I know you are feeling overwhelmed right now. You are searching for direction, answers, hope. I am here to help. Each month, I will send you some information and advice to try to make your journey a little more manageable…
"For the part can never be well unless the whole is well." - Plato
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine, also called "naturopathy," is a distinct, comprehensive system of primary healthcare. It is a practice of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness. Naturopathic medicine is based on the assumption that when one part of your body or mind is not working properly, it affects your entire well-being. Thus, naturopathic medicine focuses on the whole person, not just the illness.
A central goal of naturopathic medicine is to use the healing power of the body and nature to maintain and restore health. To accomplish this, naturopathic practitioners focus on creating a healthy environment both inside and outside the body. They use safe, natural therapies to support the whole person and to strengthen the body's ability to heal itself. Naturopaths also emphasize prevention of illness through education and promotion of healthy lifestyle habits.
The scope of naturopathic medicine encompasses a variety of natural and non-invasive therapies, including the following: clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, classical Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, manipulative therapy, counseling or behavioral medicine, physical medicine, and some minor surgery.
Naturopathic Medicine in Cancer Care
Conventional cancer treatments, and cancer itself, can be strenuous on your body. You may find it difficult to deal with side effects like nausea, pain and fatigue. Naturopathic medicine therapies may help provide relief from these symptoms. When used alongside conventional medical treatments, naturopathic methods may help increase your body's natural healing power to fight disease.
As you undergo traditional cancer treatment, naturopathic medicine aims to:
- Support normal metabolism
- Decrease side effects of treatment
- Boost the body's immune system
- Provide strategies for long term health maintenance
- Improve energy, well-being and overall quality of life
Naturopathic medicine incorporates the natural therapies of many different healing traditions. These therapies aim to support whole-body wellness, including the immune system, digestion, sleep, energy levels, diet, exercise, and spirituality.
The following are some therapeutic modalities of naturopathic medicine that you may decide to integrate into your cancer treatment plan:
Clinical Nutrition: The philosophy "food is the best medicine" is one of the principles of naturopathic practice. It is important to give your body a constant supply of nutrients to use as fuel during the healing process. Naturopaths assist with individualized diets and nutritional supplements.
- Botanical Medicine (Herbs, Minerals, and Vitamins): Many plant substances are powerful medicines. Their organic nature makes most botanicals compatible with the body's own chemistry; hence, they can work gently with few toxic side effects. Naturopaths have expertise in potential drug/herb/nutrient interactions and can monitor botanical use.
- Chinese Medicine: Chinese medicine is a healing philosophy that is complementary to naturopathic medicine. Meridian theory offers an important understanding of the unity of the body and mind and adds to the Western understanding of physiology. Naturopaths may use acupressure and herbal medicine to promote healing.
- Homeopathic Medicine: Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of "like cures like." It may work on a subtle, yet powerful level, gently acting to strengthen the body's immune response and triggering the self-healing process. Naturopaths may use small doses of natural substances (e.g., plant extracts and minerals) to support symptoms such as post-surgical recovery, nausea, constipation, and diarrhea.
- Physical Medicine: Naturopathic medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine. Naturopaths employ therapeutic exercise, massage, physical therapy hydrotherapy, gentle electrical therapies, and applications of heat and cold.
- Psychological Medicine: Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing and disease. Naturopaths are trained in counseling, stress management, hypnotherapy, and biofeedback.
- Hydrotherapy: The use of various temperatures and applications of water is one of the traditional naturopathic treatment modalities. Naturopaths use applications of warm and/or cool water to stimulate the body's immune system and decrease inflammation.
Tips for Incorporating Naturopathic Medicine into Your Cancer-Fighting Regime
- Find a qualified naturopathic practitioner. Look for experts in natural medicine, who have had formal training in the field. Some naturopaths are self-taught. Find a naturopathic practitioner with a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree, who graduated from a four-year, graduate-level, federally recognized and accredited naturopathic medical school.
- Do not self-prescribe. If you are unable to maintain a healthy diet during cancer treatment, dietary supplements may provide the needed nutrition. However, natural does not always mean safe. You should only use supplements/herbal products under the guidance of a qualified naturopathic practitioner or other medical professional.
- Be aware of potential drug interactions. It is important to remember that vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other therapies generally have a biochemical effect on your body. Some supplements may interact or interfere with your cancer treatment or other medications, or may be contraindicated with your cancer type. A naturopath practitioner can monitor your supplement intake on an ongoing basis.
- Make sure your treatment is coordinated among your healthcare team. All of your healthcare providers should know about the treatments you are receiving at all times. If you are receiving care from a naturopathic practitioner separately, make sure your oncologist knows about it, and vice versa. An advantage of an integrative medicine center is that your naturopath works alongside your conventional cancer doctors to recommend appropriate treatments.
- Insist on individualized care. Each person responds differently to cancer and its treatment. What works for one person may not necessarily work for you. Your naturopathic practitioner should tailor your naturopathic therapies to your individual needs, making you the key participant in your care.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS NOT INTENDED TO BE MEDICAL ADVICE, NOR IMPLIED TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR CONVENTIONAL CANCER TREATMENT. ALWAYS SEEK THE ADVICE OF YOUR PHYSICIAN OR OTHER QUALIFIED HEALTHCARE PROVIDER PRIOR TO INCORPORATING ANY NATUROPATHIC THERAPIES INTO YOUR TREATMENT.
Naturopathic Medicine at CTCA
We understand you are looking for every available resource to fight cancer. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), we offer traditional and innovative cancer treatments and technology. Yet, we don't stop there. We also incorporate naturopathic medicine into your cancer-fighting regime.
The Naturopathic Medicine Department at CTCA focuses on the healing power of the body and nature to fight disease. Our department is comprised of naturopathic practitioners who have Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.) degrees. In addition, many CTCA naturopaths have also completed a two-year specialized residency program in integrative naturopathic oncology.
Upon your arrival at one of our hospitals, you will have the option to meet with a naturopathic practitioner. Your naturopathic practitioner will make an assessment and develop a plan tailored to your needs. This plan will include natural therapies to support you as you receive traditional cancer treatments. The naturopathic medicine team at CTCA aims to strengthen your immune system, and will try to lessen the side effects of your conventional treatments so you can feel better as you heal.
Here's an example of how your naturopath can help you during cancer treatment:
One of the roles of the naturopathic medicine team at CTCA is to educate you on the facts versus the fiction of supplements, and to help you choose wisely from the myriad of options available. If you have difficulty swallowing pills, some of the nutritional, herbal and homeopathic supplements are available in both liquid and powder form.
Your naturopath will make sure your supplements are appropriate for you, and ensure safety from potential drug-herb and drug-nutrient interactions. They will also monitor your supplement and vitamin intake. For instance, there may be supplements your naturopath will instruct you not to take at certain times (e.g., on the days you are receiving chemotherapy). Once you are finished with treatment, the focus of supplements may change from fighting cancer to preventing recurrence.
Furthermore, since CTCA provides all of your care under one roof, your naturopathic practitioner is able to consult regularly with your oncologist and the rest of your care team (e.g., dietitians, rehabilitation therapists, mind-body therapists, pastoral care) to monitor the progress of your treatment.
I hope this information has helped you in some way. I will check in with you again next month. In the meantime, stay strong and hopeful.