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Find a local naturopath

    What is naturopathy?

    The layman’s guide to the wellbeing practice

    Hannah | Oneflare

    It seems that every few months we are faced with another confusing term in the healthcare world. We are promised that this new term is going to revolutionise the way we live our lives, our bodies, our health, and our entire wellbeing. It can be confusing, but once you break these terms down and look into what they are, and what they involve, you can easily determine whether or not this is an option for you.

    The latest term that you might have heard is something called ‘naturopathy.’ If you’re confused by what naturopathy is, then this guide is going to answer all your questions.

    Source: Natural Harmony Traditional Chinese Medicine

    What is naturopathy?

    Naturopathy is a form of medicine that makes use of natural healing methods, such as herbs, exercise, diet, nutrition, massage, and acupuncture, to encourage the body to turn negatives into positives and actually heal itself from within. This means that you can avoid using harsh medications in certain situations, and keep everything as natural as possible.

    This medicinal method has been around for the last couple of centuries, and actually originated in Germany. The difference between individual methods and naturopathy as a whole is that it makes use of both nature and modern science, to heal the body in the most non-invasive, and natural way possible.

    For many people, keeping everything natural is a must. Not everyone looks for a prescription when an illness kicks in, and not everyone reaches for the painkillers when an ache or pain arises. Of course, there are some situations where only medications should be considered and for that reason, we need to give a warning about naturopathy before we get into any more detail. Before you try naturopathy, always consult your doctor. If you are taking any current medications, or you have any medical issues, this is even more important.

    Okay, warning over, let’s talk in more detail about what naturopathy is, what it does, and how it is used.

    What’s the idea behind naturopathy?

    Naturopathy focuses on the person as an entire whole, not just on the particular malady or illness they are suffering from. For instance, if you’re getting headaches a lot (obviously check these out with your doctor first), then conventional medicine would focus on fixing the headaches only. On the other hand, naturopathy focuses on the person entirely, their mind, their body, their soul, and their spirit. The idea is that by fixing problems in the entire body, you can get to the root of the matter at hand.

    A doctor who specialises in naturopathy will take his or her time getting to the root of the matter, so don’t be surprised if you’re not only asked questions, but you go through a total examination; full of questions about every part of your body and lifestyle. You might even have a few blood tests done. This isn’t a regular appointment, the type you might be used to at your doctor’s office, and will take considerably longer.

    Once everything has been identified, a naturopathy plan is put into place, that will cover several different aspects of your life and health. You are given a lifestyle plan, e.g. how much sleep you need, how to lower your stress levels, an exercise schedule, and you will receive detailed instructions on what you should be eating. The idea is that by focusing on your entire being, you can improve your wellbeing from within. You cannot fight illness and problems while running on empty, and by boosting your overall immunity and strength, you have a better chance of solving the problem.

    In addition to this, you may be advised to have holistic therapies as part of your plan. These can include homeopathy, herbal remedies, massage, sensory touch, acupressure or acupuncture, to name just a few. Your program will be comprehensive.

    The professionals who practice naturopathy include:

    • Naturopathic doctors or physicians: These are the highest level of naturopathy professionals. You may also find naturopaths in doctor’s surgeries and hospitals, who have trained in naturopathy as a side specialism as part of their regular practice
    • Traditional naturopathic practitioners: There is generally little regulation of these types of practitioners, so it’s vital to be diligent before opting for a traditional type of naturopath
    Source: Sarah Jane Cleland

    Common naturopathic practices

    We’ve already covered a few examples of the practices that are included in the naturopathic umbrella, but let’s go into a bit more detail, to help with overall understanding. The main practices include:

    Diet and lifestyle adjustments 

    This can include looking at the amount of sugar or salt in someone’s diet, the types of foods they’re eating, the amount of fat, and advising as a result, e.g. less fat, fewer carbs, etc. This can also be a detox, but this should be done with caution as certain detoxes can be dangerous for certain people, e.g. those with underlying conditions. Lifestyle changes can be about at the amount of sleep someone is getting, advice to stop smoking, reduce alcohol consumption, and cutting down on stress, via relaxation techniques. It can also be linked to exercise. This part of naturopathy is generally successful because any changes to lifestyle or diet are positive.

    Vitamins and supplements

    Always check with your doctor before taking any supplements, due to interactions with medications already being taken. The various supplements could be vitamins, minerals, or specialist men’s or women’s probiotics, which have been shown to be useful in gut health and immune function.

    Herbal remedies 

    Various herbs can be added into diet and lifestyle, but it entirely depends on the herb and the person as to whether they are super effective or not.

    Homeopathy remedies 

    This alternative method has been used over the years in various conditions, but there is a distinct lack of evidence into whether it works in the mainstream. In naturopathy, however, homeopathy is often used in conjunction with other methods.

    Spinal adjustments and manipulation 

    A little like chiropractic methods, adjustments to the various parts of the spine can be effective for reducing chronic pain conditions, and can also be useful with those who have regular lower back pain or neck pain.


    Often used on various conditions, especially for pain issues and for regular nausea, acupuncture is used in naturopathy, alongside other methods, including acupressure, which doesn’t involve needles, and instead requires pressure on certain points of the body.

    All these methods are used in conjunction with general lifestyle advice and wellness, to treat the mind, body, soul, and spirit as a whole.

    Does naturopathy work?

    This is the crux of the matter. Many people are skeptical of whether naturopathy actually works because unlike conventional medicine, it is difficult to measure. Perhaps the jury will always be out, but there have been many studies, which have suggested that naturopathy is useful in a variety of conditions. The most common conditions which naturopathy is used for include:

    • Headaches, with some suggestions that naturopathy may help with migraines
    • Allergy problems
    • Chronic pain conditions
    • Gut health and digestive issues – often suggested being used alongside high-quality probiotic supplements, or by upping the amount of probiotic content in your diet
    • Fertility problems in both men and women
    • Chronic fatigue syndrome
    • Weight issues, especially those who are obese
    • Problems with hormonal imbalances. A study showed that naturopathy might help with menopausal symptoms
    • Studies have shown that naturopathy may, in some cases, help with the side effects of chemotherapy

    Research carried out in 2008 suggested that naturopathic care may be useful in treating lower back pain, while also being a low-cost option for healthcare providers in general. The problem is that many people choose to go to traditional naturopaths, rather than licensed ones, so you can never be too sure of the effectiveness, or indeed, the safety.

    This has led many authorities to conduct studies and give warnings to the public about who they opt to see for their naturopathic requirements. Despite that, studies are always ongoing into how effective and useful naturopathy is, showing some very encouraging results towards the positive.

    How to find an accredited & professional naturopath

    To receive the best possible care, you need to ensure that the professional you choose is not only trained to the highest standards but also that they are registered with the correct bodies.

    We mentioned earlier that naturopaths are either trained, i.e. they have received a degree in naturopathic medicine, or they are traditional. Some traditional naturopaths are trained, but many aren’t. The best way to find someone who knows exactly what they are doing, due to the necessary experience and qualifications, is to do your research and check that they are not only qualified, but how long they have been practising, and what bodies they are registered with.

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    Warnings related to naturopathy

    There are some situations in which naturopathy may not be useful, and in which it may actually be damaging. As we mentioned before, talking to your doctor before consulting with a naturopath is vital. The following are situations in which you should heed warnings:

    • Medication interactions – If you are taking regular medications, certain supplements, such as vitamins and herbs, may interact with those medications and cause them to either not work correctly, or become dangerous.
    • One method of naturopathy is to use manipulative adjustments on your spine by applying pressure. This is fine for most people, but can on rare occasions cause damage to the discs in your spine, bones, arteries, or nerves.
    • Certain nutritional diets, such as detoxing, can mean that you are not receiving the vital nutrients your body needs. Some people can deal with this for very short periods of time, but if you have any underlying conditions, e.g. diabetes, then you could be putting yourself in danger.

    Many scientists and researchers remain tentative about whether naturopathy is effective or not, as many studies are not completely conclusive.

    What we do know is that the individual methods themselves all have advantages and disadvantages. It is only through a very thorough treatment plan, and history taking/examination, can these be weighed up against the possible downsides or interactions.

    Wrap up

    Perhaps the thing to take away from learning about naturopathy is that it really teaches us to look after ourselves as a whole. Illness is never just about one particular part of the body because our bodies are complete, they are whole. By looking after your body, i.e. diet, stress, and lifestyle issues, then you can often cut your chances of certain illnesses from the get-go.

    This is what naturopathy teaches us. The methods which are used in naturopathic plans are somewhat contentious for some professionals, but massage has many benefits, as does acupressure and acupuncture. Perhaps it’s about learning which one works for you, and incorporating it into your lifestyle overall.

    The single thing to take away is that you should always consult your doctor before opting for anything new, and you should always choose an accredited, licensed, or qualified naturopath, rather than those who may or may not have any formal training or experience in treating patients before.

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