A Quiet Health Care Revolution

NaturopathicMedicineWeek E1381245547238

A Quiet Health Care Revolution

It’s just becoming audible now, but the stirrings are significant.

A grassroots transformation in health is underway. It’s driven, largely, by these stark facts:

nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese…tens of millions are afflicted by chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes…and 70% of us report suffering from stress (which itself can lead to such problems as heart disease and depression).

At the grassroots, though, 40% of Americans are taking greater control of their health by using holistic medicine. And, a small but growing number are seeking care from the “general practitioners of holistic medicine” known as naturopathic physicians.

This movement is reflected at the national level

On September 10, the US Senate unanimously approved a resolution that establishes October 7-13, 2013 as Naturopathic Medicine Week. Congress thereby recognized the ability of naturopathic physicians to “provide safe, effective, and affordable health care” and urged Americans to learn more about this form of medicine. So, the second week of October is a good time to visit a naturopathic doctor (ND) and size up whether her or his approach is potentially a fit for you.

The building blocks of health

These include balanced nutrition, sufficient exercise, quality sleep, stress management, proper hydration, breathing patterns, and emotional health. Though these aren’t in themselves revolutionary, the naturopathic approach, which emphasizes the body’s inherent self-healing ability, is a clear change. In an era when prescribing drugs or recommending surgery is a reflex action for many doctors – and patients themselves see drugs or surgery as ‘the’ way to banish symptoms – an approach that highlights the causes of illness and equips people with an understanding of their body as a functional system is, indeed, revolutionary.

A huge answer for the country

Tracy Gaudet, MD, director of patient-centered care at the Veterans Health Administration, characterizes naturopathic medicine as “a huge answer for the country….at a pivotal transformational moment” in health care. Why is that moment now? Well, consider that the US spends far more per capita on health care than any other nation, yet we rank just 37th in life expectancy. Our fast-paced, high stress, “Big Gulp” lifestyle has brought about a plague of chronic illness and an immense focus on sickness management rather than maintenance of wellness. More than 75 percent of health care costs stem from preventable chronic illnesses.

Naturopathic doctors have actually been around for decades

Dr. Gaudet calls us “pioneers… who have been practicing integrative medicine all along.” Today, 4,400 NDs hold a license, having graduated from accredited 4-year naturopathic medical schools. As an ND myself, I’m trained to treat a full range of illnesses – and what I thrive on is working closely with my patients, guiding them toward a restoration of health. NDs in general use a range of non-invasive approaches such as physical medicine, oriental medicine, botanical medicine, mind-body medicine, lifestyle counseling, and nutrition counseling. My profession aims to be the kind that Gaudet envisions as the future of medicine – focused on the whole person and empowering him/her to take a more active role in maintaining good health.

The symptoms of chronic illness, and the costs, are spiraling all around us

It’s instructive to realize that disease-causing pathogens are no longer the only or main threat to health. We are: our lifestyles, our love of fast food, caffeine, sugar, fat and, in general, life in the over-stimulated lane. People are discovering, though, that natural medicine is a better way than prescription drugs and surgeries to get on a healthier path.

So, please join with me the week of October 7-13 to celebrate Naturopathic Medicine Week. Though it’s an unobtrusive form of medicine, it’s clearly one worth celebrating.