Taking control of your health — understanding naturopathy

September 21, 2021

Naturopathic medicine is becoming more popular every year, with over 2,400 naturopathic doctors currently practicing throughout the country, according to the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

“I think the public has a hunger to understand what is going on with their health and to understand the root cause of their problems,” says Jason Bachewich, a naturopathic doctor and member of the board of the Manitoba Naturopathic Association. “They no longer want to just take a pill for this or that and want to feel empowered to take back control of their health.”

Naturopathic doctors are in high demand because the root of being a doctor – which means “teacher” in Latin – has been lost in public healthcare, Bachewich says.

“We listen to the patient, paying attention to all aspects of their health – the mental, emotional and physical.”

But what exactly is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a primary healthcare system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine.

“It is based on the healing power of nature, and it supports and stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself,” says Bachewich.

Naturopathic doctors are trained in primary medical care, but focus their education on natural therapies.

“Many patients come to see us for digestive concerns, hormone issues, energy problems, depression/anxiety, skin conditions and headaches. Some naturopathic doctors take additional training to be able to support oncology/cancer patients, infectious diseases such as Lyme disease and even mental health issues. We pretty much see it all,” says Bachewich, who co-owns The Nature Doctors, the largest naturopathic centre in Manitoba.

Naturopaths can diagnose, treat and prevent health issues using natural therapies, including:

  • herbal medicine
  • clinical nutrition (preventing, diagnosing and managing nutritional changes to prevent illness)
  • hydrotherapy (using water to treat conditions and maintain health)
  • homeopathy (using highly diluted substances to treat and prevent conditions)
  • naturopathic manipulation (hands-on techniques to manipulate joints and the spine)
  • traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture
  • lifestyle counselling
  • health promotion and disease prevention

Naturopaths often spend 90 minutes in the initial intake with a patient so they can get a complete history and picture, and educate the patient on how their symptoms are connected.

“For example, a gut issue can impact hormones, which can impact a person’s potential to get migraines. If all we do is give a pill for the migraines, we are missing out on the bigger picture and the patient will continue to be sick with or without headaches,” says Bachewich.

Naturopathy misconceptions

“I think the most common misconception is that we are not science based, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” says Bachewich. “We are trained to read bloodwork, do full physicals, understand the pharmacokinetics of herb/nutrient/drug interactions and employ treatments that are backed by research and are safe.

“Acupuncture has been around for four thousand years and yet had no real research on it till the 1960s. Health care is ever evolving, and more and more research is coming out weekly to support naturopathic treatments.”

What should you look for in a naturopath?

A naturopathic doctor must be a graduate of an accredited program and be registered with the provincial governing body.

Many people call themselves “natural doctors” or “naturopaths” but do not have the education, Bachewich cautions.

“This is a huge risk for the public as many natural medicines can interfere with pharmaceutical medicines,” he says. “Some medical conditions, which are serious, such as cancer or heart disease, may be missed by a natural doctor that does not have the ability to do a physical or order bloodwork. It is a real concern for the public.”

To find an accredited and registered naturopathic doctor, refer to the Manitoba Naturopathic Association.

Check your naturopathy coverage

To check if you have coverage with Manitoba Blue Cross for naturopathy, log in to your mybluecross® online account.

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