I’ve been reflecting on common myths that I hear from people about naturopathic medicine and more specifically how they think I [might] practice. Many people still walk through my door anticipating one thing, but are pleasantly surprised when I deliver the opposite approach. Unexpected and refreshing is fun, but can be unnerving. I get it, so let’s get into it.
I wanted to clear up these misunderstandings before you ever set foot in my office so you don’t have to come in with any uncertainty about what you’re going to get. I bring a different style of practice from my experience working for years in Toronto with diverse patient populations then moving back to Sault Ste. Marie to a new generation of folks where I was born and raised. And of course, I also put my own unique touch on my approach to patient care.
So on to some myth-busting…
I am not here to replace your family doctor or any other healthcare provider for that matter.
My role as your healthcare provider is to be a part of your healthcare team. Yes, team. Each provider has a different scope of practice, treatment options, way of approaching health, aspects of care they focus on, and distinct areas of expertise. We each have something to contribute to your health and well-being.
The personal opinions of your healthcare providers about other professions SHOULD NOT factor in to the care they provide you with. If they do, have a chat with them about what your healthcare needs are from them and that you prefer a team approach. If that doesn’t work, move on to a new healthcare provider because being non-judgmental of a patient’s choices is fundamental to being a great healthcare professional. The reality is that we are all regulated healthcare providers that abide by rules and regulations to give you safe and effective treatment.
I regularly work alongside family doctors and review specialists reports in order to deliver the best, coordinated and integrated care possible to my patients. I am here for you and to support you in achieving your health goals. That’s my bottom line.
I am not the local witch doctor. (Really? LOL)
This is circa 10 years ago the first time I heard this, but there’s been a recent resurgence of this label. It makes me laugh to hear this, because it comes from people who have never worked directly with me or spoken to me about my work. Naturopathic medicine is evidence-based medicine. Yes, we use plants, but guess what? There’s evidence for these, too. Plants are what pharmaceuticals are based on. Any time some new really neat plant health benefit is discovered, they try to replicate it in the lab to design new drugs. Remember, the plant contains the original blueprint and has much value.
There is growing medical research in our field and with our treatments every day. It’s an active area of study, not some antiquated dusty-shelf form of medicine. Go Google “Turmeric Alzheimer’s PubMed” right now. You’ll see a pile of scholarly articles relating to it. Even the ULCA Alzheimer’s Centre reviews its uses and recommends it. Naturopathic medicine and its therapies I use are not pseudoscience – I promise you that.
There are no cure-alls.
Apple cider vinegar is a pretty awesome substance, and yes, it has many uses. But is not a cure all. There are no cure-alls in nature. That’s why nature is so special, there is diversity and every plant has different medicinal properties. If you read something pretty out there on the internet about apple cider vinegar, it’s likely not true. If you’d like to test out the theory, go ahead, see what happens. Apple cider vinegar is pretty low-risk intervention, but don’t go putting it in your eye.
I won’t tell you to stop your favourite terrible habit.
Alright, let’s have another honest moment here. We’re all human and we all have weaknesses. Sometimes it’s that 6 cups of coffee a day, or massive amounts of chocolate and sometimes it’s being glued to the couch watching entire seasons of Game of Thrones. I get it! I’m a human being, too, and I have empathy for that. I promise not to pull the rug out from under you and hand you a whole brand new diet on your first appointment and tell you to makeover your current life as you know it…by tomorrow.
Human psychology 101 – drastic, rapid change is not sustainable. Period. Slow, gradual change over time works long-term (and isn’t painful!). You can look back in 6 months after tiny, sequential steps and proudly say, “Hey! Look how far I came with my health and it didn’t hurt one bit.” Mission accomplished.
Human psychology 201 – every habit, good, bad or otherwise is serving a purpose for you. Yes, even smoking. We have to get to the bottom of why and what it’s doing for you before we can make any meaningful changes.
Now, I’m not saying that terrible habit isn’t causing harm, but you can’t tackle it head on without a lot of push back (and at worst, complete failure). I want to set you up for success, not just for next month, but long-term. You need another point of entry and I have strategies up my sleeve. Let’s get you some energy back first before we reduce coffee or peel you off the sofa. Let’s check into what your body’s missing if it’s constantly craving chocolate. Why don’t we acknowledge all the awesome habits you have and leverage them to raise your health up? Sound good to you?
My job is not to persuade you to change your beliefs.
I know, it sounds counter-intuitive at first. You have your own beliefs, ideas and opinions. I respect that. My job is to share new ideas that may be beneficial to you given your current understanding and state of health. A different way of seeing the world can really change everything. As Stephen R. Covey said it, “To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” But you are free to agree or disagree. It’s not really about that. It’s about seeing how that new perspective fits with yours and if it’s a good fit, take it and try it on. If it works for you, great! If it doesn’t leave it behind and move on. I will never try to change your mind. That’s totally up to you.
Supplements are not the be-all end-all of naturopathic care.
I want to declare this now, loud and clear: I AM A SUPPLEMENT MINIMALIST! What does this mean? I use the minimum we need to get you to where you want to be. I am not a fan of taking 20 supplements day, why would I recommend that? I think this can potentially detract from your well-being. But everyone approaches practice differently, it’s not good or bad, this is just how I roll based on my clinical experience.
A lot of my initial treatment planning is sifting through the 50 bottles patients bring in to narrow down which ones are right for them. The truth is you can walk down a supplement aisle and 500 things could be good for you because, well…you’re human. But the better question is, “What’s good for you Sally, at this point in time, in this state of health, given your current circumstances?” Does everyone need a multivitamin? Nope, but there are times when it can be useful, such as replacing lost nutrients from drug-induced deficiencies or when recovering from an illness.
Yes, naturopathic doctors are the leading experts in nutritional supplements, but it’s not our only tool. There are so many other aspects to your health, we need to balance the approach with reducing stressors, supporting your body’s structure, healthier food and dietary patterns, better sleep/rest/recovery, adequate exercise, improved hydration, etc. The supplements don’t have as much of an impact any way if these other areas are not in check.
I don’t want you to do ANYTHING because ‘I said so’.
Please, let’s blow the top off of everything I have been hearing and you may have been thinking. I make recommendations to you based on my clinical judgement. You get to choose if you want to do it or not. You get to ask all the questions you want. You can ask for alternatives to the recommendations if you want another way.
Please say “no thank you”, if you don’t agree with a proposed treatment once it’s been explained. I’m good with that, it doesn’t hurt my feelings. I’m happy you express your choice. I welcome that wholeheartedly. I welcome questions and discussion.
I want you to do something/anything because you understand it, you know the expected benefits, you are okay with the potential risks and because it makes sense to you. Not because ‘I said so’. It’s ultimately always your choice. When you own your choices, you get to own your successes, too. Remember that.
I am not the right naturopathic doctor for everyone.
Surprised? Think about it though: Each person is so unique and has different needs, personality, ideas, beliefs, etc. How could one possible think they are the right fit for everyone out there? I certainly don’t! I have some really awesome colleagues that work here locally and each of us has a different approach to practice. So there is a naturopathic doctor out there for you and it may not be me, and that’s okay. If you’re getting the healthcare you need from a provider you work well with, I’m happy.
My goodness! Does it ever feel great to express this! Thank you for your attention, sincerely. This passionate post has been brewing for awhile. If you’ve been considering naturopathic care, I hope I’ve clarified any open questions you’ve had about my approach so you now know for sure if I am or am not the right ND for you.