Dr. Preety Shah – NUHS

Dr. Preety Shah is an instructor of clinical sciences at National University of Health Sciences (NUHS). Dr. Shah earned her chiropractic degree from NUHS, and her naturopathic medical degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM).

Why did you choose naturopathic medicine?

“As a child, my Dadi (grandmother) treated me with homeopathy and home remedies. Even to this day, my Dadi often calls to tell me about a home remedy she read about and experimented with. I always thought I wanted to be an allopathic doctor, but when I shadowed various MDs, I realized it was not the medicine for me. Shortly after, the universe brought me in contact with a person who had been treated for melanoma using only naturopathic treatments. He led me to SCNM, where I fell in love with what I knew from my childhood. I loved the use of natural therapeutics such as nutrition, herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture and water treatments to strengthen the body’s vitality. The principles of the medicine went hand in hand with my spiritual belief, that the body is a genius work of art; made by an all-knowing, intelligent creator. Given the right environment, the body has the ability to heal itself. In our anatomy class, I remember being in awe of the human body when we dissected cadavers; and even more so when we learned how numerous biochemical reactions alter the physiology of the body. Understanding not only the normal physiology but also the compensatory mechanisms helps understand why a particular person is in a state of dis-ease versus a state of health.”

What can students learn from you?

“I was fortunate enough to be an instructor for the first graduating class of the naturopathic program at NUHS in 2006. I have taught various courses through the years such as Foundations of Naturopathic medicine 1 & 2, Advanced Nutrition and functional medicine, Biochemistry and Pharmacology. Currently, I teach Naturopathic Management of Special Populations, Applied Naturopathic Clinical Theory, Intravenous Therapeutics and Clinic Internship I, II and III, Clinic Observation and Hydrotherapy Clinic Rotation.

Students can expect to learn how to work through patient cases using the principles of naturopathic medicine. Conversations with students often consist of understanding the determinants of health, obstacles to cure, engaged organ systems, differential diagnosis and using the least force necessary for stimulating health. Each day my goal is to transfer my passion for the medicine and guide my students on what it means to stay true to the profession.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND and educator

“Students bring energy, enthusiasm and a curious mind. I appreciate how intelligent students are and how they keep up with the latest research. I learn something new from my students all the time. It is especially fulfilling when they see naturopathic treatments change the lives of people they treat and how homeopathy, nutritional counseling and botanical medicine are effective in bringing about the conditions of health.”

As a naturopathic doctor, “I love how I am able to be a part of someone’s life journey and connect at such a deep level. This medicine is unique in that it empowers people to take their health in their own hands and not feel like they are a victim of their disease. Naturopathic medicine utilizes biochemistry, empirical evidence, as well as current research to treat health. I feel grateful that I get to be and continue to be a student of this incredible human body.”

What advice do you have for prospective ND students?

“Be ready to work hard and to fully commit to naturopathic medical school. It is a rigorous program. You are learning everything allopathic doctors learn plus the various natural modalities.” Dr. Shah adds that curiosity, attentiveness, and respectfulness are all qualities that make a strong ND student.

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Dr. Miranda LaBant – NUHS

“I always thought I knew what the term ‘doctor’ meant, but it wasn’t until I started seeing patients on my own, that I really understood the true meaning of docere – to instruct or teach. Behind the doors of the patient-doctor relationship is where the healing begins.”

Laying the groundwork to become an ND

Becoming a naturopathic doctor was not always a part of Dr. Miranda LaBant’s career goals. “During my undergraduate and graduate school training I met several influential people who directed me towards becoming a doctor. As a graduate student, I had an incredible opportunity to study in Belize. During my time there I developed my Master’s thesis on the traditional medicine practices of the indigenous Mayan tribe, the Q’eqchi. My mind was opened to the possibility of what I consider traditional medicine. I remember sitting in the jungle around a fire with another graduate student and my mentor interviewing the shaman and their patients. The healing journey they experienced through the use of traditional and sacred herbs, teas, along with spiritual practices reversed conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, and mood disorders.

There was a point during my schooling where I wished to pursue a career in conventional medicine. After my experience in Belize, I began researching other avenues of alternative medicine, this is when I discovered naturopathic medicine. The principles of naturopathic medicine are what resonated with me. To be a naturopath you have to believe that the human body has an innate healing process, the vis as we call it. You have to believe that there is another option outside of the conventional medical paradigm that can heal people regardless of their disease process, and this is what I found to be true.

The human body operates as a whole, and naturopathic medicine treats each person as a whole – tolle totum. Other schools of medicine follow mechanistic thinking in regards to treating the human body, by breaking it into different parts as if the human body doesn’t function as a whole. I don’t mean this with any disrespect to those schools of thought, but I do believe it is a disservice to patients. The training of a naturopathic doctor provides the skill set and tools to not only assess symptoms, but to dig deeper – looking at all factors influencing their health (environment, emotional, mental, physical).”

NUHS as a springboard

“I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. The proximity of National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) along with the possibility to pursue a chiropractic degree was appealing to me. One of the advantages at NUHS is the ability to study alongside chiropractic students as well as develop a strong foundation for physical medicine and diagnosis. Even though I value the incorporation of physical medicine, I decided that naturopathic medicine was the correct path for me during my first year of study. I quickly fell in love with herbal medicine, homeopathy, and the biochemical impact of nutrition, this is where I was meant to be.

After graduation, I completed a CNME accredited residency program in Kailua Kona, Hawaii under the direction of Michael Traub, ND. The focus of my residency was in integrative cancer care; it was during this program that I truly learned the value of our medicine. I developed the skills to safely and confidently integrate evidence-based naturopathic therapies with conventional therapies for patients with a cancer diagnosis. My program also included training in regenerative injection therapy, intravenous therapy, integration of pharmaceuticals, minor surgery, and integrative dermatology – it was a truly rounded experience, and I am forever thankful for the wisdom, patience experiences, and growth as a doctor and person I gained during my time with Dr. Traub.

After my residency I joined a premier clinic in Portsmouth, NH where I worked among several Lyme literate naturopaths, I soon learned the complexity of patients with tick-borne infection as well as the complexity of treatment. Providing integrative support to these patients has been rewarding.”

Finding fulfillment as an ND

“I always thought I knew what the term ‘doctor’ meant, but it wasn’t until I started seeing patients on my own, that I really understood the true meaning of docere – to instruct or teach. Behind the doors of the patient-doctor relationship is where the healing begins. NDs are trained to spend quality time with patients, providing ample opportunity to explain their symptoms and health journey. This time also allows for a great deal of teaching and empowerment – something that is often lacking in our current model of healthcare.

Naturopathic thinking is beautiful; we are detectives of sorts. It’s a humbling and fascinating process to be a part of someone’s health journey. From the initial visit with patients, gathering all of the information about a person’s well-being, mental, emotional, physical, social aspects, as well as deciphering how all of their symptoms relate. It has been my experience that very complex patients seek out the guidance and support of a naturopathic physician at some point on their journey back to health. This doesn’t surprise me. It’s often that a patient will tell me, ‘You know…this is the first time I feel like I have been heard by a healthcare provider.’ To be able to provide that space for patients is gratifying. The time that NDs spend with patients allows for truly individualized and comprehensive care – what people deserve. I believe this is where our medicine truly shines.”

Naturopathic medicine offers patients the best of both Eastern and Western medicine. My practice is truly integrative and my areas of focus are integrative oncology, hormonal balance and digestive health. I currently practice in the state of New Hampshire, where the scope for naturopathic doctors is quite broad. This offers lots of flexibility when creating a treatment plan and providing the best care possible for my patients. I utilize intravenous nutrient therapy, and pharmaceuticals in addition herbal medicine.

I practice in two integrative clinics in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire. At Family Acupuncture and Wellness I am part of a functional medicine team of several practitioners that provide naturopathic medicine, and an intimately guided diet and lifestyle program that transform people’s health. At the Sante Center I have a general practice as well as an integrative oncology practice. Working with cancer patients is a great challenge but a true joy when you can see how naturopathic medicine can improve their quality of life, mitigate symptoms from chemotherapy and radiation, and provide a more favorable outcome in many cases for patients dealing with this difficult diagnosis.

One area of passion is hormonal balance. I particularly love working with women transitioning or going through menopause. I utilize bioidentical hormone replacement therapy in many of these patients, but this is one area where I have seen the power of herbal medicine. Let me give a shout out to one herb—Vitex (all my women’s health naturopathic doctors know what I am talking about). I have seen this herb alone move mountains for patients.”

Dr. LaBant is a contributor for the Natural Medicine Journal on a variety of topics that range from fish oil used in conjunction with chemotherapy to supplements for reducing peripheral neuropathy, and exercise for cognitive function. She has also co-authored an article for the Townsend Letter with her mentor Michael Traub, ND on the use of medicinal mushrooms in cancer.

Advice for aspiring NDs

“Passion drives the field of naturopathic medicine, and it absolutely drives the excellence that I see in my colleagues every day. I have never been a part of a cohort of individuals more passionate about making an impact in people’s lives, and at the same time creating positive change in our broken health care system. In order to provide patients with the best care possible, you need to truly be enamored by the innate healing processes of the body, and to believe that a return to health is possible.

My residency was the most valuable of all of my training. I would recommend anyone pursuing naturopathic medicine to consider completing a residency after graduation.”

Learn more about Dr. LaBant:

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The Ultimate Naturopathic Travel Kit

Never leave home without these key items that will keep you healthy while you’re on the road.

For many, the holiday season means it’s time to hit the road to visit far-flung family and friends. Though reuniting with loved ones is wonderful, the long trips can be exhausting, both physically and mentally. While you’re away from home, your body is working twice as hard to cope with circumstances that are outside your daily routine, from dehydration and dietary changes to lack of sleep and stress. This can often result in catching a cold or coming down with something even worse.

To stay healthy and fend off illnesses while traveling, let naturopathic medicine be your co-pilot. We asked several naturopathic experts to explain why travel often makes us sick, reveal how to avoid catching a bug, and share the items that are always on the packing list for their holistic travel kit.

Travel can wear down your immune system for a number of reasons.

During a trip, the risk of getting sick increases greatly because of the close contact with people and bacteria.

“Our odds of being exposed to different pathogens increase tremendously. Pathogens could also be waterborne such E. coli and dysentery; insect-borne such as Lyme and malaria; and food-borne such as salmonella.”

Simona Ciobanu, ND

Graduate, National University of Health Sciences

Lack of sleep—whether it’s caused by an early morning wake-up call or a trip across time zones—can also weaken your defenses. “Without adequate rest, the body loses precious time involved in regenerating and restoring itself,” says Dr. Nazanin Vassighi.

When flying, the recirculated air in plane cabins often has lower oxygen and humidity concentrations. Dr. JoAnn Yanez calls it the “perfect storm for germs to take hold.” It can also dehydrate you quicker, which can make you feel tired and can compromise your ability to flush pathogens from your mucus membrane.

In addition, it’s easy to make poor nutrition choices when you’re out of your normal routine. “Grabbing processed foods to eat on the run so you can catch that flight, or over-indulging in foods you are not typically used to consuming can compromise your gastrointestinal health and deny your body and immune system the nutrients needed to keep infection at bay,” Dr. Vassighi says.

Avoiding these travel pitfalls is challenging, but it can be done if you take extra precautions and plan ahead.

“It goes without saying that basic hygiene practices such as frequent hand washing and keeping hands away from our mouth, nose, and eyes become even more important than usual,” Dr. Ciobanu says.

On an airplane, disinfecting your tray table is always a good idea. “Let’s face it, your tray table has likely been touched by many passengers who probably don’t have ideal hand hygiene. Clean hands and a clean eating surface are extremely important in preventing foodborne illnesses! I disinfect my tray table and armrests before I even sit down on the plane.”

Taylor Arnold, PhD, RDN

Assistant Professor of Nutrition, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine

When you arrive after changing time zones, Dr. Vassighi recommends melatonin to reset your body clock. “When we travel eastward, we lose time and therefore affect our body’s natural circadian rhythms of sleeping and waking. Taking several milligrams of melatonin (1 to 5 mg) the first night of your travels in the new time zone will ensure not only a good night’s rest, but re-trains your body to adapt its circadian rhythm to your vacation location so you can avoid feeling jet-lagged for the remainder of your trip,” she says.

“Before you hit the sack, get plenty of sunlight at the new destination to not only train your body to stay awake when it thinks it should be sleeping, but give an added benefit of Vitamin D production which is also an immune system enhancer,” she adds.

“Dehydration can be mitigated by drinking plenty of water before, during, and after travel. “Seltzer or flavored water is another good option, as is tea. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, as those are further dehydrating, and limit sodium intake.”

JoAnn Yanez, ND, MPH, CAE

Executive Director, Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges

Do some research ahead of time to plan your meals for the duration of your trip. “Hotels or rentals with a kitchenette are ideal, because they allow you the flexibility to prepare meals on the road,” Dr. Arnold says.

Plus, always travel with healthy snacks. “This will help you avoid snacking on convenience food, which can be loaded with salt, saturated fat, and other additives. Bring fruit or pre-cut and bagged veggies for your travel days, but make sure to research TSA rules, because they always seem to change! Bringing instant oats is a great way to save money and have a fiber filled breakfast before starting your day,” she adds.

“Increase your veggie intake and decrease the sugar. Oftentimes we are tempted to ‘cheat’ on our vacation or see travel time as a special occasion to indulge in foods we don’t normally eat. Ensuring at least three to five servings of veggies and fruits a day near the beginning of your travel will contribute antioxidants and vitamins necessary for strong immunity. Sugar is notorious for decreasing our immune response so try to avoid large doses. Moderation is always key.”

Nazanin Vassighi, ND

Assistant Professor , Bastyr University - California

If you plan to dine out, look for healthy meal options at your destination. “Look for naturally colorful, plant-based meals with minimal added sugars.  Check the nutrition information online, as menu titles can be deceiving,” Dr. Arnold says.

“Know where your food is coming from and do research about foodborne illness at your destination,” she says. “Are you traveling to a place where street food is off limits?  How about a place where you might need to bring your own water to a restaurant? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an app called “Can I Eat This?” that will help you determine if a food is likely to be safe based on the region and type of food.”

“Avoid eating foods that are easily contaminated—water, ice, fruits and vegetables that need to be rinsed in water—especially if traveling to locations where this could be an issue,” Dr. Yanez says.

The best way to fend off illnesses while traveling is to carry a kit full of natural remedies and treatments. Here are the top items to include:

  • High-potency multivitamin and mineral formula – “This provides me with those good complex nutrients my body needs to function at optimal speed,” Dr. Ciobanu says.
  • Vitamin C – “For several days before your departure date, take 500mg to 1000mg Vitamin C daily,” Dr. Vassighi says.
  • Vitamin D – “On travel days or on the day before travel, I usually double my dose of Vitamin D for a little extra boost. Be careful with taking more than 2000 IU/day for an extended period of time without consulting your doctor,” Dr. Arnold says.
  • Zinc lozenges – “I like to have zinc lozenges on hand for getting sick on the road. Zinc works best when taken at the very first sign of a cold or scratchy throat,” Dr. Arnold says.
  • Antiviral herbal formula – “Different supplement companies have their own formulas, so my best advice is to find one that works for you. My favorite ingredients to look for are herbs such as Echinacea, Astragalus, Andrographis, and Sambucus, along with extra vitamins and minerals such as Zinc, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. When they are put together they make a powerful antiviral combination which stimulates the immune system and increases the production of pathogen fighting lymphocytes and natural killer cells,” Dr. Ciobanu says.
  • Probiotics – “A good probiotic formula to look for is one that contains a number (at least eight) of different strains of these gut-friendly bacterias. Probiotics are phenomenal at supporting the immune system, aiding proper digestive function, fighting food-borne pathogens, reducing gut inflammation, and eliminating toxins from our systems. They may aide greatly in cases of constipation and diarrhea, especially those associated with travel,” Dr. Ciobanu says.
  • Digestive enzymes – “These can greatly alleviate bloating, gas, and other digestive complaints associated with poor digestion while traveling and indulging on new foods,” Dr. Ciobanu says.
  • Homeopathic remedies – “Homeopathy is one of the most powerful tools in naturopathic medicine because of its safe and gentle action on the body. I will usually bring either a pre-made kit that can be purchased online, or a few remedies on hand in case illness strikes,” Dr. Vassighi says.
    • Dr. Ciobanu also always travels with a homeopathic kit. Here are her top 10 remedies:
      • Arnica montana – traumas, bruises, soreness, aches.
      • Arsenicum album – food poisoning scenarios involving diarrhea, vomiting, chilliness.
      • Belladonna – high and sudden intense fevers. Dilated pupils, redness, heat with no sweating.
      • Ferrum phosphoricum – high fevers with chills, rosy cheeks; may not act or feel acutely sick.
      • Nux vomica – digestive upset due to overindulging in foods or alcohol; headaches, constipation.
      • Aconitum napellus – any physical or emotional ailments from sudden fright or getting chilled.
      • Cantharis – sunburns, UTIs with scalding and bloody drops of urine.
      • Cocculus indicus – motion sickness, jet lag, time zone changes, insomnia.
      • Ledum – insect bites or blunt trauma, relieved by cold application.
      • Apis – insect bites, hives, allergic reactions; with swelling, redness and heat; relieved by cold.
  • Water bottles – “Always have a spare BPA-free filter bottle on hand. In addition, bring a BPA-free collapsible water bottle for day trips to avoid carrying a big and bulky empty water bottle by the end of the day. Filter bottles are great to keep if you run out of water. If you ever need to drink tap water or from a drinking fountain, having a filter water bottle is a nice way to clean your water and improve the taste,” Dr. Arnold says.
  • Woolen socks – “Warming sock therapy is a great way to decrease fever without using medications and to decrease areas with congestion, such as sinuses or lungs. Before bed, begin by placing your feet in a tub of hot water for 5-10 minutes. Then rinse a pair of cold cotton socks in cold water, wring excess water out as completely as possible, and place on your feet. Next, pull a pair of woolen socks over your cold wet socks on your feet, and head to bed. While you sleep, your body will begin the process of bringing increased circulation and warmth to your feet, drying the wet socks while the wool acts as an insulator. This process of hydrotherapy stimulates the immune system by the pumping action of the blood to the extremities and back to the heart, which is effective as a potent fever-reducer,” Dr. Vassighi says.
  • Healthy snacks – Dr. Arnold recommends portable fruit (like bananas, oranges, and apples), pre-cut and bagged veggies, and granola bars with low added sugar and high fiber.
  • Fiber supplement – “Many people have trouble with constipation when traveling. A fiber supplement, like psyllium husk, is a great, natural way to help with this. Make sure you are drinking enough water to avoid making the constipation worse,” Dr. Arnold says.
  • Tea bags and travel mug – Herbal, green, and medicinal teas are all good choices. Sleep blends and constipation blends can be especially useful. Most airport coffee shops will fill up your cup with hot water if you ask nicely. Some airports also have hot water dispensers.

As with any supplements or remedies, consult with a naturopathic doctor before making drastic changes to your regular routine. Click here to find a naturopathic doctor in the US or Canada. When you plan ahead and have the right naturopathic tools in your travel kit, traveling doesn’t have to result in illness.

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It’s Okay to Change Your Mind: Changing Careers to Pursue Your Calling

Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life. We’ve heard it all before, and maybe there’s some truth to it. But it’s not always easy to “do what you love,” is it? This is particularly true when you haven’t found what you love until later in life, or when you’ve already invested time and energy into another career.

While there are people who go their whole lives knowing their true calling, most experience a career trajectory that’s slightly more jagged.

Take, for example, these three naturopathic doctors, all of whom have chosen to shift careers because they discovered a passion, balance, and fulfillment in naturopathic medicine.

I had classmates who had either just started their first career, or were way into their original careers, who took the leap and made the change to a new profession. I think it’s a testament to the strength of naturopathic medicine that people are willing to take this leap and make that change.

Robert Kachko, ND, LAc

Graduate, University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine

Social Work to Naturopathic Medicine

Prior to pursuing her passion in naturopathic medicine, Dr. Tawainna Houston spent several years in social work. She made a career out of helping others, including spending time as a case worker for homeless unemployment readiness services.

“We used to provide sugary snacks, and I’d see behavior changes as we handed out candy bars,” she said. “Clients became more aggressive in their approach toward staff, and I really wanted to know more about why … I wanted to be able to help them in all aspects of their lives.”

At the time that Dr. Houston conducted her search, she wasn’t aware that naturopathic medical schools even existed. Her search led her to the National University of Health Sciences in Chicago.

“I was pretty stable in my life, so I took a few years to wrap my head around the level of commitment I was making. I was taking a risk into something I believe I was being called into: an opportunity for greater service to people.”

Dr. Houston admits that going back to school was a humbling experience after so many years as a professional in a different career.

“It was just another thing I had to deal with as a second career student. I was older. I was in a different field, and working through the challenges of what that meant, of starting something new when I had mastered what I had been doing my whole life.”

While Dr. Houston had to “start from scratch” in some instances, she also discovered that her previous career experiences provided her with the business tools necessary to start and manage a successful medical practice.

Tawainna Houston, ND, MDiv

Graduate, National University of Health Sciences

Marketing Professional to Naturopathic Doctor

At 37, Dr. Barbara Weiss had established a successful senior level marketing career when she decided to pursue a career change in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

“For me it was about passion. I just wasn’t satisfied. I was accomplished, but the work itself didn’t interest me.” She feared that if she stayed in her current career, she would lose a sense of self. One thing was holding her back . . . the financial fears of a career change.

Dr. Weiss’ naturopathic doctor, Dr. Anthony Godfrey encouraged her by saying, “You’re never too old to do something that’s more in line with your passion.” He was older than Dr. Weiss when he changed careers from veterinary to naturopathic medicine.

Was it a big financial and time investment to go back to school? Yes, of course it was.

“But do I look back on it and regret it? Not at all.”

Barbara Weiss, ND

Graduate, Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine

Restaurant Entrepreneur to Naturopathic Doctor

Dr. Brian Crouse spent over 20 years in the food service industry (including owning a restaurant in Long Island, NY) before changing careers to naturopathic medicine.

Prior to his career in food service, Dr. Crouse was in school to become a chiropractor. He ended up leaving chiropractic school to provide for his family. Although he had great success owning his restaurant, Dr. Crouse made a promise to himself that he would continue his education at some point.

As he got older, he realized that a career as a chiropractor – including the physical demands – was no longer ideal. His lifelong passion for helping others resulted in one of life’s strange turns leading him straight to naturopathic medicine.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Crouse visited New Orleans to feed volunteers for three weeks. When he returned home, he developed a strange virus and bacteria he couldn’t relieve through conventional methods. Naturopathic medicine helped him revive his immune system.

After some more soul searching and research, he was ready to commit to the University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine. Both of his children were in college. Now was the time to take the plunge. He sold his business, which provided a cushion to survive on, but he still experienced the “fear of the unknown” that many students feel as they begin their journeys.

“I just had faith that it’d work out. I knew the timing was right,” he said.

He, too, relied on his lifelong experiences to get him through school and through owning his own practice.

“I’d been through rough times. I knew I could run a business,” he said. “A lot of people coming out of school don’t have that, and I know what it takes to succeed.”

Brian Crouse, ND, MS, LAc

Graduate, University of Bridgeport School of Naturopathic Medicine

request-info-naturopathic-doctor-collegeNaturopathic Medicine Success Stories

Who better to offer you input and advice about a career in naturopathic medicine than past and current students? Learn about the paths many of these doctors took to change careers to naturopathic medicine.

Read More

In the wise words of the late Dr. Anthony Godfrey, “You’re never too old to do something that’s more in line with your passion.” If you have an interest in naturopathic medicine, explore it and reach out to people who can help you along your path. The AANMC and the accredited member schools are here to help you make your dream of becoming a naturopathic doctor a reality.

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Positive Psychology and Health

From a naturopathic perspective, the ultimate health care goal is to promote optimal wellness for individuals and the greater community at large.  While it can be tempting to think of creating “health” primarily on the physical level, it is equally important to consider a person’s mental and emotional state and how to best support the whole person.

Many aspects of life are necessary to promote psychological health, including meaningful relationships with family and/or friends, adequate sleep and movement/exercise, strategies for stress management, recreation, and a healthy diet.1  Another important consideration for optimal mental, emotional, and even physical well-being, is one’s attitude toward life.  Whether you are an optimist, a pessimist or have a predominantly positive or negative view of life can determine the quality of your health on all levels.

What is Positive Psychology?

When many people think of psychology/psychiatry, the following clinical aspects of mental health often come to mind, such as emotional pain/trauma, PTSD, mental illness, depression, anxiety and the treatment of these conditions. Within the past two decades, research has developed regarding  happiness, well-being, and the traits that encourage positive mental health. These attributes are now viewed as a gateway to improving psychological and physical health, rather than merely managing the things about a patient’s life that are “wrong.”  It may appear to be a subtle distinction, but the preventive front end focus on mental health is an important one to note.

The concept of Positive Psychology was officially described in a groundbreaking paper by Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in the year 2000. 2 These  prominent researchers and clinicians had become dissatisfied with the predominant view of focusing on the reduction of clients’ negative thoughts and behaviors as the best way to improve mental health.  They suggested that “building up the good in life, rather than just repairing the bad”, may be a better approach.” 3 Generally speaking, positive psychology focuses on the positive aspects in life, such as happiness, gratitude, resilience, compassion, and love.

According to an article reviewing Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi’s seminal work, the primary purpose of Positive Psychology, “is to measure, understand, and then build human strengths and civic virtues, including hope, wisdom, creativity, courage, spirituality, responsibility, perseverance, and satisfaction.”4 It is important to note however, that positive psychology does not seek to ignore or deny negative experiences, but to help reframe one’s perspective on them.

Health Benefits of Positive Psychology

Research shows that concentrating on the positive qualities of life experiences and cultivating a positive mindset results in mental, emotional, and physical health benefits. Positive attitudes, such as expressing gratitude, are associated with a person’s overall sense of well-being, It is also shown to relieve depression, improve relationships, work-performance, and even result in fewer trips to the doctor! 5, 6, 7, 8

It makes sense that maintaining a positive attitude will benefit mental and emotional health, but it may also improve physical health. It is well-established that a positive mood impacts immune function, and negativity is depressive to the immune system. For example, positivity has been shown to decrease susceptibility to the common cold. 9  In a series of studies involving HIV patients, those who were more optimistic about their lives and future exhibited significantly reduced disease progression compared to those who were not. 10

In addition, coronary heart disease (CAD) patients who presented with a positive attitude exhibited improved heart function over those with depressed moods. The researchers suggested that maintaining an optimistic outlook on life may help prevent heart disease. 11

Accentuate the Positive

Naturopathic physicians have considerable training in counseling and in assisting with mental/emotional health issues. NDs often employ techniques found in the Positive Psychology movement, and provide tools for patients to practically implement this into their lives.

Examples of ways to increase positive meaning in your life:

  • Create a gratitude journal – Take time on a regular basis to write down 3-5 things for which you are grateful. Just saying them out loud before bed or when you are feeling critical is another option.
  • Perform a gratitude visit – Think about someone who has affected your life in a positive way or has inspired you, and then tell them! This can be in person, or written in a letter.
  • Carry out a random act of kindness – Do something helpful or thoughtful for someone that may be above and beyond how you normally behave. Acts of kindness contribute to the giver’s and the receiver’s happiness!

Having a positive outlook on life can help you achieve optimal health on all levels, physical, mental, and emotional.

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Naturopathic Medicine, It’s ALL About the Patient!

Naturopathic medicine is predicated on its six principles. Invariably, patients are drawn to see a naturopathic doctor (ND) because they seek care that follows these guidelines. ND patients appreciate the attentiveness of their doctor in fostering a deep understanding of their condition, and all the surrounding details that are important in guiding individualized, lasting change. Patients often report that it is the first time they really feel heard.

Naturopathic patient-centered care:

  • Treats the whole person – this includes assessing mind, body and spirit.
  • Identifies the root cause of an issue – so treatment will not only address a symptom – but will work to remove the reason why the symptom is showing up.
  • Educates patients to understand how they can support their own healing process.
  • Uses, when possible, the gentlest approach to treatment.
  • Works to prevent illness and emphasize wellness.

What do we mean by “patient-centered care”?

Just as the name implies, patient-centered care is a model of healthcare that places emphasis on the patient’s perspective regarding their own care.  They are involved in the decision-making process and their input is not only considered, but valued and implemented into the plan.  While patient-centered care is not a new concept (the term has been around for at least five decades), the validity of its implementation has been receiving more attention in recent years.

The literature contains many elaborate descriptions of the elements involved in a patient-centered health care model; the following are considered to be the three core components: 1

  • Communication – Appreciating the patient’s perspective and understanding of their health and the care that they have received and would like to receive, as well as the provider effectively communicating to the patient.
  • Partnership – Working together to develop a healthcare plan to which both the practitioner and patient can agree will be beneficial.
  • Promotion of health – Individualizing the patient’s healthcare plan based upon their own preferences, resources, as well past and current experiences regarding their care.

Other elements cited by authors include compassionate care, sensitivity to patient needs, relationship building, and intra-professional collaboration. 2

Studies show the benefits of a patient-centered approach include better health outcomes, lower cost, and increased patient satisfaction. For example, when patients were given individualized care based upon challenges they were experiencing in their health or life circumstances (meaning the physician adapted the treatment plan based on the patient’s situation), health outcomes greatly improved. 3

Patient-centered communication has also been shown to improve a patients sense of “finding common ground” with their providers and feeling better about the experience, which was correlated to improved recovery from their primary concern. Fewer diagnostic tests were required by spending more time talking with the patient, which translates into lower costs. 4

A patient-centered approach also reduced anxiety and pain levels in fibromyalgia patients (5), decreased hospital readmission rates in the elderly (6), and resulted in the reduction of HbA1C (a marker for blood sugar control), LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure over six months compared to control group which received standard care. 7

Naturopathic Medicine and a Patient-Centered Approach

While more and more allopathic doctors are looking into adopting this way of approaching patient care (note that all of the studies cited above were conducted in conventional settings), a core component of a naturopathic doctor’s training is “meeting the patient where they are” and providing individualized care. NDs appreciate that each patient has unique medical needs, depending on their current state of health, values, goals, resources (financial, social support, access high-quality food), their current state of health, etc.  The very essence of how NDs practice medicine is from a patient-centered perspective. Because naturopathic doctors take more time with their patients (up to two hours in some cases), they are uniquely positioned to dig deeply into a patient’s concerns and formulate an individualized treatment plan.

As a concrete example, imagine that a patient comes to see their ND for the very common complaint of gas and bloating after they eat, but they can’t determine which foods are bothering them. A patient-centered naturopathic approach would first ask the questions, “what are they currently eating, and what does the patient think are the most likely culprit/s”.  “What is this person’s understanding of food sensitivities and what would be the best approach for them?”  The ND may also consider the person’s financial resources; can they afford to pay for a food sensitivity test, or would an elimination diet work be a more cost-effective option?  Or perhaps they are currently consuming a Standard American Diet and do not understand that “cleaning up” their diet may be the first step in feeling better, but they have no idea how to accomplish that. Maybe the best approach for this patient would be to recommend supplements or herbs to help with the symptoms while taking small steps in implementing healthier choices.  Depending on the circumstances, NDs may then refer to nutritionists or other providers to assist in determining the root cause and removing obstacles to healing.

In providing a whole-person, individualized approach to medicine, naturopathic doctors epitomize the concept of patient-centered care.

Click here to find a patient-centered ND near you in the US and Canada.

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