WHAT IS NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate the healing power of the body and treat the underlying cause of disease. Symptoms of disease are seen as warning signals of improper functioning of the body, and unfavourable lifestyle habits. Naturopathic medicine emphasizes disease as a process rather than as an entity.
Treating both acute and chronic conditions, naturopathic treatments are chosen based on the individual patient – their physiological, structural, psychological, social, spiritual, environment and lifestyle factors. In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, natural therapies including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, intervenous/injection therapy, and traditional asian medicine/acupuncture may also be used during treatments.
In Canada, the naturopathic medical profession’s infrastructure includes accredited educational institutions, professional licensing, provincially regulated standards of practice, participation in many federal health committee initiatives, and a commitment to the most up to date scientific research.
It is currently estimated that greater than 50% of all patients diagnosed with cancer explore complementary and alternative medicine, with a specific interest in herbal medicine. In terms of safety and efficacy of herbal medicines, clinical and scientific promise has concluded that botanical medicine (phytotherapy/herbalism) is often very safe and effective when commonly prescribed to patients for cancer prevention, treatment support, as well as to treat adverse effects associated with conventional cancer treatments (under the direct supervision of an experienced herbal medicine prescribing doctor).
Current evidence suggests that a multitude of herbs (i.e. ginseng, garlic, green tea, turmeric, reishi, shiitake, ginger, and many others) as part of a complete cancer support therapy may be useful in the prevention of various cancers, as well as efficacious as adjunctive cancer supportive treatments.
LAB TESTING AND DIAGNOSTICS
Medical laboratory testing are tests usually performed on clinical specimens in order to obtain information about the health of a patient as pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. Laboratory tests typically check blood, urine, or body tissue samples. ND’s have prescribing authority to directly requisition laboratory testing within Ontario (and Canada). Collecting this information is very important to formulating the correct strategy and plays a significant role within patient/treatment monitoring.
Within the cancer support/adjunctive care realm, laboratory testing involves general blood/laboratory markers, as well astumour/growth factor markers, specific to various individual cancers. General blood testing (such as CBC, inflammatory markers, liver/digestive panels etc), may be completed in order to gather an impression/diagnostic perspective on the overall health of an individual (critical to overall cancer care).
Tumour/growth factor markers are substances that are either produced by cancer or healthy cells of the body in response to a pre-cancerous or cancerous environment within the body. Various tumour markers have been identified and are currently utilized within conventional and integrative medicine to help diagnose, track, and assess current health/cancer status, as well as treatment success/guidance. Although an elevated level of a tumour marker may suggest the presence of cancer, this alone is not enough to diagnose cancer. Therefore, measurements of tumour markers are usually combined with other tests, such as biopsies, and/or imaging, in order to diagnose treat/manage cancer, and overall health and symptoms.
EMOTIONAL | MENTAL HEALTH
Emotional and mental health/well-being is fundamentally critical within the scope of cancer care and overall health. It has been repeatedly evidenced that emotional climate has a direct and influencing impact on immune system health, micro tumour environment, response to cancer treatment (conventional and alternative), as well as long term health outcomes. Within integrative cancer support/care, focus and effort is placed on ensuring past and current emotional impact/state is addressed accordingly in order improve overall outcomes of the cancer management and individual person centred care plan.
Many considerations play an orchestrating role in beginning to address emotional well being, including nutritional and lifestyle factors, direct health psychology, coping mechanisms, family and social support factors, and treatments such as acupuncture and other direct relaxation approaches.
At the heart of naturopathic medicine, whole person health is of primary importance and focus. Regardless of any disease process, illness, diagnosis, or aberrations in wellness, individual and global supportive treatments must be practiced. At the crux of whole health comes nutritional medicine. Nutritional medicine is comprised of any whole food, dietary, or specific natural nutritional agent (vitamin, extract, nutrient) which will aid in the enhancement of healthier physiological or chemical process within the body. Ultimately, this means any nutrient, or set of nutrients, that are depleted, void, or necessary for further improvement in overall health, will be introduced.
Nutritional medicine can intervene anywhere within day to day dietary inclusions down to isolated (well known) nutrients necessary to impact a precise physiological pathways within the body. Nutritional medicine, within cancer support, specifically, means two things; 1. what is nutritionally necessary for the patient in order to better support overall health and quality of life (energy, wellness, clarity, sleep, vitality, overall health etc.), and 2. what specific nutrient (or set of nutrients) have been verified (clinically and in research) to intervene (improve, block, reduce, cease, interfere with) within the actual cancer process itself.
Nutrients such as curcumin, green tea, fermented wheat germ extract, grape seed extract are a few simple examples of nutrients which shut off/block/interfere with growth factors within the cancer process, in order to reduce, halt or eliminate the cancer growth cycle, or its supportive processes, thus specifically targeting a specific cancer diagnosis/prognosis/disease itself. Many more well known integrative nutritional interventions exist, however each is very exact based on each specific cancer diagnosis, stage, prognosis, and current treatment regimens. Thus, there is rarely a ‘one size fits all’ approach to nutritional medicine and cancer.
Traditional acupuncture has been utilized for thousands of years as a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As a primary and effective clinical component of Naturopathic Medicine, it is a well utilized treatment intervention for a vast array of health issues and disease. Of note, acupuncture is regularly used as a whole body intervention to correct conditions such as sleep/insomnia, stress and stress related illness, fertility/infertility, immune modulation, hormonal health, pregnancy related conditions, skin issues, allergies/asthma, digestive illness, diarrhea/constipation, muscular and nervous system conditions, pain, supportive care with cancer and treatment, as well as many emotional related type illnesses (depression, anxiety etc).
Against popular belief, acupuncture is a very individualized and non invasive mode of therapy, with significant short and long
term benefit outcomes. Pain associated with acupuncture is minimal at worst, often with little to no painful sensation with needle insertion at all. Regardless of the treatment intent or health issue/disease being treated, most find a primary “side effect” of acupuncture being that of relaxation, stress reduction, and an overall connection to oneself and “zen” or meditation like experience. Depending on the condition being treated, benefit outcomes can occur almost immediately, with long term consistent condition correction success as well. Acupuncture has often been seen as an intervention equal or superior in clinical value and outcome to that of medication or other naturopathic modality intervention.
IV THERAPY (NON-CANCER)
Much research and positive clinic outcome has been derived from Intravenous (non cancer) therapy. Intravenous (IV) therapy involves delivering high doses of vitamins, minerals, and/or other medicines directly into the bloodstream to provide rapid, effective therapeutic benefit and relief of symptoms. Naturopathic doctors require additional training, experience and board regulated certification in this highly specialized area of medical treatment. IV therapy can provide the necessary nutrients to reduce side effects, and improve quality of life in people undergoing conventional cancer treatments.
On its own, however, it has also proven to extend primary therapeutic benefit through multiple physiological pathways which enhance a person’s overall health and outcomes outside of cancer focus support and care. Thus, aside from cancer, IV therapy has been documented to benefit, support and treat other health concerns such as infections, nutritional deficiencies leading to disease, specific immune support, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, digestive health, energy deficiencies, physiological imbalances, malnutrition, cellular dysfunctions, metabolic disease and dysfunction, energy deficiencies, as well as the vast array of organ derived diseases (ie liver, pancreatic, kidney and so on).
IV therapy for non cancer states, is one of naturopathic medicines top and most effective therapies, as support and correction is unabated given direct infusion into the blood stream, thus bypassing any issues with digestion, absorption, or breakdown.
Full blood laboratory measures are required prior to initiation of any IV therapy treatment, as verification of proper blood cell and organ function must be pre determined in order for a patient to qualified for such precise and effective health therapy.