Naturopathic medicine is an invaluable source of versatile and effective prevention techniques and treatment methods for the multitude of conditions that affect us all.
We asked naturopathic professionals to share their tips for preventing and treating five of the most common health concerns in the United States and Canada.
Asthma & Allergies
Respiratory concerns like asthma and seasonal allergies are especially troubling during the spring and summer with high pollen counts and humid weather. According to the World Health Organization, there are over 235 million people affected by asthma worldwide. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America estimates that 50 million people in the U.S. are affected by nasal allergies, and a survey by Johnson & Johnson shows as many as 10 million Canadians suffer allergy symptoms.
For those with asthma, Dr. Emma Norton, an assistant professor and clinic lead faculty at Bastyr University, suggests keeping your environment as clean as possible. “Toxic chemicals in our environment, from the food we eat, the products we use in our homes and on our bodies can all increase the stress on our immune system,” she explains. Therefore, she recommends “eating organic foods to avoid the toxic pollutants and genetically modified plants that our bodies may view as foreign.”
She also suggests the following preventative solutions:
- Eating a diet high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats.
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, which have antioxidants and important minerals including zinc and magnesium.
- Taking a daily probiotic to help normalize immune function.
To treat asthma with naturopathic medicine, Dr. Norton focuses on decreasing immune reactivity and allergic tendencies while assisting with symptoms. “An elimination diet can help identify food triggers,” she says.
Here are a few supplements to consider:
- Flavonoids like quercetin and vitamin C that help with the allergic response.
- Anti-inflammatories like fish oil.
- Magnesium can be helpful to relax the tightened airway.
- CoQ10 helps to decrease oxidative stress and subsequent symptoms created by the oxidative stress.
“Botanical medicine can also be helpful and there are many herbs to choose from,” Dr. Norton says.
- Tylophora indica, also known as asthmas weed, can improve the breathing of asthmatics.
- Boswellia serratais anti-inflammatory.
- Coleus forskoli helps with bronchiodilation.
- Ginkgo biloba is anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic.
- Glycyrrhiza glabra is anti-inflammatory and expectorant.
- Picrorrhiza kurroa is anti-allergic.
For seasonal allergies, Dr. Norton advises her patients to take a supplement with vitamin C, quercetin, additional citrus bioflavonoids, and bromelain to help prevent flare ups. Homeopathic allergy drops can also help keep symptoms at bay.
Dr. Norton says treating allergies requires supporting the immune system and reducing symptoms and inflammation. This can be accomplished with the following habits:
- Avoid common allergens like dairy, wheat, eggs, citrus, corn, peanuts, and shell fish.
- Lower sugar and salt intake.
- Try a neti pot, steam inhalation, or hydrotherapy.
Effective supplements, homeopathic remedies, and herbal treatments include:
- Vitamin C, flavonoids (anti-histamines), zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin A to assist the normal immune response.
- NAC and proteolytic enzymes (bromelain) to reduce mucus.
- Solidago virgaurea (goldenrod) can help reduce mucous.
- Hydrastis Canadensis can help restore balance to the mucous membrane.
- Albizia lebbeck and Scutellaria baicalenis for allergic sinusitis.
- Mucolytics like Armoracia and Allium sativum.
- Lymphatic herbs like Calendula officinalis and Gallium aparine.
- Anti-allergy-Albizia lebbeck, Scutellaria, and Thylophora indica will tone down the immune response.
- Anti-catarrhal herbs like Euphrasia and Solidago.
- Urtica dioica is anti-inflammatory.
- Curcuma longa is also anti-allergic.
Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Fifty million Americans are affected annually. Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada reports that five million Canadians suffer from acne. This pervasive skin condition is not only a nuisance, but it can also cause scarring or psychological problems such as depression and anxiety. The dermatological symptom of acne is often sign of underlying dietary imbalance that results in overactive oil glands.
Dr. Cindy Anderson of the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine says it’s important to first find out if a certain food is causing your acne. “Frequently sugar is the culprit, but dairy is one of the big offenders.”
She recommends taking a multivitamin that includes chromium, as well as zinc and vitamin A, which are essential for healthy skin. In addition, “consider getting your nutrient status tested to see what nutrients you are deficient in,” she says.
Headaches affect individuals in a variety of ways, from mild tension headaches to crippling migraines. The World Health Organization reports that tension headaches affect more than one third of men and more than one half of women around the world. Globally, at least one in seven adults have migraines, and they are up to three times more common in women than men.
Dr. Jennifer Botwick of the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine says there are many contributing factors that create the response of a headache. Some of these factors include arthritis in the cervical spine, vision challenges, injury, environmental toxins, and psychological stresses. “Like most naturopathic strategies, it is very important to learn and identify the triggers which contribute to the physical and often emotional pain of a headache,” she explains.
She says tending to basic needs first is essential:
- Getting plentiful and restful sleep.
- Staying adequately hydrated.
- Breathing properly and abundantly.
- Exercising daily.
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet.
- Performing daily stress management practices.
The treatments for headaches vary based on the type of condition. “Adequate magnesium intake can be quite beneficial, as prevention and as treatment,” Dr. Botwick says. “Our botanical helpers, Feverfew and Petasides, can offer relief when taken regularly.”
“Many of my patients also benefit from regular massage therapy, acupuncture, and aromatherapy, especially the use of PastTense or Migrastick, which are commercially available essential oil sticks,” she adds.
Almost everyone can relate to the feeling of exhaustion and wondering why you are tired all the time. Recurring bouts of fatigue can interfere with your productivity, your emotional well-being, and your personal relationships.
Dr. Anderson says fatigue can occur when your adrenals are overworked by too much caffeine. It sounds counterintuitive, but she recommends doing a caffeine detox. With time, “you may improve and actually feel more awake in the morning,” she says.
“Consider having your adrenals tested by a naturopathic doctor,” she adds. “Make sure to have your iron checked as well as your thyroid.”
Adequate and quality sleep is key to reducing fatigue, so Dr. Anderson suggests taking 1 to 3 milligrams of melatonin before bed to help you sleep better. “If you wake up often during the night, try sustained release melatonin,” she adds.
Dr. Norton also emphasizes the importance of eating balanced meals with appropriate amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, protein) and avoiding processed foods, which lack micronutrients (vitamins, minerals). She says a poor diet combined with stress and busy schedules often leads to fatigue. “The nutritional deficit sets patients up for an inability to handle stress, and the end result is a lack of energy.” Eating a whole-food, lean-protein, plant-based diet that focuses on balancing macronutrients can help in this regard.
High Blood Pressure & Cholesterol
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two serious threats to heart health. The Centers for Disease Control reports that 75 million Americans have high blood pressure and 73.5 million adults have high cholesterol. According to the Government of Canada, 9 in 10 Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 4 in 10 have three or more risk factors. These risk factors include high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
To prevent high blood pressure, Dr. Norton recommends focusing on the foundations of health. “Proper nutrition, stress management, and regular exercise are key to prevention,” she says.
Treating high blood pressure involves making dietary and lifestyle modifications. These include:
- Eating celery and dark leafy greens.
- Losing weight.
- Decreasing alcohol, caffeine, stimulants, and sodium.
- Reducing stress.
- Increasing EFA consumption through fish, nuts, and seeds.
- Taking B vitamins, magnesium, and EFAs.
- Decreasing oxidative stress with vitamins E and C, CoQ10, taurine, and arginine.
- Taking herbs like Crataegus cardioprotective, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Inula racemosa, Aliium sativa, Olea europaea, Viscum album.
The best way to prevent high cholesterol is also to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “Eating a high-fiber diet that has the focus mainly on fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil, and avoiding simple sugars will help maintain a healthy cholesterol level,” she says.
Dr. Norton approaches treating high cholesterol by looking at cardiovascular health overall. She works on general lifestyle management in areas of sleep, exercise, and stress reduction, and often prescribes a Mediterranean diet. This diet should include a variety of anti-oxidant packed fruits and vegetables, lots of fiber, healthy oils, and plenty of garlic and onions. She also recommends avoiding trans fats and processed foods.
Supplements to help with high cholesterol include:
- High-dose niacin can help normalize cholesterol and other cardiovascular risk factors.
- Red rice yeast extract.
- Antioxidants like vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols can help protect oxidation and decrease free radical damage.
- Omega-3 fats can also be helpful to supplement in a combination of both EPA and DHA.
Naturopathic medicine is a key tool in addressing these common conditions, as well as overall health and wellbeing. If you’d like to take the first step towards becoming an ND and healing people through naturopathic medicine, request information to find the school that’s right for you.
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