How can naturopathy nourish your soul?
Naturopathy is a holistic approach to healthcare which involves using natural practices such as herbal medicine and a healthy lifestyle to support the body’s natural self-healing qualities. One major focus of naturopathy is preventative medicine: naturopaths seek to identify and treat the root causes of health problems before they result in serious illness. By supporting optimal wellness and internal balance, naturopaths intend to strengthen the ability of the immune system to resist infection and disease.
Naturopathy is not a regulated profession in Australia, so it is legal for someone to call themselves a naturopath without proving they have obtained comprehensive education in the field. This can potentially lead to poor health outcomes for people who receive naturopathic advice from practitioners with inadequate training.
To ensure you are receiving the best possible naturopathic care, check that your practitioner is registered with an association such as the Australian Register of Naturopaths and Herbalists (ARONAH). The standards for registration with ARONAH have been designed to mirror the government requirements for regulated professions set out by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA).
In Australia today, many naturopaths incorporate evidence-based health science as part of their practice, and reputable naturopaths clearly communicate that they are not qualified to diagnose disease. The Naturopathic Practitioners Association of Australia explicitly states that naturopaths “work alongside” medical doctors with the aim of ensuring the best possible “patient-centred” health outcomes.
Benefits of naturopathy
The results of a scoping study completed by Southern Cross University suggest that naturopathic medicine may provide significant benefits for a range of chronic health problems. The study identified conditions ranging from asthma and cardiovascular problems to menopausal symptoms and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) that could possibly be effectively treated with the “whole-system, multi-modality” approach of naturopathy.
The greatest general benefit of naturopathy is that it promotes a whole-person perspective of health and emphasises a proactive approach to minimising the risk of preventable conditions. Many people turn to holistic forms of traditional and complementary medicine such as naturopathy for relief from health problems that conventional medicine has been unsuccessful in treating.
Naturopaths may recommend natural remedies ranging from nutritional supplements to flower essences, which may not have the potential risks and side-effects associated with pharmaceutical medication. Naturopaths can also provide education about whole-body wellness, intended to offer benefits including digestive health, improved fertility and a reduction in stress and anxiety.
Naturopathy may assist in relieving symptoms related to:
- Arthritis, rheumatism and osteoarthritis
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- Cholesterol imbalance
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
- Cold sores and herpes
- Colds and flu
- Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
- Energy and vitality
- Fatigue, burnout and exhaustion
- Food allergies and intolerances
- Hay fever/rhinitis
- Headaches and migraines
- Heart conditions and heart attack
- Hormonal issues
- IBS and bowel disorders
- Insomnia and sleep disorders
- Jaw, teeth and gum issues
- Menopause and hot flushes
- Motion and travel sickness
- Pain relief
- Panic attacks
- PMT/PMS and menstrual issues
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Pregnancy, birth and antenatal support
- Stomach/gastric ulcers
- Stress and tension
- Tennis elbow and repetitive strain injury (RSI)
- UTI and urinary conditions
- Weight control and obesity
What to expect from a naturopathy session
During your first visit, your naturopath will ask you about your medical history, lifestyle, diet, and any health concerns such as food intolerances or chronic conditions. Your practitioner will perform a thorough health assessment, which may include tests of blood glucose and cholesterol levels, heart rate and blood pressure. You may also receive a body composition analysis, saliva and urine testing, and a sample of your hair might be analysed for toxins and possible clues to nutritional imbalances. Some naturopaths also examine the iris of your eye as a diagnostic procedure.
On the basis of your test results and interview, your naturopath will discuss a treatment plan with you that may involve a number of different modalities. These might include adjustments to your diet and/or lifestyle, and the prescription of herbal medicines or nutritional supplements. Some naturopaths may also recommend treatments such as hydrotherapy, kinesiology or massage.
If your condition is out of scope for naturopathic treatment, or your practitioner suspects you may require conventional medical treatment, all reputable naturopaths will refer you to a GP or other health specialist as required. Naturopathy is not intended as a substitute for conventional medicine, and you should be wary of any practitioner who suggests that you abandon a prescribed course of medical treatment in favour of naturopathy.
Some naturopathic practices, such as fasting, are not suitable for everyone, so please consult your medical professional before commencing naturopathy. If you have an injury or other health issue, or any concerns at all, also speak to your naturopath, who will be happy to address these and advise you whether naturopathy is a suitable modality for you.