Naturopathy: A Beginner’s Guide

As a Naturopathic nutritionist, I come across people from all walks of life. Many have existing conditions, but others want to help prevent future problems by living more healthily. Naturopathy plays an important role in modern society and has become increasingly mainstream over the last couple of decades.

Here we look at what naturopathy entails and how it can benefit people of all ages.

What is Naturopathy?

Naturopathy is a form of alternative medicine that focuses on a holistic approach to health, drawing on natural remedies and the body’s vital ability to heal and maintain itself.

The core philosophy behind naturopathy is the healing power of nature, which implies that the body has an inherent ability to achieve and maintain health and wellness, and to heal itself from illness and disease.

The Key Elements of Naturopathy

A naturopath can use a range of different approaches to help promote health and well-being. The most important include diet and nutrition combined with exercise.

1. Diet and Nutrition

As our understanding has evolved, especially over the last couple of decades, we’ve come to realise that nutrition and a good diet play vital roles in our overall health and well-being.

  • Naturopathy emphasises the importance of a balanced and nutrient-dense diet for maintaining health and preventing disease.
  • It focuses on whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
  • Everyone is different and tailoring dietary recommendations to individual needs, preferences, allergies, and sensitivities is an essential part of the naturopath’s role.
  • With a holistic approach, naturopathy allows us to address important issues like nutritional deficiencies through diet and supplements. That can include recommending diets that help in detoxifying the body by eliminating harmful substances.
  • Along with dietary changes, it’s important to encourage adequate hydration and maintain a balanced pH level in the body.

2. Exercise

Many of us are living more sedentary lifestyles. Stuck behind a desk or playing on our phones while lying on the couch, we forget that exercise is an essential part of healthy living.

  • Regular exercise is fundamental in naturopathy for maintaining health, improving mood, reducing stress, and preventing a range of chronic diseases.
  • Your naturopath may advise a mix of aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises depending on your individual circumstances.
  • Creating exercise plans tailored to individual fitness levels, health conditions, and goals is important for success and incorporating activities that are enjoyable and sustainable for the individual.
  • There is a strong connection between physical activity and mental health. Encouraging practices like yoga and tai chi that integrate physical activity with mindfulness can make a big difference in people’s lives.

3. Herbal Medicine

Utilising plants and plant extracts for their healing properties is another important piece in the holistic approach.

  • A wide range of herbs are used to address various health conditions, such as echinacea for immune support and peppermint for digestive health.
  • As with exercise and diet, selecting the right herbs based on the individual’s specific health needs, conditions, and preferences is critical.
  • A naturopath also needs to understand the potential interactions with medications and other health factors that may affect an individual.

Many naturopaths will have their own specialities. Mine focuses on nutrition and the power of diet to help improve health and support recovery from a variety of different conditions. Other naturopaths use approaches like counselling, acupuncture and hydrotherapy to offer holistic solutions that go beyond the more medicalised stance we often see in modern society.

Benefits of Naturopathy

  • Naturopathy considers the person as a whole, addressing physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors that contribute to illness. This holistic perspective can lead to more comprehensive and individualised treatment plans, potentially addressing underlying causes of illness rather than just alleviating symptoms.
  • It places a strong emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion, encouraging healthy lifestyle habits and regular check-ups. By focusing on prevention, naturopathy helps people maintain good health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and potentially decrease healthcare costs over time.
  • Naturopathic treatments often utilise natural and non-invasive therapies, such as herbal medicine, diet, and lifestyle modifications. These tend to have fewer side effects compared to some conventional medicines, making them a suitable option for those seeking gentler alternatives.
  • Naturopaths often spend time educating and empowering patients to take an active role in their health, providing the tools and knowledge for self-care. This approach can lead to better health outcomes, as individuals who are engaged and informed are more likely to make beneficial lifestyle choices.
  • Naturopathy can be used alongside conventional medicine, offering additional support and care. This complementary approach can enhance overall healthcare, providing more options for treatment and potentially addressing areas that conventional medicine might not fully cover.

Is It Evidence-Based?

Yes. The research backing naturopathic approaches such as focusing on dietary and lifestyle changes is growing every day and it’s no surprise that mainstream medicine uses the same approaches. For example, if someone is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, the focus is not on drugs and other treatments but on dietary changes that help mitigate the disease.

As a nutritional naturopath, my practice is always based on the current research. It’s an ever-evolving field that includes some exciting research on the role of the gut biome and health and wellbeing.

Everyone is Different

Traditional medicine tends to look at alleviating the symptoms of a disease. It doesn’t often hit the root cause of the problem. In that sense, naturopathy takes a more functional medicine approach to health. You may have an existing condition that you want to approach in a different way or you may just be interested in maintaining your health and preventing future problems. Naturopathy looks at you as a unique individual with specific needs, especially when it comes to dietary requirements.

As a nutritional naturopath, I focus mostly on women’s problems such as thyroid conditions and hormone imbalances. Diet can be a powerful tool in the fight against conditions such as PCOS, menstrual problems and hypothyroidism.

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