How naturopathic medicine can help you heal
Some thousands years ago, Hippocrates stated that 'food is medicine,' something that we seem to have forgotten in the last few decades. The phrase “we are what we eat” (or even better “we are what we absorb”) cannot be more contemporary. Naturopathic medicine is helping patients get better with personalised nutritional interventions. But how?
The science of food has become very complicated, with many different opinions hitting the media daily. We are constantly bombarded by information and opinions in nutrition that are often considered pseudoscience or inaccurate. We often see catchy articles under the title “fact or fad”. But who should we believe? And how can we differentiate between good and bad nutritional advice?
In the article below I will describe the difference between conventional nutrition and naturopathic nutrition, as part of a naturopathic medicine consultation. After reading the article the choice is yours.
In order to help you understand the differences I will use an imaginary case study. Jane is a 25-year-old overweight female with digestive issues, high cholesterol, high stress levels and sleep disturbances. She wants to book a consultation in order to lose weight and improve digestion and overall quality of life. This is how her therapy path will differ according to the type of nutrition she chooses:
Conventional nutrition recommendations:
- Give a dietary structured and not too flexible plan, based on symptoms: Start on a low-fat, low-calorie, low-cholesterol diet. Count calories – emphasis is on quantity.
- Often accompanied by a generic factsheet with guidelines, with little or no personal advice.
- Most often the advice will be the following: Eat less meat, sugar, fat and sodium. Eat more fruits, vegetables, legumes, fat free dairy and grains (you can eat white grains if you have digestive issues). Some processed/fortified foods may be recommended to achieve vitamins and mineral recommendations.
- Increase exercise to burn extra calories.
Naturopathic nutrition recommendations:
- A functional nutritionist will take a thorough case history, hence consultations last much longer, in order to get answers to the question “what is causing these symptoms?”
- Are there nutrient deficiencies or excesses (in terms of toxins), food sensitivities, environmental toxins or imbalances in the patterns of eating and food combinations? Why is cholesterol high?
- Is the person suffering from insulin resistance, imbalanced gut flora, insufficient digestive juices and/or enzymes, impaired detoxification, subclinical hypothyroidism, high cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances?
- What are their sleep and lifestyle patterns and is food used in the wrong way to make up for deeper emotional issues?
- After triggers and mediators have been identified, a tailor-made extended nutrition and lifestyle plan is created, based on what is causing the imbalance, not based on the symptoms alone. Every patient’s plan differs, with emphasis on quality and nutrient-dense food.
The person is educated in:
- How to achieve healthy long-term relationship to food.
- How their lifestyle factors are affecting their health – such as exercise (the more is not always the best), healthy sleep patterns, effective stress coping, social life-work balancing, personal and work relationships, and more according to the case.
- Functional medicine testing is most often recommended, to identify cellular and genetic causes of imbalance.
- Targeted quality supplements are prescribed, based on personal needs.
- The process is dynamic and the plan is constantly re-evaluated and re-adjusted with every new information, test results, etc.
- No two persons ever get the same plan.
Overall, it is very important to look for the underlying causes of imbalance, rather than taking it for granted. Many professionals in the field do not focus on personalised plans based on the individual’s cellular and genetic needs. Having the tools and knowledge to recommend and evaluate functional lab tests, such as gut ecology, nutritional levels, immune reactions to food, evaluation of active hormones, detailed breakdown of cholesterol profile, exposure to environmental toxins, and evaluation of genetic makeup – a functional medicine consultation can be a unique experience!
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