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the art behind the science

If you're unfamiliar with Naturopathic medicine, or even simply how it's pronounced, don't feel disheartened... you’re not alone. It’s a question I get asked day in and day out, and a tough question to answer at that. You see, Naturopathy doesn't fit as easily into a categorical box as some might hope, primarily because the term itself serves as an umbrella for what is practiced beneath it. If you're looking to understand the criteria of a Naturopathic medical education, the modalities used, or how it compares to an allopathic curriculum, the AANM does a lovely job of breaking it down for you. Rest assured, your ND is well-educated in both the holistic and allopathic sides of medicine. However, the part I hope to emphasize is not the structure of the curriculum or the hours of clinical experience, but more so the beauty of the way in which it is practiced - the art of Naturopathy.

The best analogy I like to give is to imagine a toolbox. While the hammer might be the chiropractor, adjusting our structural misalignments, or the electrical tape being the family doctor, mending our symptoms, or even the measuring tape being the nutritionist, quantifying the amounts from what we are made, it is best to look at Naturopathy as the toolbox itself. You see, it isn’t so much a defined medicine, focusing on single complaints, with sole modalities, or on one realm of health... but rather an overarching style of medicine, treating overlapping conditions, with multiple modalities, on the physical, mental, and emotional realms of health. And while every therapy applied (be it botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, or even an acupuncture protocol) is researched for efficacy and cross-referenced with pharmaceutical modalities until the cows come home, the art is in the application and the combination of these therapies, and how - much like a painting - no two treatment plans are ever the same. Now, being both a patient and practitioner of Naturopathy myself, I've experienced this - shall we call it, style - from both angles. I can still recall the moments (not once, but twice) that I fell in love with natural medicine - first as a patient when I recognized that I was not merely a cookie who fit into a mould of what the medical system had planned for me, and secondly as a practitioner, when I realized the paintbrush was now in my hand. After conventional medicine had identified my symptoms, completed all its diagnostic tests, and ultimately run its course, my Naturopath went the step further to educate me on treatment options and lifestyle changes I could make to address the cause of why it all happened in the first place. And therein lies the beauty of the two realms of medicine working hand in hand - but that there is a whole topic all its own. I later fell in love all over again, when I began my clinical internship. Over the three years of long class hours, overwhelming amounts of dry theory, and endless late nights of cramming combined with un-naturopathic choices, I can now admit I had lost a feel for the art. My right-sided brain had shrivelled into the organic, sugar-free, sun-dried raisins I found myself consuming to fuel the days that had blurred into weeks. It wasn't until after the first few weeks of my clinical internship that my new non-textbook, multidimensional patients and acquired medical detective skills reminded me that not only did I love the art of this medicine, but that I was "in love" with it. So now that we've covered the common question of what, we must address what comes next - why? Can’t anyone buy nutraceuticals, or simply ask the guy behind the health food store counter what they need? Of course, they can. But much to Dr. Oz's failure, not every natural health product or home remedy is for everyone. The simple statement "drink more water" could kill a patient with congestive heart failure. And more importantly, not all health products meet therapeutic standards. A recent and widely recognized editorial published in Annuals of Internal Medicine blatantly concluded that vitamins and minerals were a waste of money. However, Dr. Alan Gaby, MD an expert in nutritional medicine, wrote a thoroughly researched response highlighting the importance of choosing the right products, with effective dosages and free of additives. So again, we come back to the art of individualized treatment, the importance of educated choices, and the use of treatments to best address the underlying cause above ameliorating symptoms. Naturopathy in a nutshell. But then again, that's just my take on things.


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