Health matters the natural way

Globally, the conscious shift towards an organic holistic lifestyle has left individuals exploring new ways of approaching health concerns and prevention. Particularly because "pop in and out" sessions with most conventional medical practitioners is not an acceptable approach to patients concerned about their health.

One method in particular is a growing trend in naturopathic medicine, also known as naturopathy. Naturopathic medicine encourages the body's innate self-healing process called the "vis medicatrix naturae" by blending centuries-old knowledge of natural therapies with current scientific advances in health and human systems.

The scope of the practice includes all aspects of family care, from paediatrics to geriatrics. Naturopathic medicine gives patient-specific solutions to an illness that typically presents with a wide variety of symptoms.

"Qualified naturopathic doctors are the most extensively trained practitioners in alternative medicine and often work side by side with conventional (allopathic) medicine," says Dr Benita Perch, a Cape Town based naturopathic doctor and associate lecturer at the University of the Western Cape's School of Natural Medicine. "They also offer a number of integrated and alternative medical solutions," she adds.

According to Dr Perch the age old saying "Prevention is the best cure" is the reality. "Naturopathic medicine does not only treat symptomatic patients but emphasises disease prevention and the promotion of optimal health through natural therapeutics," she says.

Therapeutic approaches taught include:

  • Therapeutic nutrition
  • Homeopathy
  • Botanical medicine
  • Classical Chinese medicine
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Naturopathic manipulative therapy
  • Pharmacology
  • Minor surgical procedures 

The six principles that guide the therapeutic methods and modalities of naturopathic medicine include:

  1. First Do No Harm
    Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective.
  2. The Healing Power of Nature
    The human body possesses the inherent ability to restore health. The Physician's role is to facilitate this process with the aid of natural, nontoxic therapies.
  3. Discover and Treat the Cause
    Physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.
  4. Treat the Whole Person
    The multiple factors in health and disease are considered while treating the whole person, including the body and mind.
  5. The Physician is a Teacher
    The physician's major role is to educate, empower, and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health.
  6. Prevention is the Best Cure
    Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists. Prevention of disease is best accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports health.

As a naturopathic physician Dr Benita Perch constantly witnesses the frustration of patients who have previously gone for years without real relief or proper diagnosis of conditions. She explains that naturopaths have the tools to entertain the total problem and are thus able to treat the whole person.

"Treatment must encompass a patient’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing, as these aspects are interrelated," she says.

Dr Perch explains that the different modalities used to treat a patient differ from person-to-person but can encompass elements from classical homeopathy, dietary adjustments, nutritional supplementation, Chinese medicine, and botanical medicine.

Because naturopathy is individualistic and holistic in nature, two people with the same disease will never receive the same remedy or combination of treatments.

For more information on naturopathic medicine or to find a registered naturopath in your area visit the SA Naturopathy Association's website.

- (Health24, June 2010)

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