Many people have this idea that naturopathic medicine is off in lala land somewhere, and that nothing about it is based on reality. While this could be true for some practitioners, MY practice is based on what we can deduce from what we know and what we are learning. I base my decisions on scientific findings, and not just one study, but composites of information that add to the big picture. I advise against using unsubstantiated treatments, and against using any new pharmaceutical drug until it has been on the market at least 10 years.
Ironically, the treatments given by many conventional doctors are not based in science or even in common sense. Sometimes a treatment idea gets broadly adopted before it has been really studied. Once everyone thinks that is what works, they just keep doing it. Patients demand treatments that have no evidence behind them at all. It takes a lot of information to turn around public opinion after the people have been brainwashed by doctors.
Take chemotherapy for example. Chemo is poison intended to kill the cancer. In many cases chemo causes the death of a cancer-ridden patient. Sure, there are specific cancers which respond very well to chemo, but there are many more that do not. Doctors will sometimes give in to a patient's desire to "do anything possible" to help, even when they know that it will not help. It is in fact easier to give people the poison they demand, than to explain to them why they won't benefit from it.
For another example, take a look at the ACIP schedule for vaccinating babies. While I agree that vaccination is effective for preventing epidemics, there is little evidence behind the schedule. Vaccinating a newborn for Hepatitis C is destructive, not helpful. The schedule for vaccination is based on convenience. Doctors stick the babies with multiple vaccines at every wellchild visit, and don't worry about possible negative effects (and lack of benefit) from that practice. The vaccination schedule bears some research to make sure that we are building appropriate herd immunity while also not hurting anyone's baby.
I ran across this post about statins today. Many people take statins. Statins are drugs that stop your body from making its own cholesterol. There is no evidence to support the use of statins for preventing heart attacks, and they may actually increase the risk of heart attacks in women. They're also linked to the formation of cataracts, crippling muscle pain, dementia, fatigue, diabetes and erectile dysfunction. Doctors give statins when they want to lower someone's cholesterol and don't think they can get that person to change their diet and lifestyle. The evidence says that diet and lifestyle are FAR more effective for adjusting blood lipids than statins are.
Oh and last but not least in my list of conventional medical madness is the idea that eating cholesterol makes the body's cholesterol go up. For 20+ years the medical establishment has been teaching that if you eat too much eggs and bacon, you will have high cholesterol. The truth is that your body MAKES cholesterol from pasta and bread. Your body makes cholesterol because it NEEDS cholesterol. Cholesterol is not evil. If your cholesterol is too low, you are sick. People get high cholesterol from being sedentary and eating too many carbs, not from having an egg breakfast and a full and active day.
Just because something is widely accepted as the state of medicine does not mean that it is the best we can do. We can do better. The status quo is for dead people. Living people have the capacity to keep learning and trying new things. I urge you to question everything that you think you know about healthcare and health. Many things that have been accepted for a long time are about to be turned on their heads.
What I hear is that most everybody in America is frustrated about healthcare. Maybe you have good insurance, but then the doctor doesn't listen, or the treatment doesn't work. Maybe you're on pills and don't know what they're for. Maybe you don't have insurance and flat out can't afford to get help. Maybe you think something's wrong but don't want to confirm it because then you'd have to deal with it. We all worry, and it's not easy to sort out what to do. Doctor Google can be misleading, and sometimes terrifying. The assortment of supplements at the store is overwhelming. Everybody thinks they know what will help you, but they don't know your whole story. They don't know the half of it. It's not an easy situation.
I offer a win-win deal: I will take a thorough history and get to know you enough to have an idea how the parts of your life are affecting you. Then I educate you about your options, including alternative and conventional therapies. In the end, using real information you choose what you want to do. Conventional medicine is the best answer for some situations and conditions. Naturopathic medicine helps as long as you are willing to do more than pop pills and sit on the couch. If I can't help you, I will help you find someone who can. I consider it my job to provide you with current, personalized, unbiased information, not to keep you a slave to some treatment that only I can offer.
My personal slant is scientific. I realize that many people consider Naturopathy to be quite "alternative". Considering what has happened with pharmaceutical medicine, an alternative is much needed. Naturopathic Medicine (as I use it) is a combination of traditional healing (forgotten in the age of pharmaceuticals) and the application of new knowledge about how our choices affect body function and healing. Conventional medicine is not keeping up with the changing times. A simple change in your diet or lifestyle could do you more good than a drug that you take for the rest of your life (and save you a gazillion dollars). Making informed, gradual improvements to your diet and lifestyle will save you money, increase your quality of life, and help you stay away from the doctor, the pharmacy, and the hospital.
If you are one of those skeptics who has avoided alternative medicine because you don't think naturopaths have any real training, come see me for a free 15 minute introduction. I would like to tell you how a science-minded skeptic like myself can embrace Naturopathy. I can show you some of the great research that supports nonpharmaceutical and nonsurgical approaches to health. There's plenty of it.
There are plenty of reasons to seek alternatives when facing the gauntlet of what insurance will buy for your health. It's not cheating to get a second, or third opinion about any persistent health problem. Before you take the toxin, or submit to the knife, it is wise to be sure that is what you need to do.
This link goes to a Ted Talk by Jon Ronson, journalist from London, speaking about the research he did for a book on psychopathy. He pegs the relevant issue which is the fact that all of us display some characteristics of various mental disorders, including psychopathy. All of us, you say? Yes, all of us. Madness is inherent in the human condition. We have the capacity for rationality, but we also all have moments of unconsciousness. We have moments in which we are not as kind as we could be. We have moments of every description, but these moments do not condemn us. We can still be decent people.
In the Bible, Matthew 7:5 reminds us that we are not perfect. "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Before we accuse anyone else of madness, it is in our best interests to recognize that we are human too, with requisite portions of inexplicable wildness.
Author: Teresa Gryder
Naturopathic Physician and Student of Life, Medicine, and the River.