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.
What You Should Know About Your Liver
The liver is the second largest organ in the body (your skin is the largest) and arguably the most popular one mentioned in yoga studios, health magazines, and wellness centers throughout the spring and summer season. Considering your liver is involved in nearly 500 bodily functions—including detoxification and producing important proteins such as enzymes, hormones, blood proteins, clotting factors, and immune factors—there’s no mystery why it’s important to honor and protect this essential organ no matter what season it is.
However, after the winter is over, it’s a great time (from the Ayurvedic perspective) to purge any or all unhealthy winter habits and wake up to the vibrant energy of the spring season. As a yoga teacher, nutritionist, and Ayurvedic Health Educator, I’m always a student and curious about the human body and how it operates. I’m always eager to learn what I can do to make it thrive.
The liver and kidneys are the primary organs for detoxification and naturally help you cleanse by eliminating waste products in your sweat, urine, or feces. If your liver is in good shape, you will feel energetic and find it easy to think clearly and maintain a happy, stable mood. When the liver is not functioning well, it will not remove waste products efficiently and you will feel quite the opposite of healthy.
The liver acts as a proverbial club bouncer, standing guard at the entrance; on a daily basis, the liver filters unwanted items out of your bloodstream such as drugs (over the counter and prescription), alcohol, cigarettes, environmental pollutants, caffeine, food additives, smog, chemical household cleaning products, plus ammonia and bilirubin (which are produced in the body as a result of protein metabolism).
Please remember that every toxic substance mentioned above will eventually be processed by your liver. If your liver can’t break down the toxins, they simply don’t go anywhere, which makes it harder for the liver to do its regular job. To help give your liver a break, please take extra caution with alcohol consumption. If alcohol is consumed on a regular basis, normal liver function may be interrupted, leading to chemical imbalances and depression. Liver cells may be destroyed or altered, resulting in fatty deposits (fatty liver which will be covered next month), inflammation (alcoholic hepatitis), and/or permanent scarring (cirrhosis). Mixing alcohol and medications may also damage the liver.
If you use alcohol to relax or reduce stress at the end of a long day, consider getting some exercise instead, then treating yourself to a “mocktail” (non-alcoholic drink) and see if these replacements help you to feel more clear and emotionally stable at the end of each day.
One of the numerous incredibly cool things about your liver is that it has the extraordinary gift of regenerating itself. However, I don’t recommend overburdening it with unhealthy lifestyle choices and foods high in fat, sugar, cholesterol, and pesticides that may cause harm down the road.
Diet: Liver-Supporting Nutrients
Making an effort to eat seasonal, local, organic, whole foods rich in the following nutrients below are important preventative steps for optimal liver health. Here’s a short list of important liver-supporting nutrients and the foods rich in them, which can help keep your liver happy. I hope you enjoy adding them to your cart during your next visit to the market.
Folate (a B vitamin): Green leafy vegetables, spinach, kale, chard, beet greens, asparagus, broccoli, avocados, and brewer’s yeast.
Vitamin C: Grapefruit, lemon, red bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts and strawberries.
Flavonoids: Beets, apples, blueberries, cabbage, parsley, tomatoes, strawberries, and white, green or black tea.
Magnesium: Dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, almonds, pecans, cashews, Brazil nuts, wheat bran, millet, brown rice, dried apricots.
Iron: Kelp, brewer’s yeast, blackstrap molasses, wheat bran, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, organ meats, parsley, clams, almonds, dried prunes, raisins, Jerusalem artichokes, beet greens, egg yolks, whole wheat bread, oats, brown rice, dried peas, lima beans, kidney beans, green peas, almonds, artichokes, and dark green leafy vegetables.
Selenium: Found in our soil and will vary greatly depending on where your food was grown and how healthy the soil is. Foods with concentrated selenium include brewers’ yeast, wheat germ, liver, butter, molasses, Brazil nuts, oats, garlic, mushrooms, radishes, and tomatoes.
Cruciferous Vegetables: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower.
Root: Turmeric (anti-inflammatory, helps the liver detoxify carcinogenic chemicals and stimulates the production of bile).
Herbs: Echinacea, dandelion, red clover, burdock, and milk thistle, which has a reputation for promoting the growth of new liver cells and might be worth exploring during a seasonal detox If you are considering a liver flush or cleanse, it’s important to make sure you stay hydrated and are also having regular bowel movements each day.
Daily bowel movements are essential because the chemicals and pollutants that get released in the body from the liver will end up in your stool for elimination. Slow or irregular elimination patterns may lead to further complications. During a detox phase, I often recommend mild laxatives such as Triphala (Indian formula found in most health food stores in capsule form), psyllium, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and prunes to ensure your colon is being emptied two to three times a day. I also recommend consulting with your local Ayurvedic practitioner (yogi health scientists) or nutritionist to support you in building a custom program that addresses your uniqueness and health goals.
As you can see there is a lot you can do in your daily life to support your liver. If you give your liver a break and limit the number of drugs, alcohol, pesticides, fatty foods, artificial sweeteners, and sugar in your diet on a regular basis, there would be less need to “detox” your liver. A balanced diet with regular exercise and hydration goes a long way in regard to the health of your organs.