Thank God for Naturopathy: My Latest Experience as a Patient
Confession: I have not been well all year.
Starting in December of last year, my health started to crumble. I thought I would get better over the winter break, but things got worse. My body clued me in when I almost lost consciousness at the gym while doing my usual gym routine.
I told myself I was going to pull it together. I was going to take care of myself so I could achieve at school. I was going to do self-care in the most type-A way possible.
Stress cannot always be controlled. A lot about my life was out of control. School was fine, but my life outside of school was not. I would leave one source of stress just to go stew in another.
Humans are incredibly adaptable. If I recall correctly from my first year neurophysiology lectures, catecholamines, chemicals released in response to stress, epinephrine and norepinephrine help us function during a stressful situation. That’s survival. Because of those elevated catecholamines, your prefrontal cortex is able to do a better job of keeping you focused, organized, and alert. A little bit of stress can help someone function. But once catecholamines reach a certain level, the amygdala becomes more active than the prefrontal cortex resulting in distractibility, compulsiveness, heightened emotions, and forgetfulness. It makes me picture an overworked, overcaffinated, under-slept person whose hair is standing on end and the littlest thing will send him into a spiral of panic, fury, and/or mania. No one can live like that—at least not for very long.
I tried to handle the way I reacted to the stress by taking time to do things I enjoy, making time for my husband and friends, going to counseling, and trying to sleep. Those are great practices to have, but I hit a point where I needed HELP. Thinking felt like I was swimming through peanut butter, I never woke up rested, and I had frequent, thundering heart palpitations in addition to a host of other constitutional symptoms. After a fit of tears and a phone call to a friend, I made an appointment at one of my school’s clinics.
I love naturopathic medicine for many reasons, but some of the foremost reasons are, as a patient, 1) I know I will get at least an hour with the doctor (or in my case, the primary intern and 15 or so minutes with the resident and the attending physicians) 2) my entire story will be heard and 3) I will have many, many treatment options.
Naturopathic medicine has a huge toolbox: nutrition, lifestyle coaching, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, diagnostic imaging and labs, minor surgery, and pharmaceuticals. NDs can even deliver babies, do return to play screenings (a post concussion exam), sign POLSTs, and more! (This is true for Oregon, but it can vary state to state.) The modalities of naturopathic medicine are guided by the six principles of naturopathic medicine: the healing power of nature, identify and treat the cause, do no harm, doctor as teacher, treat the whole person, and prevention. Usage of the naturopathic modalities is informed by the therapeutic order. (Link to my post about the therapeutic order here.) I firmly believe that when I go see an ND, I am getting the best of everything that medicine and the healing arts have to offer.
When I visited the school clinic, I was offered a pharmaceutical. The intern and the physicians were doing their due diligence by offering me the standard of care, but since I had been on that particular pharmaceutical before and a horrible experience, I declined. If I had gone to a conventional office, I know I would have been offered that medication, and that would have been my only option. End of story. But since I was in an ND office, I knew I had options, and the team providing my care that day was able to give me a slew of them. I was prescribed a homeopathic remedy, which worked far better for me than the pharmaceutical ever did, and a botanical supplement, in addition to receiving referrals for lab work, an EKG, and hydrotherapy. During the visit, I was given empathetic lifestyle counseling to address my stress and encouraged to continue seeing a counselor.
I am much, much better. The labs and the EKG helped my care team tweak my treatment plan, and I only needed one follow up visit. I discontinued the homeopathic and botanical supplement after a couple months. I am still not exercising—not like I used to. I had to discontinue exercise for a couple months under physician’s orders, but I was cleared to do light exercise like yoga and walking. The palpitations have more or less ceased, but I am still supposed to get a 48 hr Holter monitor (money and I would have to go find a PCP that takes my insurance). I got the feeling from my last appointment that my care team did not want me to return to weight lifting until I got the Holter monitor done. (I would like to say that you should do the things your doctor asks you to do, but I do understand what it’s like to be the patient who puts things off. Please do the things your doctors asks you to do—they have your best interests at heart.)
I am really thankful to be in a place where I can see an ND at a low out of pocket cost. My care team treated me as a whole person, looked for ways to help my body heal itself (healing power of nature!), and educated me. I am so thankful to have options for my medical care. Naturopathic medicine keeps restoring my health, even when the outcomes seem bleak. Thank God for naturopathy.