Lifestyle counselling is really the foundation to all my treatment plans. You can take every supplement in the world and come in for acupuncture every week but if you’re dehydrated, sedentary, sleeping five hours a night and eating a standard North American diet, you probably won’t achieve optimal health. Drink more water, move your body, sleep for eight hours and eat more fruits and vegetables aren’t ground breaking ideas but my goal is to meet my patients where they are and provide practical ways to implement these foundations of health. Most people are surprised how much better they feel just adding these basic lifestyle changes. Symptoms and concerns remaining can then be addressed with more targeted treatments.
During the initial appointment, we will go over your diet in a completely non-judgemental way. I am looking for nutritional deficiencies, macronutrient imbalances, hydration and any foods that may be irritating presenting symptoms. I spend a lot of time going over nutrition with my patients and helping them implement practical ways to achieve a more balanced, whole foods diet because there is no “one size fits all” approach to eating well. Nutritional supplementation is also sometimes recommended when dietary doses are not achievable. I always try to choose high-quality and cost effective supplements for my patients at appropriate evidence-based doses.
Botanical medicine is the use of plants/herbs to treat physical, mental and emotional ailments. Plants contain a variety of phytochemical constituents that end up having a synergistic effect on the body to promote healing. While herbs are generally considered safe, they can have side effects and interact with medications so whether I prescribe herbs in the form of teas, tinctures or capsules/tablets, safety is the first priority. At The Root Natural Health Clinic we have over 100 varieties of organic, loose leaf herbs that we use to create custom tea blends to address our patient’s concerns. For fun, here are three of my favourite herbs:
Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree): One of my favourite herbs to treat hormonal imbalances. Vitex indirectly increases progesterone and modulates prolactin, two hormones that play important roles in the menstrual cycle and fertility. Depending on the patient, I will recommend it certain times of their menstrual cycle, certain times of day and in either a capsule/tablet or tincture form.
Urtica dioica (Stinging Nettle): Nettle is an alternative and a diuretic herb meaning that it aids the body in the metabolism and elimination of toxins. Topically it is used for arthritis pain relief but I often use it in teas blends meant to treat chronic skin conditions.
Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root): Licorice root has multiple uses in clinical practice as a demulcent, an adaptogen and an antiviral. Demulcents are soothing and coat mucus membranes so I often use licorice root in combination with other herbs in teas to soothe gastric irritation. As an adaptogen, it is used for those who have suboptimal cortisol levels and low blood pressure and I recommend it in a higher dose in capsule or tablet form. As an antiviral herb, I often use it in liquid tincture form topically to treat viral skin outbreaks like shingles, herpes simplex etc. Licorice has many applications but also significant contraindications so it is always important to seek professional advice before implementing any herbal treatments.
Acupuncture has been practiced for over 2000 years as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It uses very thin, sterile needles to balance the body’s energy or Qi. A Western medicine explanation is that acupuncture stimulates different branches of our nervous system, increases blood flow and causes an endorphin release that leaves its recipients feeling relaxed, balanced and rejuvenated. For those experiencing chronic musculoskeletal pain, acupuncture needles are used locally at the site of pain relieve muscle tension, increase blood flow and stimulate endorphin release to decrease pain. The most common use of acupuncture in my practice is in women diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, menopause and infertility. There are multiple studies citing the benefits of acupuncture on fertility rates of women undergoing fertility treatments. It is a safe and affordable treatment to increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and won’t interfere with any medications prescribed by your fertility clinic. Acupuncture is also commonly used for scar prevention, signs congestion, headaches, digestive concerns, anxiety, stress, insomnia and labour induction in the last couple weeks of pregnancy.
In Ontario, naturopathic doctors have access to routine and specialized lab testing. Routine lab testing is done through LifeLabs and is bloodwork you would be familiar with if you’ve ever had bloodwork done through your family doctor. Specialized lab tests are either done at home or at the lab and include food sensitivities, adrenal function, digestive function, comprehensive hormone testing (DUTCH) and more. Not every patient requires additional testing but if I believe it to be beneficial I will go over the testing benefits and costs before you make a decision. None of the tests run by naturopathic doctors are covered under OHIP but many extended health insurance plans will cover it and if cost is an issue we will work around it to find a solution.
Bio-identical hormone replacement therapy is used mainly to treat symptoms of menopause. Since the hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease during perimenopause, replacing them can alleviate some of the symptoms their decrease can cause. There are many factors to consider when deciding if bioidentical hormone therapy is right for a patient and I usually spend the majority of an appointment going over the evidence of the benefits and the risks associated with hormone replacement therapies (conventional and bioidentical). Not all Ontario naturopaths are able to prescribe hormones. However, I have passed the Ontario Prescribing and Therapeutics exam and the prescription of bio-identical hormones, desiccated thyroid and intramuscular injections of B12 and folate are within my scope of practice.