In contrast, an N.D.'s goal is not to impose an outside order but to correct the underlying problem. In the case of a weakened heart, an N.D. would accomplish this by using herbs that nourish and strengthen the heart, such as hawthorne berry, or herbs that disperse congestion or toxins in the body, such as dandelion root. When strengthening and detoxification occur, a patient's vitality becomes stronger, the root cause of the illness is addressed, and a permanent recovery becomes possible.
Consider the following story of a woman unable to move from the neck down: She sought the help of Dr. Zeff for an unusual type of arthritis called CNS Sjogrens Syndrome. Her symptoms included severe joint pain as well as an autoimmune lesion on the brain stem. She had the use of many of her muscles but was too weak to make them work for her. Also, her condition was irregular. One day, several months ago, she was able to walk, but for only three hours. This one fact indicated to Dr. Zeff that, unlike patients with multiple sclerosis, she didn't have nerve damage, and therefore had the possibility of recovery.
During Dr. Zeff's examination, he found that her temperature was consistently 94 degrees, which he considered to be the key to her recovery. Dr. Zeff concluded that in order for her to heal, her body temperature must go up. So he prescribed for her a combination of herbs that were warming and improved blood flow. After a couple of weeks, her temperature had risen to 96 and some days to 97 degrees. The rise in temperature has resulted in more control of her hands, greater ability to move her knees, and twice she has been able to drive her own wheelchair. Dr. Zeff's goal with this patient is to maintain a higher temperature to support her body's ability to correct the under-lying causes of her condition.
The treatments and diagnostic techniques as well as the fundamentals of Chinese medicine are a part of all naturopathic physician's training at the accredited medical colleges. (See Chapter 7 for more detail about traditional Chinese medicine.) Some naturopaths do advanced training and become licensed practitioners of Chinese medicine, using Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and acupressure in their practice.
For example, Dr. Zeff is also a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine, and recently used acupuncture to help in a difficult case. A man came to Dr. Zeff with significant pain in his abdomen, which was the site of a "bathrobe fire" ten years before. The man had been through a number of conventional medical diagnostic regimens to find out why he was still in pain. No matter what they tried, the M.D.'s could not determine what exactly was causing his pain. Dr. Zeff talked with this man for about an hour and, from his conversation and examinations, surmised that the scarring from the burn had disrupted the flow of chi along the meridians in the area. As a result of this diagnosis, Dr. Zeff treated the man with acupuncture in order to normalize the flow of chi in the affected area.
Once the man had reclined on the treatment table, Dr. Zeff inserted five acupuncture needles, two in each foot and one in a point on the abdomen. After the insertion of the needles, the man first reported that the needle in the abdomen hurt. Then he said he felt movement and activity in the area. Then, after ten minutes, he said that he felt no pain — the first time in ten years.
The techniques of Chinese medicine can bring impressive and surprising results to many health care challenges and is considered an exceptional treatment for acute and chronic pain.
Natural childbirth is offered by some naturopathic physicians in either a home or a clinic environment. N.D.'s are trained in natural prenatal and postnatal care involving noninvasive, nonpharmaceutical treatments. Through their treatments and techniques, N.D.'s continuously screen to make sure the mother and child are in a low-risk state. One important screening involves monitoring the mother's diet and supplements to ensure that the mother's inner nutrients are sufficient to create a healthy, normal baby. Naturopathic theory suggests that adequate nutrient levels in the mother minimize childbirth risks.
Naturopathic physicians believe counseling is an important component of their jobs as facilitators for childbirth care. Dr. Zeff says that he requires the mother and partner to invite him and his assistant to dinner. "One factor that we found that can significantly disrupt a birth is the emotional state of the mother," he says. "If, during our dinner time with the mother/couple, we notice any significant stress, then we know that counseling will be needed to minimize the mother's emotional distress so that she can relax during labor and have a normal birth."15
N.D.'s use many different treatments during the various stages of gestation and birth, including some that most conventional doctors are unfamiliar with. For instance, some N.D.'s use homeopathy before labor begins to help a breach baby turn to the correct "head-down" position. In some cases, the homeopathic remedy Pulsatilla is used when the baby is not yet in the right position for delivery. Naturopathic physicians have seen that within twelve hours of giving a dose of Pulsatilla to the mother, the baby turns by itself. Another remedy used by naturopathic physicians is a preparation of the herb cottonroot. This herb, usually given to the mother in tincture form, helps bring the placenta down if she has not delivered it within a normal time.
Although N.D.'s are well trained in most birthing situations, they are also quick to refer mothers to the appropriate M.D. or hospital if a risk is present that disqualifies the mother and child from a natural childbirth experience.
Counseling and Stress Management
Naturopathic physicians believe the patient's emotional and psychological makeup can greatly influence the patient's ability to heal. Therefore, they are trained in many psychological techniques, including counseling, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and nutritional balancing.
Most people would be surprised to know that minor surgery is a part of some naturopathic physicians' practices. In addition to natural treatments of illnesses, N.D.'s are also trained to mend surface wounds; to remove unwanted foreign masses, cysts, and other superficial bodies with local anesthesia; as well as to perform circumcisions, skin lesion removal, hemorrhoid surgery, and setting of fractures.
Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient system of holistic medicine and healing from India. Its focus is on treating the whole person with diet, nutrition, and lifestyle recommendations. One of the key components of this system of healing is an appreciation of the role that one's vital energy, called "prana," plays in the healing process. Bastyr University now offers a specialization in this ancient system of medicine. As a result, some N.D.'s have earned specialty degrees in ayurvedic medicine and have incorporated it into their practices.
Naturopathic physicians use a combination of manipulative therapies, which move soft tissue as well as skeletal bones. These are collectively called naturopathic manipulative therapy and in some ways are similar to the techniques used by osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, and body workers in that structure is realigned to support the innate healing process of the body.
Not all naturopathic doctors use this as a major component of their practice. However, when other treatments fail to bring the desired response, then manipulative therapies can be helpful.
One gentleman who had tried a wide range of treatments to correct the weakness and pain he felt in his own right arm went to his N.D. for manipulative treatments. The N.D. found that the man had a combination of muscle spasm from stress and spinal misalignment. As a result, the nerve flow necessary for normal muscular activity was being blocked. The N.D. treated this man with manipulative therapy. The result: the gentleman felt better than he had in six months.
Misalignment of the spinal vertebrae as well as other skeletal structures can be the cause of pain or even illness in some cases. The return of vertebrae, bones, and joints to their optimal position can eliminate pain in as little as one treatment.
I had just arrived for a visit at the home of Rosalynd, an ill friend. "Don't fill that prescription!" I remember her exclaiming to her husband. She had just returned from her M.D.'s office. Her voice riddled with frustration and anger, she continued, "I've got cancer! Why would I use a lotion made with a carcinogen?!?"
Rosalynd was literally fighting for her life. Yet she couldn't get a decent night's sleep because of the tremendous itching she felt from the psoriasis that covered her upper body. To relieve her discomfort from psoriasis, her M.D. had prescribed a lotion containing coal tar derivatives. Many studies had verified that these derivatives can cause cancer and Rosalynd was well aware of it. Unfortunately, the prescribed lotion was her M.D.'s best solution.
While her husband got ready for work, I calmed her down by assuring her that we certainly wouldn't call the pharmacist to fill that particular prescription and suggested that we think about another solution to her psoriasis. Then Rosalynd and I remembered a doctor she had seen before, Konrad Kail, N.D., a well-respected naturopathic physician and at that time the newly elected president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). We hoped he might have a better option.
I phoned Dr. Kail and reminded him of Rosalynd's case. I described the difficulty she was having sleeping from the itching of the psoriasis and asked for his advice. He was well aware that she was battling cancer and that her immune system was compromised. He was also aware that she had chosen to work with a European M.D. whose unique chemical treatment for cancer was unfamiliar to him. Dr. Kail decided to respect Rosalynd's choice to work with her M.D. on her cancer and therefore to treat only the symptom of her psoriasis — not the underlying cause of her illnesses.
To relieve her itchy skin, he suggested a lotion that he developed that had helped many of his other patients. I asked him for a list of the ingredients, which he gladly shared with me (the main ingredient being jojoba beans). He added, "You can be sure there are no carcinogens in this lotion."
Rosalynd began using Dr. Kail's lotion. The following week she showed me that the lotion was working. I noticed that the large red scaly patches of skin on her arms and back were now smoother and a more natural color. When I asked her how she was feeling, she smiled and reported she was no longer kept awake by the terrible itching the psoriasis had caused. Three weeks later, Rosalynd proudly showed me that the psoriasis was completely gone.
I think it's possible that had Rosalynd's M.D. known of a nontoxic remedy, he would have offered it. I learned from this experience that most traditional medical schools do not teach nontoxic, noninvasive treatments. As a result, most M.D.'s are unaware of effective options like the herbal lotion prescribed by Dr. Kail. Fortunately I now know about naturopathic physicians. They are experts in nontoxic, noninvasive treatments and when I have a health care problem, I call them first.
Health Condition that Respond Well to Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is beneficial for a wide range of physical illnesses and conditions. Naturopaths claim that their ability to determine the underlying cause of the illness and to stimulate the body's own healing ability is why their medicine can be so effective where other systems of medicine are not.
One area where modern naturopathic medicine has been very effective is in the natural treatment of women's health problems. One series of clinical research studies for women suffering from cervical dysplasia (abnormal Pap smears) produced results in which of the forty-three women in the study, thirty-eight returned to normal Pap smears and normal tissue biopsy by using naturopathic medical treatments. Naturopathic medical formulas are also effectively being used as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy for women.16