The Naturopathic Way: Cause and Effect
The first in our series on the Naturopathic Way, A Holistic and Natural Perspective for Your Health.
A very wise and experienced Naturopathic Physician (and one of our mentors), Dr. James Sensenig, is fond of saying, “Naturopathic Medicine is not what you use, it’s how you use it."
When we consider making recommendations for an individual's health, we always concern ourselves with the underlying cause of illness. While the name or diagnosis of a condition may often be instructive and useful, it may not actually tell us anything about the nature of that imbalance- how it arose, how it is affecting the individual, and most importantly how the person will find health and restore balance. Often time this name or this diagnosis is the effect of the illness.
Take elevated cholesterol and/or high blood pressure. These are two easy measurements that clinicians often want to know about. Conventionally, high cholesterol is high cholesterol... and high blood pressure is high blood pressure. Once the diagnosis is made, focus shifts to treatment- what can we use to lower cholesterol or blood pressure? Little consideration is made for why that prescription applies to that individual other than “studies show medicine X lowers factor Y”. If Y is bad, and X lowers it, then we’ve accomplished our goal medically... right?
How does this help the person at hand? Well, if Y really is bad and X really lowers it and is safe, then maybe it does...
But what if Y really isn’t the cause of the problem, but instead is an effect of the problem? And what if X really isn’t safe?
Then we’ve missed the mark.
The true underlying cause has not been addressed, the person is not healthier, and side effects may now be a part of the picture.
Naturopathic medicine is not about an herb, or a supplement, or a dietary suggestion just because it is “natural.” Many herbs have drug like effects or are potentially toxic. Arnica, Belladonna, Nux Vomica, etc are all very toxic or even deadly at high enough of a dose. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it is safe.
When you’re on a hike in the woods, would you stop and eat something green without knowing exactly what it is? No, you’d be afraid it was poisonous.
Naturopaths are uniquely trained to know exactly how to recommend a remedy- by itself, or in combination with other remedies. Naturopaths are also uniquely trained to know how to integrate our remedies and suggestions with conventional medicines. No other profession has this level of training.
It is the how and the why we are recommending remedies that are so vital. For example, in the individual whose cholesterol level has gone up... why has that happened? What is the meaning, in a physiologic context, of that number?
If you would like to know about the underlying cause of your health condition, that’s when you need to go see your naturopath! Once the cause is understood, then we can better describe how it is affecting you, and best of all, how to remove that underlying cause of illness.