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What is Naturopathy?

Naturopathy is a holistic approach to health care based on a belief in the healing power of nature. Naturopaths work closely with you to improve your health by making lifestyle such as improving your diet and reducing stress. They also employ alternative therapies, including herbal remedies, homeopathy, and hands–on techniques such as massage to stimulate your body’s ability to heal itself.

What does treatment involve?

During your first visit, a naturopath will spend an hour or two interviewing about your diet, sleep patterns, and emotional state, as well as the symptoms of any health problems you may be having. He or she may use the same diagnostic tools as conventional physicians, including x–rays and blood and urine tests when appropriate. Some naturopaths may also prescribe drugs and perform minor surgery, but they primarily rely on “Natural means” to treat illness. Typically, they’ll suggest you to take certain herbs, vitamins, or other supplements to address a nutritional imbalance. Or they may ask you to fast or to remove certain food groups from your diet to determine if food allergies are causing your symptoms. Finally, they may recommend stress reduction techniques like biofeedback, meditation, or massage.

Does it work?

Naturopathy’s gentle methods and holistic approach seem to be most effective for people with chronic pain and other ailments for which conventional medicine has little to offer. In many cases, a change in diet and a little understanding (some naturopaths are trained in counseling), along with an occasional massage, can be enough to resolve health problems. And there is striking evidence that a caring manner can trigger the body’s ability to heal itself, for example, those who were reassured that a sham injection would prevent from feeling any pain reported less discomfort than those who got real anesthetic but without any comment from the dentist.

However, there is little science behind many naturopathy techniques. Researchers say that true vitamin deficiencies and food allergies are rare and are unlikely to cause the kinds of problems that naturopaths pin on them. And the field is prone to fads, like the idea that fatigue, depression, and sinus allergies can be cured with a special diet aimed at ridding the body of an “Excess of yeast”. Finally there is no evidence that fasting or any of naturopathy’s other “Detoxifying” treatments have any health benefits.

Is it safe?

Licensed naturopaths have a good safety record, and most practice only the most benign methods. But some naturopathy remedies have proven harmful. For example, chelation therapy, which involves injecting chemicals in an attempt to clean out the arteries, can cause kidney failure and even death. And colonic irrigation, a powerful enema that is supposed to improve bowel health, has caused injuries and a handful of deaths.

Beware of practitioners who try to dissuade you from taking any prescribed medications or having your children immunized or seeking conventional treatment in case of serious illness. Also be skeptical of any therapy or substance that claims to cure a wide variety of illnesses.