Naturopathic Medicine, also called Naturopathy, is a system of healing that focuses on supporting and stimulating the body’s ability to heal itself; it takes a holistic approach, which means that it focuses on the whole person rather than on a person’s illness.
Naturopathic Medicine, which combines modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural therapies, is performed by Naturopathic doctors (NDs) who are trained in and use a wide variety of different therapies.
Naturopathic Medicine Treatments may include special diets and nutritional counselling, fasting, enemas and herbal, vitamin or mineral remedies.
Naturopathic Medicine uses natural, non-toxic therapies to treat the whole person and encourage the self-healing process. Naturopathic clinicians treat a variety of conditions, including digestive issues, respiratory conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome and cancer.
Various organisations with Integrative Oncology Services offer Naturopathic Medicine where the focus is on reducing the risk of harmful effects from cancer treatments; to support normal metabolism and digestion during cancer treatment; to manage any side effects, such as nausea or fatigue; and to boost immune function.
A History of the Medical Use of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic Medicine dates back more than 100 years, although it has its roots in ancient medicine. Founded by a German-American MD, Dr. Benjamin Lust, Naturopathic Medicine integrates a wide variety of natural therapies that have been clinically proven to strengthen the immune system, improve overall health, and help prevent illness.
Studies show that, when used in conjunction with conventional treatment, naturopathic therapies can improve the outlook for many people with cancer.
Naturopathic Medicine as a Complementary Therapy
Naturopathic medicine is by definition holistic. This means that Naturopathic Practitioners evaluate all aspects of your well-being, including your physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
At the core of the naturopathic tradition is the belief that a healthy lifestyle is the cornerstone of physical well-being.
While naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of healthcare, that doesn’t mean it’s opposed to conventional medicine.
Cooperation between disciplines is at the heart of the naturopathic philosophy. Naturopaths often collaborate with and refer people to conventional medical doctors for diagnosis or treatment.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) believe that cancer arises from an imbalance that causes a systemic breakdown within the body. They help people with cancer restore internal balance and build their resistance to disease by empowering them to make lifestyle and dietary changes.
Although naturopathic medicine draws from diverse and seemingly quite different healing traditions, they all share certain principles:
- First do no harm: Naturopathic medicine emphasizes healing therapies that are natural and non-invasive.
- The healing power of nature: Naturopathic therapies support and restore the body’s inherent ability to heal itself.
- Treat the cause: In addition to treating the symptoms of disease, naturopathic medicine seeks to identify and treat the underlying causes of illness.
- Heal the whole person: Naturopathic therapies address all aspects of your health, including physical, emotional, spiritual, genetic, and environmental factors.
- The naturopath as teacher: Naturopathic practitioners work with the people in their care to educate and empower them to take control of their health.
- Preventive medicine: Naturopathic medicine promotes lifestyle habits that strengthen the immune system and prevent illness.
Reputable Naturopathic Practitioners receive rigorous training in conventional medical disciplines, such as anatomy, biochemistry, pathology, and clinical medicine, as well as natural medicine.
There is no evidence at this time that Naturopathic Medicine can treat the cancer itself. Naturopathic medicine often combines several different therapies, and there isn’t enough research yet on the different therapies to say whether Naturopathic Medicine as a Whole System works well as a Complementary Therapy.
Only a few good research studies have looked at individual naturopathic methods.
Some evidence shows that a few methods used by NDs may be safe and effective as a complementary therapy to help cope with side effects of cancer treatment.
These methods include acupuncture and massage, as well as proper diet and nutrition during cancer treatment.
Other techniques, such as herbal, vitamin or mineral remedies, fasting and traditional Chinese medicine, have not been shown to be safe or effective as a complementary therapy. We need more research to find out how these methods may interact with conventional cancer treatments.
How is Naturopathic Medicine Administered?
Naturopaths prescribe natural therapies that can slow tumour growth, strengthen the immune system, and enhance the effectiveness of conventional therapy. Naturopathic remedies can also relieve problems like inflammation or insulin resistance caused by conventional treatment.
The naturopathic therapies that are right for you will depend on your diagnosis, state of health, and primary course of treatment.
During your office visit with a naturopath, you may undergo extensive lab work, assessments, and medical tests, similar to what you experience when you go for a check-up with a conventional doctor.
Your naturopathic oncology provider will review your history and make recommendations from a wide variety of natural therapies. The ND will also review current supplements to identify herb-drug-nutrient interactions.
Throughout your treatment, the ND will recommend natural therapies to support your immune system and reduce any treatment-related side effects, including:
- Acupuncture and Acupressure: Among the best-known procedures of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), acupuncture and acupressure are shown to relieve pain, nausea of chemotherapy, and the side effects of hormone therapies. Both are based on the concept of Qi, or the flow of life energy through the body. Acupressure relies on the massage of key energy points within the body to realign Qi. Acupuncturists painlessly insert thin needles into strategic points in the body to redirect the flow of energy.
- Botanical Medicine: Plants have been used to treat medical conditions since the beginning of civilization. Today, 80% of the world’s population uses botanical remedies, and many drugs are plant-derived, including some of the most powerful chemotherapy agents. Preparations may include herbal extracts and teas.
Chiropractic Care: May include hands-on adjustment, massage, stretching, electronic muscle stimulation, traction, heat, ice and other techniques to alleviate pain, headaches, nausea, peripheral neuropathy and stiffness or weakness in the muscles and joints.
Dietary Supplements: This may include vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
Homeopathic Remedies: Extremely low doses of plant extracts and minerals that gently strengthen the body’s healing and immune response. Aromatic plants such as ginger, fennel, and mint can relieve nausea. Green tea contains powerful cancer-fighting compounds. Chinese herbs, such as astragalus, are often used to relieve symptoms and boost the immune system.
Hydrotherapy: An extremely gentle treatment, hydrotherapy can be used internally to aid elimination of waste products, or externally to stimulate blood flow and boost cellular absorption of nutrients. Many naturopaths recommend that people with cancer drink eight glasses of water a day. Purified or bottled water is best, because it’s free of chlorine and other chemicals. Your ND may also use local application of hot and cold compresses, a common form of external hydrotherapy.
- Lifestyle Counselling: Many medical conditions can be treated with exercise, improved sleep, stress reduction techniques, as well as foods and nutritional supplements.
- Physical therapy and Exercise Therapy: Therapies may include massage and other gentle techniques used on deep muscles and joints for therapeutic purposes.
Side Effects or Risks
Side effects of naturopathic medicine will depend on the treatments you receive. We don’t know if, or how, naturopathic herbal preparations or vitamin and mineral treatments may affect conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Some naturopathic medicine treatments may interact with over-the-counter drugs, which could be dangerous to your health.
Please note that the Little Fighters Cancer Trust shares information regarding various types of cancer treatments on this blog merely for informational use. LFCT does not endorse or promote any specific cancer treatments – we believe that the public should be informed but that the option is theirs to take as to what treatments are to be used.
Always consult your medical practitioner prior to taking any other medication, natural or otherwise.