Claridge Naturopathics Blog

August 31, 2009
Natural Doctors V Naturopaths?


Author: Robert Claridge 

A healthy outside starts from a healthy inside

There are a lot of misconceptions about us Naturopaths.  If I was to ask a dozen people to define Naturopathy, I'm sure I'd get a dozen different answers.  In fairness, part of the reason for this disagreement is that Naturopaths differ considerably in how they go about their work.  To keep it simple, there are three clear distinctions.  Some Practitioners could be best described as "Natural Doctors", others as "Classic Naturopaths", whilst others practise a combination of the two.

Please let me explain.  Natural doctors base their treatment protocols on medical philosophy, which is based on a pathological or disease model.  Signs and symptoms are noted, bundled into a group and given a disease label.  Treatments are then designed to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with such labels so that you can get on with your life without their distraction.  Treatments differ from medical prescriptions in that they are predominently plant and "concentrated nutrient" based.  Such prescriptions may sometimes be a little less potent than drugs, however, they are certainly effective and largely devoid of the side effects so commonly linked to pharmaceuticals.  It would appear that people are catching onto this "drug-free" treatment option, with current figures showing it fast becoming a trillion dollar industry in America alone.  However, there is one big problem with this strategy and it all comes back to the "Disease Model" phi;osophy.  As mentioned, disease labels are derived from a group of signs and symptoms that act like alarm bells to alert you to the changing status of your health.  They are effects not causes!!  When you treat them you are not getting to the "WHY" of your problem.  Treating signs and symptoms is a bit like turning off the fire alarm and disregarding the fire.  With all of that said, however, Natural Doctoring does have some merit.  It ultimately provides a safe "Relief Strategy", particularly if the remedies are correctly prescribed.

Classic Naturopathy is underpinned by very different foundations.  It is influenced by the Naturopathic or "Health & Lifestyle Model".  This states that your current health is the combined effect of your physiology and lifestyle choices.  Furthermore, it sees your signs and symptoms as merely alerting you to the fact that either your physiology and lifestyle choices, or both,  are not where they should be.  For example, you might be blessed with perfect physiology but choose to "drink, smoke and not come home at all", consequently your likely to feel unwell.  On the other hand, you might have really healthy habits but have not corrected a physiological weak spot, so you'll still find yourself below your health potential.

Naturopathy demands that true health correction comes from looking wholistically at "YOU" and "WHAT YOU DO".  Despite the potential enormity of this approach it's actually a lot simpler than you think.  As I say to my clients each day, the true Naturopathic approach involves nothing more than following the renovation process.  Firstly you need to assess your physiology and lifestyle for any areas of deviation.  Simply put, you make a list.  Secondly, you put the list in priority order.  Finally you focus on your priorities and treat them with the strategies best suited to you. 

Although your initial "renovation" list will most likely appear quite substantial, renovating the human body is very different to renovating a house!  This is primarily due to the fact the human body has an innate self healing ability.  Your body is constantly trying to repair itself.  For this reason nurturing your health priorities ultimately gives momentum to this self healing effect.  The end result is that you end up correcting much more than your areas of focus.  I classically see this when helping to up-regulate the body's detoxification pathways, (eg. bowel, liver and kidneys).  The end result is most commonly increased energy, improved mood, clearer skin, decreased pain, reduced body fat and generally enhanced physiological function). 

Again, the message is....Address your cause and you'll eliminate your effects!  But remember, if your cause has been rumbling away for decades it will take more than a few days to fix it.  However, it won't take very long to start feeling better once your health momentum has been switched on.

The reason Naturopathy lost favour a century ago was that the discovery of the "Disease Model" offered quick relief from pain and discomfort.  The reason Naturopathy has recently regained popularity is that we now realize that the "quick fix" strategy is temporary and ultimately fails to deal with the cause of the issue.  We have observed our parents and grandparents, who have embraced the orthodox medical model, and are now questioning its effectiveness.  The polypharmacy of drugs and their side effects may sometimes increase lifespan, however they are certainly not linked with increased healthspan!  This has been made clearer due to the numerous studies into those countries and cultures who have not embraced the Disease Model.  It is interesting to see that in such cases both their health and lifespan is superior.  They are living and breathing evidence of the efficacy of the Naturopathic model. 

As initially mentioned, there are some Naturopaths who combine both Natural Doctoring and Naturopathy.  I believe that this is the best model, given that Natural Doctoring does provide you with relief from your urgencies and Naturopathy is addressing you underlying causes, you are getting the best of both worlds.  For instance, if you have an issue with headaches, getting pain relief is an immediate priority.  Let's face it no likes the distraction of pain.  However, the reality is that palliative therapy does not prevent the next headache from coming.  If your headaches are recurrent you'll pretty soon be spending a whole heap of time, effort and money on them.  So getting relief, whilst also committing to addressing the cause, will ensure that you break the cycle of your issue in maximum comfort. 

Hopefully, this information has filled in a few gaps in your understanding of Naturopathy.  The "take home message" from this blog is that it's less about the therapy and more about the philosophy behind the prescription.  Vitamins, minerals, homoeopathics, acupuncture etc, all provide effective treatment solutions.  However, when used to treat effects rather than causes, their outcome will ultimately be less pleasing.

In finishing, I believe that the most influential factor in your health is your health education.  The more knowledge that you have in the area of health, the better choices you will make.  Hopefully you will quickly realise that the choices of fresh unprocessed food, fresh air, sunlight, exercise, relaxation, laughter and loves will always deliver health and happiness.

Look forward to blogging again soon,

Keep smiling,