as home cleaning products, or whether you sleep with our phone next to your head, or have wifi throughout your house. Referrals are also often made to other practitioners – such as chiropractors, personal trainers, and massage therapists.

It is important for me to mention here that Naturopathy is not a quick-fix option… It is entirely based around a change of lifestyle which supports your health and helps you to be the healthiest you can be. Whilst we have many excellent herbal remedies at our disposal that produce incredibly healing results sometimes quite quickly, there is no magic pill in natural medicine. You become well by taking responsibility for your health and making the changes we recommend over time.

"Expecting a naturopath to heal you on your first visit is like expecting a flower to bloom the day after you planted the seed. It took time to cultivate disease so it takes time to harvest the cure - Jennifer Sierzant"

Thanks so much for reading! As always, if you have a question – just ask. You can also look here to see what is included in a naturopathic consultation with myself. And be sure to look out for my next blog post – “Misconceptions around naturopathy”.

Yours in good health, Shan x