Naturopathy is the study of natural medicine. A naturopath takes a holistic approach to wellness with the focus on bringing the body to a natural homeostatic state of balance. This may be achieved through the use of dietary advice, herbal medicines, nutrient supplementation, alongside lifestyle changes and various physical therapies.
Rather than treating a single ailment or symptom, a naturopath will focus on preventative medicine, minimising symptoms and the healthy and natural management and treatment of existing conditions. The aim is to support and strengthen the body’s natural ability to heal and balance itself.
Naturopathy is best approached as a supplementary form of healthcare that works together with professional medical care.
What Qualifications are required?
While there are no specific requirements that a person must satisfy to call themselves a naturopath, there are a few things you should look for when choosing a holistic health professional.
In Australia, a naturopath should have, at a minimum, an Advanced Diploma in either Naturopathy or Health Science. These diplomas require three to four years’ study and cover a range of subjects like pathology, biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, herbal medicine, nutrition and more.
A naturopath could also have a Bachelor-level qualification and possibly further advanced qualifications.
A reputable naturopath will also be registered with a professional association such as the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA), Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS), Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association (ANPA) and the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia (NHAA).
What’s involved in a Naturopathic Assessment?
Whereas an appointment with your GP will generally focus on one specific ailment and its symptoms, a naturopathic assessment will take a much broader approach. During your first assessment, a naturopath will delve into your medical history, general health, lifestyle, diet, family background and general living and working environment.
After this assessment, they may also use a range of testing and analysis methods such as kinesiology, iridology, blood analysis, stool and urine analysis, hair analysis and functional testing.
The purpose of this is not just to identify and treat existing medical conditions, but to get a holistic picture of your health. This will help the practitioner to understand which factors in your life or background are contributing to your health problems and determine which treatments are going to be most beneficial.
What Treatments does a Naturopath provide?
A naturopath provides a range of non-invasive and non-pharmaceutical treatments. These include:
- Nutritional and dietary advice
- Herbal medicine
- Physical therapies such as Bowen therapy, massage, acupuncture and more
- Counselling techniques
- Traditional Chinese medicine
The mis of treatments are carefully selected to suit your specific naturopathic assessment. They are designed to not just treat existing conditions and symptoms, but to prevent potential illnesses, treat the underlying causes of various ailments and help the body to reach a natural state of balance.
Why see a Naturopath?
Naturopaths focus on long-term health and preventative treatments. They can help you achieve a better overall standard of health and wellness without relying on invasive medical procedures and side-effect-heavy pharmaceutical chemicals.
They can also help with the management of ongoing acute and chronic conditions including pain, gastrointestinal issues, stress and nervous tension, sleeplessness, fertility problems, depression, headaches, joint health and skin conditions.
A good naturopath can also help you lose weight, quit smoking or manage addictions, strengthen your immune system and increase your energy levels naturally.
What a Naturopath doesn’t do
Before consulting a natural health practitioner, it’s important to understand what they don’t do. A naturopath is not a doctor. They are not qualified or technically allowed to diagnose health or medical conditions. If they suspect a condition that is out of the scope of their practice, they should refer you to the appropriately qualified health professional. They are also not legally allowed to prescribe medications or any controlled substances.
Naturopaths should not interfere with or contravene a doctor’s advice or pharmaceutical prescriptions or treatments. Your naturopath should not communicate directly with your doctor or other health professionals on your behalf without your permission.
The extent to which your naturopath will work in consultation with your doctor or other health professional comes down to your (the patient’s) permission, as well as the attitudes of your naturopath and doctor. If your naturopath is skeptical or advises against your doctor’s treatments, this is a big red flag.
Before working with a naturopath, it’s important to gauge their attitude towards your GP’s advice and their willingness to work in consultation with your doctor. It’s important to remember that naturopathy is not a substitute for medical care, but rather a form of supplementary care.
Is it worth seeing a Naturopath?
The short answer: absolutely. But be realistic about what they can achieve and understand their place in your overall health and wellness. A naturopath won’t provide a quick and easy cure to a specific ailment, but they can get you on the path to a healthier and better balanced life.