- Patricia Pearce, ND
The Top Ten Chronic Conditions That Benefit From Naturopathic Medicine
While there is a veritable plethora of conditions whose symptoms have the potential to be virtually eradicated by proper nutrition, lifestyle changes, and targeted supplementation, these are the top ten conditions I believe are best addressed through Naturopathic principles. What causes people with these conditions to seek holistic medicine? In my opinion, these diseases are ones that tend to be difficult to treat using pharmaceutical interventions alone. These individuals have been through the grinder of primary care followed by extensive diagnostics, multiple specialists, and an array of medications and surgeries, only to come out the other side feeling like they still don't have answers and feeling "just as bad as ever."
What is missing for people living with these conditions are structured, comprehensive, and well-supported lifestyle interventions like diet, exercise, and sleep optimization. They are missing the REASONS why their condition arose in the first place. They are seeking alternatives to the cornucopia of drugs offered to mask their symptoms due to their side effects or their decreased efficacy.
Naturopathic medicine is inherently lifestyle-based medicine. Conventional medicine excels at acute conditions and has changed the world with its efficacy at saving lives in the most dire of circumstances. It would be silly to see an ND for a broken bone or a ruptured appendix! However, in some circumstances, consider that medication may not be the only answer. In the case of chronic, long-term conditions like the ones enumerated here, medication may be but one tool in a toolbox of options that includes dietary interventions like removing food sensitivities and increasing nutrient density, lifestyle interventions like sleep optimization and exercise, and targeted, evidence-based nutritional and botanical supplementation.
The Top Ten Conditions That Benefit From Lifestyle-Based Medicine
1. Hypothyroidism & Hashimoto's Thyroiditis
As the most common cause of hypothyroidism in the United States, the only accepted medical treatment for Hashimoto's thyroiditis is synthetic thyroid hormone like levothyroxine. However, replacing thyroid hormone is only the tip of the iceberg for people suffering from the debilitating symptoms of Hashimoto's, like severe fatigue, brain fog, widespread pain, digestive issues, poor sleep, thinning hair and nails, and more. Hashimoto's is an autoimmune disease of the thyroid, and simply replacing thyroid hormone does not address this underlying autoimmunity. The goal of Naturopathic medicine in Hashimoto's patients is to decrease autoimmunity through immunomodulation, thus supporting normal thyroid function. Read more about Naturopathic options for Hashimoto's disease HERE.
2. Autoimmune Conditions
In addition to Hashimoto's, other autoimmune conditions like IBD, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis can greatly benefit from a lifestyle-based approach which focuses on decreasing inflammation in the body. The immune system can be modulated with diet and supplementation to transition from a pro-inflammatory, hyper-excitable state to an anti-inflammatory state which allows the organs that have been under attack to recuperate. To read our Autoimmune Disease Series, click here.
3. Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue
Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome are notoriously difficult conditions to diagnose and treat in the conventional world, due to their multifactorial etiologies. However, tying together and addressing the root causes of any condition is where Naturopathic medicine shines. Frequently, symptoms and underlying factors with seemingly no relation to each other respond to and benefit from the same individualized lifestyle interventions. ANW also offers a unique look at small genetic variants associated with fatigue and fibromyalgia that can be detected via a 23 and Me genetic profile, which is often a missing piece of the puzzle. Read and watch the video on this amazing analysis HERE.
4. Digestive Conditions
SIBO, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, Crohn's disease, and ulcerative colitis: digestive conditions can be embarrassing, debilitating, and frustrating beyond belief. I would know, I suffer from one of these conditions myself! In our wellness programs, we spend 4 or more weeks on healing the gut by restoring proper digestion, re-establishing a normal and healthy microbiome, and repairing damaged gut cells. Possibly the most important tenet of Naturopathic medicine is addressing gut health. As Hippocrates said, look to the gut to find the source of all human illness. To read more about Naturopathic options for IBD (the autoimmune digestive conditions Crohn's & UC) click here.
5. Women's Health Conditions
Dysmenorrhea (painful periods), PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids, menopause, infertility and other female hormonal conditions are unique in their tendency to get discounted, blown-off, or chalked up to "normal female physiology." Fact is, it's NOT NORMAL to have horrifically painful periods, excessive bleeding, severe hot flashes, and excessive difficulty getting pregnant. Unfortunately, a common conventional answer to female hormonal problems is birth control, an exogenous hormone source which has the potential to disrupt normal physiology and cause its own set of issues and side effects without ever addressing the root cause. Click here to learn more about women's health conditions we can help with and please stay tuned for our Natural Hormone Balancing series.
6. Anxiety & Depression
Mental health issues are becoming more common in our society and are greatly overlooked in terms of their severity and the toll they can take on a person's life. Typically, these issues are addressed through medication and counseling. The physiology of normal and endogenous brain functioning is often neglected, although it can be addressed effectively through proper nutrition, a consistent exercise program, sleep optimization, and more. Naturopathic medicine seeks to restore this missing piece, as well as provide a safe space for people living with these conditions. To read about ANW's exclusive 23 and me genetic analysis focusing on small genetic changes that can worsen anxiety and depression, click here.
7. Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome
Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and triglycerides, high blood pressure, and obesity are conditions that are inherently a result of our modern lifestyle, which is built on poor diet, little exercise, stress, and limited sleep. Medications like statins for cholesterol and metformin for diabetes often come with their own set of side-effects and while effective in the short term, if the lifestyle conditions that lead to these diseases in the first place are not corrected, the medications can lose their efficacy and long term consequences can develop. Many of our clients tell us that while their doctors do recommend that they "diet and exercise," they simply don't have the time to answer all of their questions and explain exactly what these recommendations mean! That's where an ND steps in. To learn more about naturopathic medicine for metabolic syndrome, click here.
8. Weight Management
As a society, we are obsessed with "being thin." At ANW, we are obsessed with BEING STRONG and FEELING GOOD. As we tell many of our clients who are technically carrying extra weight, weight loss is merely a beneficial side effect to our lifestyle programs. Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry in which companies prey on the tendency of people to look for a quick fix and easy solutions. As Naturopaths, we know that there is no such thing. The transition from feeling tired, out of breath, weak, or in pain as a result of carrying extra weight to one of strength, stamina, and endurance takes time and effort. Our goal is to get you feeling GREAT, not to achieve an arbitrary number on a scale.
9. Cardiovascular Conditions
Coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease all have a common underlying factor: atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of blood vessels as a result of damage and subsequent repair with cholesterol and other cellular building blocks. These diseases are the number one cause of death in the United States. While they do have a genetic component, much like diabetes and metabolic syndrome, CVD is highly preventable with proper lifestyle choices, and existing damage can be mitigated to a significant degree with these changes. Medications can be used to slow the damage, but only long-lasting lifestyle interventions are effective at truly addressing the root cause of CVD. Click here for more information!
10. Adrenal Fatigue
Commonly dismissed by the conventional community as "not real," adrenal fatigue is a colloquial term referring to dysfunction of the HPA, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This miscommunication among the endocrine, or hormone-producing, organs that are responsible for a normal stress response results from a high-speed, high stress, caffeine-fueled lifestyle typified by most Americans. It is especially prevalent in college students, corporate business men and women, military, and first responders. Please see the adrenal fatigue series for articles and videos on this subject by clicking HERE.
Do you feel you have a condition that could benefit from Naturopathic medicine?
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