Naturopathic Medicine: The Therapeutic Order
Naturopathic doctors seek to heal the whole being. Rather than medical doctors who look at symptoms (pathology) and treat and prescribe the problem to force healing to occur, naturopathic medicine seeks to find natural balances to bring the body back to wholeness with gentle support.
The most basic tenant of naturopathic medicine is that healing is available within.
When we pay attention to our bodies and shift our way of life to support these most natural functions, the body will heal itself. The Earth around us is in harmony and we can use the elements – air, sun, food and herbs – to gain internal symbiosis. Contemplating the totality of the being, psychology and spirit may also play a part. Invasive treatments are the last resort and every effort is offered to support the internal wellness of the human system.
Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Every ounce as valuable as medical doctors, Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) adhere to a strict code which differentiates them greatly from their pharmaceutical and surgery-seeking counterparts:
- Do no harm
- Treat the whole person
- Prevent disease
- Doctor as teacher
- Support the body
- Treat the cause
Beyond this alternative view of illness and disease is wellness. Health is the perfect state and every effort must be made to bring people back to their optimum alignment. The restoration of health is the goal, not treating symptoms alone.
If we can look at the symptoms – see what the disruption is to health and address those imbalances – we are empowered to restore well-being. Terminal and chronic conditions appear only when this disruption of ideal wellness is prolonged.
A client of mine once had liver cancer. Her prognosis was bleak but she was unwilling to give up alcohol to save her life. From a medical perspective, chemo and radiation were the only way to go. A naturopathic doctor instead may look at the underlying emotions which created this devotion to her addiction. Of course, the patient must be willing to seek help and be ready to address the changes necessary. Free will is key and doctors, no matter what their leanings, cannot save those who do not make their own well-being a priority. For my client, her comfort was more important than fighting for a life that had been filled with strife. Rather than impose our own fears, we can instead provide a space of respectful loving confidence in her decision and ease the end of life process.
The Therapeutic Order
The Therapeutic Order provides guidelines for NDs to make decisions to treat patients that are in alignment with the philosophical considerations of this natural model of care. It represents a hierarchy of elevation to treat in the least invasive and most supportive ways and avoid excessive procedures.
Remove Obstacles to Health
The first consideration is the optimum health of the patient. What are the circumstances or behaviors that are obstructing health and happiness? If we remove the obstacles to health, the body will restore on its own. Such inquires as nutrition, sleep, stress, spiritual practices and time in nature are the first step. When we can sustain happiness in a patient, they are well on their way to health.
Stimulate Life Force Energy
Life force energy is crucial to well-being. Prana must flow to enliven the organism and stimulate the energy centers which sustain life. After prolonged periods of dis-ease, the energy becomes stuck.
Many ancient practices understand the necessity for flowing prana and have sophisticated systems to address stimulation of the life force. These include acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, yoga and spiritual endeavors like journaling, prayer and mediation. Any combination of these modalities may be offered to support the return to wellness.
Strengthen the Weakened Systems
While doctors may start treatment at this stage, this is where the body can begin to reveal that which is deeply compromised. NDs instead witness the affects of lesser modalities and the body illuminates where true support is needed. By addressing what is unable to restore itself, vitamins, minerals, fish oils, probiotics and holistic treatments may offer significant benefit.
This is often a desperate space for patients and it is where they begin to seek drastic intervention for the prolonged discomfort. By building upon life force energy and honoring what is working, suggestions are offered to strengthen the true depletion.
Correct Structural Integrity
As the issues at the organic and glandular system are soothed, it is the spinal and muscular system which require attention. Proper alignment brings the body into balance and can be achieved through massage, exercise, chiropractic care and stretching.
A compromised spine will block the flow of prana and affects every system in the body. Spinal Health is a cornerstone of yogic practices and fundamental to support the harmonious integrity of the soul in physical form.
Natural Substances to Control Symptoms
When required, vitamins and minerals may be the next step to restore wellness. Cautious efforts are considered and natural remedies are employed, as to not overtax the recuperating body system.
Use Pharmaceuticals to Control Symptoms
When the foundations of the Therapeutic Order stall, it might be beneficial to consider pharmaceuticals. Note: not all NDs may prescribe and each law varies by state.
Patients will often need to be referred to a medical doctor who can treat them with access to chemical remedies. In many cases, an ND can work with the medical doctor to ensure all aspects of care are being honored.
Use High Force Interventions
At this last stage, all other avenues to natural care have been exhausted and invasive interventions may provide the only relief. Terminal conditions and severe chronic pain are most common when this drastic step is the best outcome.
This resort recognizes the body cannot be wholly restored unless something is removed– surgery, lasers or chemo– to kill off the affliction in the sincere hopes that with its removal, wellness can be discovered. Patients can be supported naturopathically as they undergo these treatments and its continuance will contribute to prolonged wellness and self-care.
It is heartening to remember ways to empower our own health and to seek alternatives to the reliance on the current medical model.
Naturopathic doctors are in place to bring us back to these places of well-being with gentle support to heal ourselves. It is up to us to take the steps toward self-love that creates a resonance within for this healing to occur. There is no quick fix or magic pill, as all challenges are those which encourage our Ascension.
Guide to Alternative Medicine Part 1: Traditional Chinese Medicine
“When health is absent Wisdom cannot reveal itself, Art cannot become manifest, Strength cannot be exerted, Wealth is useless and Reason is powerless.”
— Herophilies, 300 B.C.
Just a decade ago, if patients wanted to explore unconventional treatment options they were on their own. Traditional health professionals generally didn’t encourage alternative therapies or treatments, and discouraged departures from allopathic treatment models such as drugs and surgery.
As research validates the efficacy of non-traditional treatment models, such as traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ayurvedic medicine, massage and chiropractic adjustment, naturopathy, diet, and natural supplementation — even homeopathy and sound therapy — new branches of medicine emerge.
Integrative, Functional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine
The “integrative” medical model developed during the early 1990s but was formalized when the National Institute of Health (NIH) created the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). This classification covered non-conventional treatment and research, and was the beginning of a slow recognition of alternative systems. Integrative models include consideration of a patient’s lifestyle, body, and mind, and how to promote well-being for the whole person rather than just diseases and their symptoms.
“Functional” medicine refers to holistic and alternative medical practices intended to improve overall functions of the body’s systems and explores individual biochemistry, genetics, and environment to determine underlying causes of disease.
According to the NIH, “complementary” medicine coordinates non-mainstream practices with conventional treatments. This has driven acceptance of alternative therapies such as TCM, diet, and nutraceuticals, or supplements.
Alternative medicine is any practice that falls outside conventional systems and is not combined with traditional treatments. For example, if patients choose Ayurvedic medicine, dietary changes, and supplementation to treat their cancer and exclude conventional therapies, they have entered the realm of alternative medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
“Those who disobey the laws of Heaven and Earth have a lifetime of calamities while those who follow the laws remain free from dangerous illness.”
— Huangdi, The Yellow Emperor, 2698–2598 BCE
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) claims to be the third-oldest medical system, preceded only by Egyptian and Babylonian medicine. Theories of TCM are believed to be at least 3,000 to 4,000 years old — likely older, predating written language.
The foundations of TCM are meridian channels and acupuncture points that conduct the movement of chi, and the five-element model correspondences to these points and channels. This five-element system of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water also applies to seasons, colors, sounds, sense organs, personality types, Chinese astrology, feng shui, the I Ching, and countless other aspects of Chinese culture and life.
The Five-Element System in Chinese Medicine
Called the Wu Xing, this five-element system defines relationships between the elements and considers them to be in continual active cycles wherever they are found. Mother/child, or generating relationships, are: wood fuels fire, fire forms earth (think of volcanic flow and ash) earth produces metal, metal carries water (buckets, pipes, etc.), and water feeds wood.
Conversely, there are antagonistic (father/child) relationships: fire melts metal, metal penetrates wood (ax, saw), wood separates earth (tree roots break soil), earth absorbs and directs water (river banks), and water extinguishes fire.
Chinese and Taoist doctors, called OMDs (oriental medicine doctors), see a patient through this lens of five-element relationships, along with yin and yang (passive and active) qualities. Organs are paired into male and female element families that include seasons, colors, compass directions, sense organs, emotions, and virtues. The female, or yin, organs are continually active — the Chinese say a woman’s work is never done — while male yang organs have periods of rest and activity. Element family qualities are:
- Metal: Lung (yin), large intestine (yang); season: autumn; color: white; direction: west; sense organ: nose; emotion: grief. When balanced, grief becomes the virtue of integrity.
- Water: Kidneys (yin), bladder (yang); season: winter; color: black; direction: north; sense organ: ears; emotion: fear. When balanced, fear becomes the virtues of poise, calm, and alert stillness.
- Wood: Liver (yin), gall bladder (yang); season: spring; color: green; direction: east; sense organs: eyes; emotion: anger. When balanced, anger becomes the virtue of kindness.
- Fire: Heart (yin), small intestine (yang); season: summer; color: red; direction: south; sense organ: tongue; emotion: rush/rudeness. When balanced, rushed rudeness becomes the virtues altruism and joy.
- Earth: Spleen (yin), stomach(yang); season: late summer; color: yellow; direction: center or middle; sense organ: mouth; emotion: worry and overthinking. When balanced, worry and obsession become the virtues of balance and equanimity.