When I tell people I am a Naturopathic Doctor, I often am confronted by a host of surprising answers ranging from those people that think that naturopathic doctors only sell medicinal plants (read: marijuana): FALSE! To those people that think that ALL naturopathic doctors absolutely remove dairy, gluten, sugar, and meat, and put you on 23875 supplements at once: Also FALSE!
I have been reflecting on these common myths, and I feel that it is finally time to weigh on my naturopathic practice and the profession, as a whole.
Follow along as I bust more myths about naturopathic medicine.
Myth #1 “Naturopathic doctors do not eat meat. Nor gluten. Definitely not dairy. And we despise alcohol too!”
Moderation is the key to health. I do not believe in enforcing a strictly gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free, organic diet for every patient that walks through my door. Overwhelming a patient with difficult dietary modifications is not a sustainable approach to patient care.
Yes it is true, some patients will require a strict antigen-free diet to get their health condition on track. Additionally, some people may need to make foundational dietary changes in order to confer greater health benefits to a treatment program.
I, personally, enjoy a little gluten here and there. I eat meat. And I do love a glass (Or two) of good wine.
Myth #2 “Naturopathic medicine interventions have no evidence”
Anyone who tells you naturopathic medicine is not supported by research, has not done any research themselves.
Go to PubMed here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ Type in the search bar the highly specified search terms [“fish oil” + “cardiovascular disease”]. Let me do this for you: you’ll find 350 studies. Furthermore, this is not a “narrowed” search – I haven’t yet specified that I want to read only HUMAN clinical trials… So let me filter that for you. Under these search terms there are 68 clinical trials on PubMed involving human clinical-trial data, fish oils and a quantified aspect of cardiovascular health. Quantitatively speaking, that is a decent amount of evidence on a specific topic.
Myth #3 “Supplements are the only way”
Wrong. You should never require 12 supplements in your first visit. Ever! I am a supplement-minimalist. My goal is for patients to receive a therapeutic benefit from the least number of supplements as is possible, achieve health maintenance, and to eventually wean off of supplements. It is rare that a patient will permanently and consistently require a supplemental intervention. However, I do insist on using high quality supplements, typically from a professionally recommended product line, for safety and efficacy.
A lot of time is spent sifting through the bottles of self-diagnosed supplements that patients purchase. It’s easy to read supplement bottles in the grocery store, or self-diagnose conditions on Dr. Google, and WebMD. Leave this area of your health to the naturopathic professional. There is a fallacy that exists, which is summed up as “Because it’s natural, it’s safe”. This is also a reminder that we are talking about your internal biochemistry, shouldn’t you expect a consultation with an expert?
Myth #4 “Naturopathic doctors replace your family physician”
Yes, naturopathic doctors are medically trained. In addition to requiring a bachelor’s degree, board certified naturopathic doctors receive 4 years of education and training in the same medical courses as your family physician. We are trained to diagnose medical conditions, recognize emergent conditions, and to refer our patients to other practitioners when patient care is beyond our scope of training and practice. In addition, our training also includes naturopathic treatments, such as botanical medicine, acupuncture, nutritional biochemistry, hydrotherapy and homeopathy.
My role is to contribute as a part of your healthcare team. Naturopathic doctors should not replace another member of your healthcare team, such as your family physician. If any of your health practitioners scrutinize the medical opinions of another member of your healthcare team, it is time to discuss your need for a health “team approach”, and your values as their patient.
Myth #5 “You should expect a magic cure-all”
As cliche as it may sound, health is a journey, and choosing to be informed about your health is the first step. Blood tests, symptom recognition and understanding health patterns are part of the educational tools naturopathic doctors use.
Yes, fish oil is pretty fabulous, and probiotics are great too, but the thing about medicine and nature, is that there truly isn’t a one-size fits all or a “cure-all” solution. Health and wellness are optimized by subscribing to healthy daily routines, healthy attitudes, and the relationships you have with your physical, mental, and emotional health. It is so much more than a magic pill!
Myth #6 “Medical marijuana”
There, I said it… Let’s air the laundry on this one.
Naturopathic doctors cannot prescribe medical marijuana. Yes, we can review research about CBD and the benefits of cannabinoids, but legally, in Ontario, naturopathic doctors cannot prescribe this medicinal plant. In Ontario, under the ACMPR (Access to Cannabis for Medical Purposes Regulation), members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario have the duty to make decisions regarding prescription of cannabis.
Despite the apparently very common belief, this is not the only medicinal plant that is in the botanical medicine tool-kit. You’ve heard of turmeric, cayenne, green tea, ginger, ginseng. Surprise! These common household ingredients can be used in a medicinal method with therapeutic dosing.
Thanks for reading! This piece is written with a light tone, and it is my hope that you have found it relatively comedic and informative. If you have any other questions about naturopathic medicine or my practise please feel free to comment.
Dr. Kristin Spark, BSc, B.Nat, CISSN, Naturopathic Doctor sees patients at: The Golden Mean Wellness Shoppe on Tuesdays & Thursdays, and at Flow Health and Wellness on Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays. For information about appointments, or to book your appointment, click here
The content provided is not intended as health or medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a prescription. Always seek the advice of your medical provider with any questions you have regarding medical conditions. Dr. Kristin Spark, Naturopathic Doctor is released from any liabilities resulting from the use of information contained here.