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