Your body is powerful.
We don’t just mean for lifting weights or doing hard physical work, though women’s bodies can certainly do that too.
We mean your body is a powerful healer. Given the right conditions – good food, enough rest, movement, etc. – your body has “an innate capacity to restore itself to health.”
Naturopathic medicine is the practice of providing ideal conditions and removing barriers for the body to get on with what it does so well.
If you’ve ever wondered about naturopathic medicine or considered seeing a naturopathic doctor (ND) but just weren’t sure what to expect, Dr. Jane Guiltinan, recently retired Dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, explains it all.
In this Part I of our two-part series on naturopathic medicine, we talked with Dr. Guiltinan about what naturopathic medicine is, how and why it works, the state of naturopathic medicine in the US, and how to find a qualified ND.
Most of us on team Gennev are new to the idea and practice of naturopathic medicine, so we asked Dr. Guiltinan to explain the difference between naturopathic medicine and what most of us consider “traditional” western medicine.
Dr. Guiltinan described how we often get in the way of our body’s natural ability to heal itself (poor diet, too much stress, not enough exercise, etc.). Naturopathic physicians both treat and educate patients to get them to health and maintain optimal health going forward.
Naturopathic doctors teach their patients to become an integral part of their own healing and health. Docere, the Latin word for “teacher,” is a founding principle of naturopathic medicine. Dr. Guiltinan explained why it’s so powerfully healing to put patients in charge of their well-being.
In the western-medicine tradition, many of us are taught to hand over control to medical professionals – leaving us ignorant about our own bodies. How do NDs work with patients to bring them back to an awareness of their bodies? Dr. Guiltinan said all NDs practice very active listening, which can educate both the doctor and the patient. Hear how. (Bonus: margaritas are NOT off limits – woot!)
Most western medicine focuses on the treatment of illness or injury. Naturopathic medicine is also about maintaining wellness, and in an ideal world, says Dr. Guiltinan, people would visit their doctors before problems appear. NDs are working to shift our mindset from “cure” to “prevention,” and it’s a powerful sea change.
Naturopathic doctors are unevenly credentialed and recognized across the US, and many of us aren’t sure if NDs are “real” doctors. Dr. Guiltinan takes us through how a true naturopathic physician is educated, licensed, and credentialed.
Dr. Guiltinan has been practicing naturopathic medicine for more than 30 years, and during that time, her practice gradually evolved to focus on women’s health. Most of her patients now are women in the menopausal transition and beyond, looking for ways to maintain health as they age.
Because she has such a depth and breadth of knowledge on women in midlife, we asked Dr. Guiltinan what symptoms women in that category come to her to “fix” most often? Classically, it’s hot flashes, she told us, but naturopathic medicine can help treat a wide range of symptoms, including headaches, dry skin, vaginal dryness, weight gain, joint and muscle pain, and depression, among others.
Why do women come to NDs? For a variety of reasons, Dr. Guiltinan told us: they’ve exhausted “conventional” options or they want a more natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT), or, in many cases, they just don’t feel well but aren’t sure what the problem is.
So, we asked Dr. Guiltinan, if I think a naturopathic doctor might be able to help me, how do I go about finding the right one? Do NDs specialize? NDs don’t have recognized specialties the way conventional Western medicine does (neurologists, dermatologists, etc.). NDs’ practices often naturally evolve around an interest or passion such as women’s health, she told us, so it’s worthwhile asking the questions to determine if an ND has a focus in the area you need.
I’ve decided I want to talk with an ND, we told Dr. Guiltinan. Now what do I do? Proceed with caution, Dr. Guiltinan told us: Depending on your state’s regulations, some people may be able to call themselves “naturopaths” with little formal training or licensure.
To be sure you’re getting someone qualified as an ND (whether they’re able to call themselves “doctor” or not in your state), be sure they graduated from one of the seven accredited doctoral programs in North America. States that have licensing have a state record of licensed NDs, as well as professional associations. Washington state, for example, has the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians. If your state doesn’t have licensing standards for NDs, you can find a credentialed naturopathic practitioner in your area on The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians site.
In our second segment, Naturopathic medicine for women in midlife & menopause: part 2, we explore with Dr. Guiltinan some specific ways naturopathic medicine can help women in menopause. Check it out and subscribe to Gennev on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher, so you never miss an episode.
Dr. Jane Guiltinan recently retired as Dean of the School of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. A practicing naturopathic physician for thirty years, Dr. Guiltinan graduated from Bastyr in 1986, and has served as a clinical professor, medical director and dean of clinical affairs during her tenure there. She was the co-medical director for the first publicly funded integrated health clinic in the United States, the King County Natural Medicine Clinic. She served on the board of trustees for Harborview Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center and part of the University of Washington Medicine system for twelve years and was the first naturopathic physician on the board of a large public hospital. In 2012, she was appointed by Kathleen Sebelius, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services, to the Advisory Council of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a center within the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Dr. Guiltinan’s practice is focused on women’s health, primary care, disease prevention, and wellness promotion.