Food as Medicine

Want to learn how to find health and healing in your kitchen? Join the AANMC and Dr. Aaron Wong for a free informative webinar to learn how your food choices can nourish your mind, body, and spirit. Good nutrition is core to overall health and fundamental to the naturopathic approach to wellness and disease management.

*Webinar does not qualify for CE

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To view the archive of past webinar recordings, please click here.

About the Presenter

Aaron Wong, ND is a big proponent of food as medicine and growing your own food. He has been doing public talks on the importance of food and its impact on health from a mind, body, spirit perspective for many years. He is an avid gardener and an enthusiast of local plant medicine. After completing his degree in chemical and biological engineering at the University of British Columbia, Dr. Wong suffered a debilitating back injury that completely changed the course of his life. Through years of recovery and trying numerous conventional and alternative treatments, Dr. Wong found healing within mind, body and spirit medicine. Dr. Wong is a graduate of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) and has additional training in acupuncture, IV therapy and chelation. He is also a Registered Therapeutic Counselor. Dr. Wong is the clinical director at Butterfly Naturopathic in North Vancouver and is an experienced Clinic Faculty Supervisor at BINM supervising third and fourth-year clinicians.

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Who Should See an ND?

If you are considering a career in naturopathic medicine, you may wonder what type of patients will be drawn to see an ND.

Chances are you are or have been worried about your health and/or the health of your loved ones at some point. Chronic health issues often lead patients to explore alternative treatment options. Extended medication protocols may be appropriate for some patients, however the “never-ending pill” leaves others questioning if there are any safe alternatives to staying on a medication protocol indefinitely. Increasingly, patients are seeking out health providers who are knowledgeable about a more organic and natural lifestyle in everything from cooking to medicine. This is where naturopathic doctors come in. Have you ever wondered if naturopathic medicine is right for you or your loved ones? Below are five reasons patients go to see an ND along with the top conditions treated by naturopathic medicine.

Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine

Multiple Health Issues

At the core of naturopathic medicine is the belief in six guiding principles. One of those principles is the idea that naturopathic doctors should search beyond the symptoms presented to uncover the underlying cause of the health condition. This often leads to the discovery that there is not one “magic bullet” to the problems, but can also help patients realize there may be many health issues that are interconnected, some of which they may not even be aware of. Another of the guiding principles is treating the whole person. By focusing on both the physical and spiritual well-being, NDs can help their patients in multiple areas of their lives.

High Blood Pressure and Diabetes

Many of the biggest health issues facing North Americans are directly linked to nutrition. As a whole, we consume far too many processed foods which are high in fat and full of empty calories. One of the best reasons to see a naturopathic doctor is to help personalize your nutrition. Core to naturopathic practice is the role of an ND as a health educator, helping identify and guide patients to eat properly for their particular situation. An ND may provide suggestions on how to eat healthy, and often on a budget. As a result of therapeutic nutrition, you can expect to see many health problems improve. Food as medicine may ease problems associated with diabetes, assist with weight loss, lower blood pressure, and foster general improvement in well-being.

Digestive Health

Nutritional planning can also pack a punch in improving digestion and digestive tract issues. From Irritable Bowel Syndrome and heartburn, to bloating and constipation, NDs can help examine what you are eating, and get to the root cause of your problem. Naturopathic doctors use diagnostic tools to determine if the body is having trouble digesting certain foods or reacting to foods and food additives. NDs may recommend diet and lifestyle changes as well as supplementation.

Hormonal Problems

Nutrition doesn’t just impact your stomach. A realignment of diet to a more wholesome approach can help with hormonal imbalances aggravating problems such as thyroid disease, PMS and menstrual irregularity. Instead of turning to synthetic hormones, NDs may suggest herbs or naturally derived hormones that will help with realignment. They can also identify foods that naturally regulate the cycle and promote balanced moods and sleep.

Social Support

NDs treat the whole person, recognizing the impact of the social support of family and community in navigating tough issues. Lack of social support has been shown to have detrimental health effects such as increased cardiac risk and mortality. Strong social networks can improve patient therapeutic compliance as well as overall health care outcomes.

People are becoming more aware of naturopathic medicine and are opening up to the possibilities that it offers. Rather than seeing naturopathic medicine as a replacement for traditional medical healthcare, people are beginning to understand that it can be an interlocking piece of the puzzle to promote overall well-being in integrative patient care.

Click the following links to find a naturopathic doctor near you in the United States and Canada.

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!

Naturopathic Nutrition Therapy

Across cultures, borders, and ethnic lines, people around the world hold a deep personal connection to food. The emotional bond that people have to the foods they love is multilayered. Food brings people together, adding merriment, joy and interest to a variety of occasions from a quiet family dinner at home, to a rousing culinary exploration of a new restaurant with friends, religious and cultural traditions, or landmark life events like weddings and graduations. A home-cooked meal can also be associated with a show of affection. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in the journey towards optimal health and well-being. The personal and emotional connections people have to the foods that they eat are among the chief reasons why nutritional change is such a challenge, even in the face of medical necessity or chronic disease risk.

Chronic diseases are the leading cause of death and disability in the US and are also among the most costly and preventable.1 About half of all American adults—117 million individuals—have one or more preventable chronic diseases, many of which are related to poor eating patterns.2 The health risk factors of physical inactivity, tobacco use and exposure and poor nutrition are the leading causes of chronic disease.1 It is also interesting to note that in the face of skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases that have a strong nutritional component such as Type II diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, most conventional medical providers are not adequately trained to address nutritional habits in a way that sufficiently supports their patients in making foundational, permanent changes that could help improve overall vitality or slow disease development or propagation.

Physicians trained through conventional medical training receive only a nominal amount of nutrition education. In a 2015 study, researchers surveyed all 133 four-year conventional medical programs in the US and found that out of 121 medical schools that responded, about 71% provide less than 25 hours of nutrition education with 36% providing less than 12 hours and less than half of all schools report teaching any nutrition in clinical practice with clinical nutrition practice accounting for an average of only 4.7 hours overall.3 In contrast, the nutrition curriculum in naturopathic medical school is centered on a series of rigorous, evidence informed nutrition courses that offer a cumulative base of knowledge that is built over the entire four-year education program. Naturopathic medical curricula at a four-year, accredited college of naturopathic medicine includes an average of 155 hours of classroom nutrition education coupled with over 1200 hours of clinical education wherein application of nutrition principles is a foundational component of nearly every patient interaction.4

At four-year accredited naturopathic medical schools, nutrition education includes specific training in a broad array of nutritional principles. Having an in-depth knowledge of each, along with an understanding of how they all fit together, coupled with many hours of clinical application leads naturopathic physicians to be among the most highly skilled medical practitioners. NDs are expert in the development and implementation of individualized, tailored nutritional prescriptions that support patient outcomes and empower patients to execute better nutrition choices. Optimized nutrition forms the foundation for health across all aspects of physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual health. Some examples of naturopathic nutrition training include intensive study of:

Dietary Analysis and Assessment

Dietary Analysis and Assessment is the comprehensive evaluation of nutrient intake including intensive study of various nutrition therapies and their evidentiary support in medical research and clinical observations as well as determining individual micro- and macro- nutrient needs based on individual factors, evaluation of what current intakes of macro- and micronutrients are given the individual dietary intake as a means of establishing a basis for nutrient deficiencies, excesses, imbalances, or other dysfunction including outright nutrition based pathologies.

Clinical and Specialized Nutrition Therapy

Clinical and Specialized Nutrition Therapy is an application of nutrition principles, protocols, and evidence based dietary systems (i.e. Mediterranean diet) for individual health concerns and conditions. NDs utilize specific nutrients in patient management, providing nutrition therapy to specialty sub-populations like nursing mothers, pediatrics, performance athletes, disordered eating, metabolic syndrome, and others.

Nutritional therapy is core to comprehensive naturopathic care. With the goal of restoring balance through appropriate nourishment, it is focused on promoting vitality and well-being through the use of specific, individual dietary interventions, use of therapeutic, personalized dietary prescriptions, and can also include the use of herbs, supplements, and functional foods as well. The impact of the foods we are exposed to plays a direct role in our health from preconception to death. The foods we choose to eat on a daily basis can have important effects related to disease susceptibility, proper physical, mental, and intellectual development, inflammation and immunity. Whether these effects are taking us in a positive direction or a negative one depends on the choices we make.

The role that nutrition plays in not only the restoration of health but also the maintenance of health cannot be overstated. Going back as far as the times of Hippocrates, it was the steadfast belief that food should be the primary medicine. In the last century we have seen a drastic drop in infectious disease and much lower rates of nutrient deficiencies, but this came with a trade-off.2 As infectious disease rates have dropped, the rates of noncommunicable diseases—specifically, chronic diet-related diseases, have risen, due in part to changes in lifestyle behaviors.2 At a population level, the quality of the American diet has drastically decreased over time with 60% of calorie consumption coming from ultra-processed foods (packaged formulations resulting from several sequences of industrial processes).5 Unfortunately, a loss of connection to where our food comes from, and to the value of fresh, seasonal, local food means that many people have also lost sight of the notion that the foods we eat are actually fuel for the body, and that the purpose of food is not only for enjoyment but also to provide the body with what it needs to function optimally and provide the best opportunity for maximal overall health, well-being, and longevity.

Macro- and Micronutrient Therapy

Macro and Micronutrient Therapy incorporates learning the nutritional biochemistry behind macro- and micronutrients, the importance of an individualized balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates as well as daily requirements of vitamins and minerals. NDs guide patients to good sources of various micronutrients, information on the utilization of optimal ratios for nutrients and nutrient subtypes, how micronutrients are absorbed and assimilated, what can be done to support optimal absorption and assimilation, how our DNA impacts our nutrition, micronutrient, and vitamin needs, as well as knowledge surrounding deficiency, storage, excretion, and toxicity.

Naturopathic physicians are a key guide, leading patients to life-long prevention and wellness through individualized, whole-person-focused nutrition.

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!

Do You Have the Mind of an ND?

Naturopathic medicine is gaining attention in the media as people seek out alternative routes to solving their health problems. But it is also getting more attention because of the opportunities that it provides people for career paths. Regulated naturopathic healthcare is attracting more and more potential students to the field because of the flexible schedules and opportunities to make a difference in the community that come with this area of medicine. Could naturopathic medicine be the right path for you? If you are considering this exciting area, here are a few things you need to know about what makes for a great naturopathic doctor.

Do you have the heart and mind of an ND?

Do you want to shape the future of healthcare?
Do you want to spend time getting to know your patients in order to treat their whole self?
Do you believe nutrition and exercise are important for a healthy lifestyle?
Do you recognize the importance of treating both the mind and body?
Do you recognize the role stress plays into a patient's healthcare?

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A Holistic Approach

One of the main tenets of an ND’s practice is taking a holistic approach to treating patients. NDs treat the whole person, looking at how different systems and ailments are interconnected. In addition, NDs are more likely to take a team approach to treatment, looking at a variety of causes for health problems with help from many specialties.

Nutrition and Exercise

An important feature of an ND’s work is the reliance on nutrition and exercise to promote a healthy lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors are often called upon to act as educators, teaching their patients how to take care of themselves by showing them what they should and should not eat and how they can best exercise.

Mind-Body Connection

NDs look to treat both the mind and the body. Many naturopathic medical clinics feature ways of treating not only physical ailments, but mental and spiritual problems as well. These can include treatments for PTSD at veteran’s clinics or domestic abuse centers as well as providing safe spaces for migrants and the LGBTQ community.

Stress Management

Naturopathic medicine takes a proactive approach to health care, noting the importance to prevent ailments before they occur. Recognition of the role of stress in illness and teaching patients lifelong skills in stress management is core to naturopathic treatment plans. Mind-body medicine approaches are tailored to the individual patient in order to mitigate tension before it impacts our health.

Natural Approaches and Herbal Medicine

If you are thinking about becoming a naturopathic physician, you will need to become knowledgeable in natural approaches to treatment. NDs make it a point to seek out the gentlest treatments for their patients, reserving more invasive methods as a means of last resort. Herbal medicine is a key tool in the naturopathic tool belt. NDs honor cultural botanical medicine practices with modern advances in botanical research.

We’ve talked about the various areas licensed naturopathic physicians need to know in order to be a great ND and there are a few common characteristics of successful naturopathic medical students :

• Strong academic background
• Excellent communicators
• Socially conscious
• Passionate for disease prevention
• Inquisitive and excited to find the root cause of illness
• Recognizes the power of a holistic approach to patient care

All of these characteristics will help lead you into a rewarding career in the exciting field of naturopathic medicine. Find out exactly what the path to a career in naturopathic medicine looks like for you by visiting

5 Tips for a Healthy Back

Did you know back pain can impact up to 80% of adults in their lifetime?1 The causes can vary from acute accidents to long-term wear and tear/arthritis,  unstable joints, weak muscles and stress. Back pain does not discriminate. It affects men and women equally, and is a leading cause of missed workdays and poor work productivity.

Naturopathic doctors help patients identify the root cause of pain, and formulate holistic and individualized approaches, resolving issues, naturally. They conduct a thorough history and examination, with possible referrals for diagnostic imaging or specialists. After identifying the cause, NDs will help you understand how to prevent and manage symptoms with things like diet, exercise, stress reduction and even sleep!

While NDs take a more gentle approach to pain management, and will typically begin with lifestyle, nutritional and herbal/natural supplement support, they recognize that some cases require pharmaceutical management and will prescribe or refer accordingly. NDs follow the Therapeutic Order, and pharmacological intervention or surgery is likely one of the last recommendations to be made – usually once all other methods have been exhausted.

Here are a few things to consider for optimal back health.

Be mindful of your body

Pay attention to how you feel. Things to think of:

– Your position at work or at a computer. Ergonomics matter. Take breaks every hour.
– Lift things correctly, and from the legs. Avoid lifting items that are too heavy for you.
– Pay attention to your posture. Ask yourself right now, are you slouching?
– Be aware of how you carry things like bags or wallets. Avoid a bag on one shoulder and a wallet in your back pocket.

Amazingly, the repetitive stress of bad posture, an overly heavy bag or misplaced wallet can take a toll over time on our physical health.

Wear good shoes

A healthy back can sometimes start in our feet! Your feet set the tone for posture the rest of the way up the skeleton. Make sure you have good arch support if you will be on your feet all day.


Did you know that some low back pain is actually related to tight leg, back and core muscle groups? If you are new to exercise, see a trainer or physical therapist to help you find the best stretches for you.


Drink plenty of water to keep your intervertebral disks hydrated and plump. A diet high in anti-inflammatory foods is also a great place to start.


While opinions vary on mattresses and pillows, making sure you maintain a comfortable posture while sleeping is important. Some people will find that side sleeping with knee to chest helps relieve tension on the spine.

Naturopathic physicians are uniquely trained to use a multitude of techniques and therapies to identify the root cause of pain, and formulate holistic and individualized approaches. Click here to find an ND near you in the US and Canada.

Learn More About Becoming a Naturopathic Doctor

Receive information from the accredited schools of your choice located across North America!