What is Naturopathic Medicine and What are its Benefits for Psychological Wellness?

Naturopathic Medicine is the practice of applying natural remedies to stimulate your body to heal itself. It identifies your unique features and employs non-toxic natural therapies to promote wellness and restore your structural, psychological, and physiological balance. It combines modern science with traditional treatments. Naturopathic Medicine comprises of more than exercise, water and nutrition. It incorporates organic foods, a balanced lifestyle, and complementary medicine.

The fundamental ideology of Naturopathic Medicine is that your body is self-healing. Naturopathy views humanity as a holistic union of mind, body, and spirit. The ability of Naturopathy to apply natural healing methods is especially critical because stress, poor diets, environmental pollution, and modern technology contribute significantly to declining health. Naturopathic Medicine aims at providing personalized care to treat illness, improve health, and prevent disease.

Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Naturopaths train as general practitioners with a specialization in natural medicine. To earn your Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree, you will require at least eight years of training beyond secondary education. The application and admission process to accredited naturopathic medical schools matches that of gaining acceptance to conventional medical programs. After obtaining the prerequisites for application, you must undergo a rigorous interview process.

You must complete graduate-level education in conventional medical sciences like physiology, pathology, immunology, pharmacology, and microbiology. Other study areas are biochemistry, differential diagnosis, physical and clinical diagnosis, radiology, and laboratory diagnosis. You will then train extensively in natural therapeutics. These techniques include clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicines, hydrotherapy, exercise, manipulative therapies, and lifestyle counselling. Your training will also include clinical practice for at least 1500 hours in outpatient settings.

The entire North America region has seven recognized naturopathic medical schools. Two of the schools are in Canada. The government appoints the naturopathic medical regulatory boards, and they require you to pass exhaustive examinations before you obtain your practice license.

Modalities That Naturopathic Doctors Use

Naturopaths use a variety of modalities ranging from eliminating obstacles to health, providing your body with tools to rectify nutritional deficiencies, and using botanicals or homeopathy to attain balance. The most common techniques are:

· Nutritional Therapy

Also known as clinical nutrition, this approach uses food and nutritional supplements such as minerals, vitamins, and enzymes to stimulate healing and remedy deficiencies occurring due to dietary limitations. Food affects your body functions, just like medicines do. While some foods have healing properties, others cause chronic illness and damage your body.

A healthy diet is the most critical tool that your body needs to manage stress, prevent illness, and recover from diseases. The food must have a proper balance of minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals, enzymes, fatty acids, antioxidants, amino acids, and fiber. Nutrition therapy focuses on regulating and managing your nutritional requirements, metabolism, physiology, and food sensitivity to treat different diseases. Dietary supplements are individualized to achieve a specific preventive or therapeutic goal providing doses well above the required daily intake in order to achieve a pharmaceutical-like effect.

· Botanical Medicine

Botanical Medicine, also known as Herbal Medicine, is the application of different plants as therapeutic agents in the treatment and prevention of diseases. Herbs have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries due to their intricate chemical compositions and distinct phytochemicals. They contain therapeutic compounds such as phytoestrogens, coumarins, glycosides, bitters, flavonoids, saponins, isoflavones, and tannins.

Naturopaths use herbs from China, India, Europe, and the Americas to alleviate and prevent sickness. The herbs sustain your body with minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, enzymes, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. They also rid your body of toxins that can cause illness. Since herbs are natural medicines, they are accessible, relatively affordable, gentle, and highly absorbable into the body.

· Homeopathy

Homeopathy uses small dosages of natural elements that stimulate your body’s self-healing abilities. The theory behind these medicines is that if an element produces symptoms in healthy bodies, it can be diluted to treat similar symptoms. The substance can make your body aware of the problem and trigger your innate healing response.

Homeopathic medicines gently stimulate your immune system to rebalance your mind and body. The medicines relieve your symptoms by rectifying their root cause. The causes of illness are unique to you; therefore, your naturopathic doctor will evaluate the origin of your disease and prescribe the appropriate homeopathic remedy.

· Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

The forms of TCM include botanical medicine, acupuncture, lifestyle, and diet to balance your body’s energy. It is a comprehensive medical system that has, for thousands of years, detected, treated, and prevented disease. It leans on the belief that your body’s energy, QI, flows along specific pathways called meridians. The energy enters your body at conception and remains a vital element in your lifetime.

Health is when Qi flows uninhibited and harmoniously, while illness occurs when Qi is obstructed. When your Qi is unbalanced, your body cannot manage stress, making you vulnerable to chronic disease and pain. For Qi to flow harmoniously, you must balance the internal and external, cold and heat, and yin and yang (complementary opposites) to sustain emotional, physical, and mental health.

· Physical Medicine

In naturopathy, physicians apply bio-electrical therapies, therapeutic exercise, hydrotherapy, light therapy, ultrasound, and laser. They manipulate muscles, joints, bones, and soft tissue. It also involves orthopedic assessments, injection therapies, and spinal adjustments to manage pain and address musculoskeletal problems. The treatments help to reduce pain, improve muscle and joint function, and general healing. Physical medicine restores the structural soundness of your joints, soft tissue, and skeletal system. It also builds your immunity to support detoxification and healing.

· Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy applies the healing properties in water to build and sustain your health through steam baths, foot soaks, and cold and hot presses. Cold water contracts blood vessels while hot water expands them. The temperature change increases blood flow and enhances circulation. The improved circulation releases white blood cells into your circulation system to boost your immunity, minimize obstruction, and promote the expulsion of toxins from your body. Hydrotherapy is useful in relaxation and stress reduction.

· Lifestyle Counseling

Lifestyle counselling involves various tools and training to support you in your goals for healing and wellness. A trust-based relationship with your doctor will help you address mental or emotional issues, integrate the body-mind interrelation, and help support your health goals. To obtain the best outcomes from naturopathic medicine, you must understand and apply the principles of a healthy lifestyle. Your naturopathic doctor will help you identify and change the habits that promote ill-health and maintain wellness into the future.

The Holistic Approach to Wellness

Holistic wellness or healing is an approach that considers the health of your whole person - mind, body, spirit, and emotions. If you have physical pain, your mind, emotions, and spirit will also suffer. Holistic medicine primarily aims at gaining the right balance in life to achieve optimal health. It focuses on your uniqueness to get a customized solution for your health goals, to relieve pain or restore balance.

Holistic health relies on the idea that your emotional, spiritual, social, environmental, and physical states are interrelated. The goal is to manage all these aspects together and treat you as a whole. Medical practitioners who advocate for holistic care believe that evaluating your health should be continuous and not only when you feel sick. Holistic treatment is more than managing symptoms. It involves training you on nutrition, relationship counselling, lifestyle choices, and mental health.

Instead of focusing on the specific body parts that are sick, holistic health considers your emotional nurture, physical fitness, spiritual nourishment, mental stimulation and focus, and how you interact with your environment. It emphasizes the interconnection of body, mind, and spirit to achieve maximum health where all the components function at the highest levels possible. Holistic health encourages you to take responsibility for everyday choices that affect your well-being.

Practicing holistic therapies exclusively as an alternative to conventional medicine is rare and may be risky. However, you can practice an integrative approach where holistic care complements traditional care. For example, a massage therapist can help your body recover between chemotherapy sessions. You utilize the best of both approaches for maximum benefits.

The Role of Naturopathic Medicine in the Treatment of Mental Health Issues

Naturopathy treats patients through natural healing instead of external methods. It offers alternatives to help you manage your symptoms without side effects. Naturopathic medicine plays three major roles in mental health treatment:

1. Seeking the root cause

Mental illnesses result from chemical imbalances in your brain. They may also be a result of abnormal thought patterns created by past health issues or circumstances. Naturopaths appreciate that your body functions naturally in all aspects. An interruption to that natural process causes illness. Therefore, it is critical to evaluate the main causes of your mental illness to determine whether the natural function has been interrupted. If it has been interrupted, your naturopathic doctor can help you restore it to bring healing. You can also combine medical treatment with naturopathy.

2. Supporting prescription drugs or providing alternatives

Naturopathic doctors don’t prescribe pharmaceuticals but they can support a patient who does take them. If someone is on medication and experiencing unpleasant side effects or is not getting the relief that they are hoping for, natural remedies can be a great addition. For patients who are looking to avoid medication or have not tolerate medication well in the past, natural medicines can be used as an alternative.

3. Encourage a different view

Mental illness can often be self-defeating. For example, you may lose hope of ever recovering from clinical depression. Losing faith will make depression worse and send you on a downward spiral. Naturopathy seeks to support your whole lifestyle and encourages you to have a new perspective on your health. It helps you replace nutritional deficiencies in your body that are necessary to balance your brain neurochemistry and promotes positive lifestyle changes that will be empowering while reducing unpleasant symptoms.

Way Forward

There is hope for you. You can restore and sustain your mental health through natural practices. Talk to an experienced naturopath who will guide you on natural remedies that will work to heal your psychological condition, and also prevent a relapse.

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