Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of health care and is an important part of integrative care provided at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Western Regional Medical Center (Western). Naturopathic physicians focus on the safe and effective use of evidence-supported natural therapies to help patients manage side effects, improve quality of life, and support wellness.
Your naturopathic physician at Western works on a team with your medical oncologist, care manager, registered dietitian, and mind-body therapist to provide a fully integrative approach to your care. Naturopathic physicians work with each patient to create personalized, evidence-supported naturopathic recommendations designed to support you through your conventional treatment and help prevent recurrence after treatment is complete.
As part of the intake process, you'll meet with your naturopathic physician. This initial assessment includes a comprehensive review of your medical history, medications, dietary supplements, and use of any alternative therapies. All supplements are reviewed against all medications for possible interactions and/or other contraindications with your cancer type or other medical conditions, as well as any other safety concerns and appropriateness.
We identify symptoms impacting quality of life that can and need to be addressed in the initial visit. We discuss options regarding natural therapy interventions vs. medications and prescribe accordingly. We also help identify any needs that could be addressed by our other integrative services, such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, and oncology rehabilitation.
Throughout your treatment, your naturopathic physician will recommend natural therapies to support you during treatment, including:
- Botanical medicine (herbal medicine): Naturopathic physicians continuously monitor scientific and medical research to identify evidence-based botanical medicines appropriate for your treatment. Since botanical medicines have the potential to interact with pharmaceutical drugs, your naturopathic physician will carefully review your current medications and treatment before making any recommendations.
- Dietary supplements: Dietary supplements, such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids can play a major role in your treatment. A growing body of scientific knowledge, in this area, supports this use. Your naturopathic physician may recommend specific dietary supplements which are appropriate for your disease and compatible with your treatment.
- Homeopathic medicine: Homeopathy incorporates specially prepared remedies using small doses of natural substances to address specific health issues. Homeopathy may be recommended for conditions such as nausea and hot flashes.
- Environmental medicine: Children and adults are now being exposed to greater quantities of potentially toxic chemicals in their environment. Naturopathic physicians can help provide lifestyle recommendations and offer therapies to decrease the harmful effects of toxic exposure.
- Health education and lifestyle counseling: One of the principles of naturopathic medicine is, “Doctor as a Teacher.” Naturopathic physicians teach patients about their disease, and counsel them on healthy lifestyle, smoking cessation, the benefits of exercise, and stress management.
While naturopathic training focuses on the use of natural medicines, sometimes your naturopathic physician may also prescribe a pharmaceutical medication, if appropriate.
Our naturopathic physicians help guide you in the use of natural therapies, as part of an integrative approach to your care. They also monitor your supplements during every visit, to ensure safety from potential drug-herb and drug-nutrient interactions.
Proper use of supplements
According to Dr. Shauna Birdsall, Director of Naturopathic Medicine, Vice Chief of Staff and Medical Director of Integrative Oncology, many patients are already taking supplements or using other natural therapies when they arrive at Western. Throughout your care and even after you go home, the naturopathic medicine team is available to answer any questions you may have and help educate you about the proper use of supplements.
"Our job is to review patient’s supplements and see which are actually of benefit to the patient based on scientific research, the patient’s type of cancer, and current conventional treatment. We also answer questions about supplements or other natural therapies that the patients may have heard about through family, friends, or research on the Internet."