When should you see a naturopath?

Naturopathy uses a holistic approach to help the body to heal and stay well, but how do you know if it’s right for you? 

Recent research suggests that just over 6 per cent of Australians seek the advice of a naturopath to help with a wide range of health issues – from allergies and digestive problems to reproductive health worries, immune support and respiratory problems.

“We look at the body and mind and how they interlink – naturopathy takes a holistic approach to support a person to live a healthy lifestyle,” says Elizabeth Greenwood, president of the Australian Natural Therapists Association.

What is naturopathy?

“Naturopathy is a complete system of healthcare that has been around for more than 100 years,” explains Eta Brand, of the Australian Naturopathic Practitioners Association.

Naturopathy was developed by German-born Benedict Lust and is based on a philosophy and a number of principles such as the healing power of nature; finding and treating the cause and not just symptoms whenever possible; treating the whole person; doing no harm; education and prevention.

Essentially, naturopathic treatment centres on a belief that our body has an inherent ability to heal.

How is naturopathy different to conventional medicine?

While conventional medicine is predominantly about managing symptoms and disease, naturopathy treats the underlying cause and symptoms and all aspects of a person’s wellness.

“Naturopaths are prevention medicine specialists,” says Eta.

Naturopaths can use a range of treatments and modalities to help ease a problem or to prevent poor health.

These include herbal medicine, nutritional advice, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, massage and iridology, which involves assessing patterns in the eye to indicate where possible imbalances in the body are occurring.

What to expect when you see a naturopath

Initially, a naturopath begins with a detailed assessment or review of a patient’s lifestyle and health.

This includes details of any symptoms and information about lifestyle, diet and medical history.

You may also be asked to have some blood tests and for a urine and stool analysis.

“We review any pathology tests and we may do a physical examination and a dietary assessment. We get a comprehensive picture of what has happened for that person,” says Eta.

A treatment plan will be outlined and reviewed regularly and may include avoiding or eating certain foods, herbal supplementation, exercise, massage and other modalities.

Naturopathy can be used alongside other medical and therapeutic techniques, but it’s important to ensure all health practitioners and specialists are aware of the range of treatments and any medications you are using.

How to choose a naturopath

It is important to ensure a naturopath is properly qualified. Gaps in legislation mean that anybody can call themselves a naturopath, even without any knowledge and training.

“Choose someone who is a member of a reputable health association,” says Elizabeth.

ANTA and ANPA can help source an accredited naturopath, with members holding an Advanced Diploma in Naturopathy or Bachelor of Health Science Naturopathy as a minimum.

“Check if the naturopath you’ve chosen is experienced in the area or issue you want treated, such as pain management, allergies or weight loss for example,” says Elizabeth.

Written by Sarah Marinos.