Naturopathic Doctors... Not Just Supplements

Naturopathic Doctors

Those of you who know me, know that I have mega experience (30+ years) as a physiotherapist and in health care industry. I have worked with Naturopathic Doctors (ND's) and have had lots of patients who have gone to ND's, and I was pretty sure I knew what they did...

I understood they viewed chronic disease as being strongly related to nutritional deficiencies. That they blamed poor food quality and used nutritional supplements to bump up the nutrition value of food. Patients would tell me that they had gone for an initial consult and come away with $100 to $200 dollars in supplements and then, they often couldn't see clear benefit. So... I felt this was often a frustrating disservice to patients. How is popping supplements all the time any better than popping medications?

Boy, was I wrong! Thanks to Dr. Laura Nurse, ND (our ND at Avalon Laser Health) and some compulsory reading for a chronic pain program we are developing (!), my eyes have been opened, and as I'm very excited by the insights!

First - I've learned there is a significant difference in training between "Naturotherapists" and "Naturopathic Doctors", although they often get lumped together into the term "naturopath". The medical training and insights used to create the treatment plans vary widely... and Naturopathic Doctors also find it frustrating when patients are put on many expensive and non-result producing pills regardless of whether it's a drug or vitamin.

Second - There are some exciting research developments happening in the use of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Gone are the days where there "wasn't enough research to prove they worked." The newest generation of ND's (I'm mean those who have graduated within the last 10 years) from regulated and accredited programs, approach much of their philosophy of treatment from this medical and nutritional research.

In particular, they are aligned with the growth of a branch of medicine called "functional medicine". Which has been touted as the next revolution in healthcare delivery aimed at treatment of chronic disease. A branch of medicine that has grown from the successful mapping of the human genome, reported with great acclaim in 2004. Which led to study and research into how we can improve the expression of our genetic material to produce health instead of chronic disease. As it turns out, what we expose our genes to is more important than what genes we get when we are born. Said differently - more important than the genetic material which comprises our genes, is the dietary, lifestyle, and environmental inputs on which genes function. Many, many inputs can influence this environment, from physical and mental stress to enzyme, hormonal, not the least of which is mineral and vitamin levels/deficiencies.

So yes, we're back to supplements again... but in a very targeted (and exciting) way. The purpose of supplementation is not so much to upgrade nutritional intake for nutrition's sake as it is to modulate the environment in which the gene functions. In this way, those with known genetic tendencies for diseases such as breast cancer, Parkinson's, and some dementias (including Alzheimer's), are able to delay or even prevent the onset of these diseases by changing the cellular environment in which the gene functions.

Where once it was believed that that we were doomed to life as forecast by our genes, research is showing that in many many cases, we get to change a grim future health forecast, and taylor our own health futures. WOW!

Even without being cursed by a defective gene, the factors which influence the environment in which genes operate can change the viability or quality of a gene over time. Given a the wrong diet and lifestyle, even a strong, robust gene inheritance can change into a more fragile one, vulnerable to the ravages of the so-called lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes or fibromyalgia, and many, any more. So the road goes both ways here.

Naturopathic doctors are often gut-focused/obsessed (it's true), but here is why... Our intestines are very long, approximately 8-10 meters when stretched out! Running right along side the length of our intestines is the majority of our immune system. So when ND's are trying to influence the cellular environment in which genes function, their best access is through the diet and the gut. A great many naturopathic interventions start with a detox, which allows the gut to settle into it's best function and provide direct access to the immune system.

Anyhow, that's all for today. If you'd like to explore treatment of your concerns with this kind of approach, reach out to us (and Dr. Laura) at the clinic. We'd be just delighted to help!

In health,
Estelle, PT.