Naturopathy: healing with nature's medicine

Removing the cause of disease so the body can heal itself.

by Bettina Yelman, N.D.

he term "naturopathy" was first coined in the late nineteenth cen- tury, but its philosophical roots date back many thousands of years. Naturopathy draws from the healing wisdom of many cultures including Ayurveda from India, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Native American Shamanism, and Hippocratic philosophy from the Greeks.

Naturopathy is an eclectic compilation of doctrines and practices of natural healing, as well as a way of life, and a concept of employing various practical holistic means of preventing and treating human imbalance and suffering. The capacity of the body-mind to heal itself is the central tenet of Naturopathy.

Naturopathy is based on a very different paradigm from allopathic medicine. While allopathic doctors (M.D.s) seek to provide relief for patients by suppressing the symptomatic conditions, naturopathy views these disease conditions as manifestations of the natural means by which the body heals itself. For instance, when a patient has a headache, the doctor is likely to prescribe aspirin or another drug to relieve the pain. For a fever, a patient is likely to receive an anti-pyretic drug. Unfortunately, these remedies usually provide only temporary relief, but do not address the cause of the condition. Usually these conditions become chronic with repeated suppression therapy.

A naturopathic doctor, on the other hand, would seek to understand the "cause" of the headache. What imbalance in the body is causing it to manifest a headache? It is unlikely that the body has a deficiency of aspirin. In fact, aspirin and other drugs can cause harmful side effects without resolving the cause of the problem. Discovering the real cause of the patient's problem and recommending corrective non-harmful action is the art and practice of naturopathy. Simply put, to activate healing of a chronic condition involves the removal of the underlying cause.

Case in point

One of my out-of-town clients recently called to ask what could be done for her husband who had terrible headaches every two to three days. The doctors had given him a drug to take when he got the headaches, but the headaches kept occurring, sometimes worse than before. The doctors, including several specialists, had run all the tests they knew of and said there was nothing else they could do.

After asking several pertinent questions and talking for several minutes, I recommended that he remove three specific foods from his diet, take a few specific supplemental nutrients, practice a stress reduction technique, then see how he felt. The gentleman soon became free of headaches.

After that, as long as he didn't violate the dietary restrictions and managed his stress level as we had discussed, he remained headache free. As his body heals, he is slowly becoming less sensitive to the offending foods and occasionally can consume these foods without getting a headache.

The point is, you control the vast majority of factors that affect your health and happiness. Former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond stated, "Over 90 percent of the factors that determine health lie in the patient's hands and occur in the patient's everyday living environment." This means your health is in your hands! And naturopathy can offer a safe, effective way to learn what is causing your health problem and specific recommendations for relief and healing.

Basic principles

The book Alternative Medicine, compiled by The Burton Goldberg Group, outlines the six time-tested principles that Naturopathy, as a system of healing, is based on:

The healing power of nature is powerful

The body has considerable power to heal itself, and the role of the naturopath is to facilitate this natural process with the aid of natural, non-toxic therapies.

Treat the cause rather than the effect

Naturopathic physicians seek the underlying cause of a disease rather than simply suppressing the symptoms. They avoid suppression of the natural healing wisdom of the body, such as fever and inflammation. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body's natural attempt to heal, while the causes can spring from the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.

First, do no harm

By employing the safe and effective natural therapies, naturopaths are committed to the principle of causing no harm to the patient.

Treat the whole person

The individual is viewed as a whole, composed of a complex interaction of physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, and other factors. This multifaceted approach results in a therapeutic approach in which no disease is automatically seen as incurable.

The physician is a teacher

Naturopathic physicians are first and foremost teachers who educate, empower, and motivate the patient to assume more personal responsibility for his or her health by adopting a healthy attitude, lifestyle and diet.

Prevention is the best cure

Naturopaths are preventive health specialists. Prevention of disease is accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports radiant health.

Naturopathy is not a single modality of healing, but an array of healing practices. The Del Mar-based California Naturopathic College offers a variety of coursework that is collectively considered Naturopathy. This professional naturopathic training program includes coursework in the areas of dietary modification, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, bioenergetic methods, herbology, hydrotherapy, such physical therapies as therapeutic movement, exercise, soft-tissue manipulation, massage and light therapy, as well as therapeutic counseling, client assessment, program development and natural pharmacology.

For more information on the classes, workshops and training programs offered at the California Naturopathic College, please call (800) 354-8166.

Dr. Yelman is a Naturopathic Doctor and licensed Holistic Health Practitioner specializing in therapeutic nutrition, natural healing and body mind integration therapies. She is the developer and primary instructor of the first California State Board of Education approved 1000-hour Professional Training Program in Nutrition and Natural Healing. This program is offered at the California Naturopathic College, which provides monthly free lectures for the public and professional holistic health education programs. Dr. Yelman is also the founder and director of Resources For Health, which offers innovative natural health care products, a newsletter and individual health care consulting services, intended to empower people to heal themselves