Natural Healing and Allopathic Philosophy

Allopathic Medicine, also called ‘conventional’ or ‘Western’ is the dominant medical practice in the United States. It’s general focus is the alleviation of symptoms.

Natural practices are often employed using this philosophy of care by ‘conventional’ and ‘alternative’ practitioners as well as do-it’s-yourselfers. This is basically symptom suppression using natural means.

The difference between Naturopathic Medicine and all other systems of healing is its philosophical approach. Natural means are employed with the intention to heal, but of greater importance is the attention to determining the underlying cause of disease so it may be addressed. Solving the problem of disease results in genuine wellness, eliminating the need to define health as temporary or requiring long term medication/herbs to be ‘healthy’.

What IS Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine is a natural approach to health and healing that recognizes the whole person as an integrated system. Wellness is more than the absence of disease; it is fulfilling your highest potential for being functional and balanced in body, mind and spirit.

Naturopathic Medicine represents the “vitalistic” tradition of medicine in our Western world. That is, it treats disease through the stimulation, increase, and support of the person’s inherent healing capacity. This is essentially the opposite approach taken by allopathic medicine which is suppressive in nature, focused on the alleviation of symptoms. Naturopathic treatment is chosen to work with the patients own abilities, respecting the body’s natural healing processes.

The practice of Naturopathic Medicine includes six underlying principles of healing. These are based on the observation of health and disease. This observation process involves the use of modern scientific methodologies as well as traditional methods that have withstood the test of time.
The following principles make Naturopathic Medicine different from all other medical approaches:

First do No Harm: 
Primum Non Nocere
Illness has a purpose. The process of disease includes the response of symptoms which are, in fact, an expression of the individual attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize the actions of the vis mediatrix naturae — the healing power of Nature. Therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing the underlying causes are considered harmful and to be avoided or minimized. Substances that are toxic or carry a high risk of side effects are considered in only extreme circumstances when the risk to the patient is justified by the extreme nature of the illness.

The Healing Power of Nature: 
Vis Mediatrix Naturae
God gave the body has an inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; He heals through an innate response and desire to be balanced and productive. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process, identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and establish or restore a healthy internal and external environment.
Identify and Treat the Cause: 
Tolle Causam
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms are evidence of the body’s attempt to heal itself, but are not the cause of disease. Symptoms, therefore, should not be suppressed by treatment. Causes may occur on many levels including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes rather than at symptomatic expression.

Heal the Whole Person: 
Tolle Totum
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, involving the complex interaction of many factors. The Naturopathic Physician must treat the whole person by taking these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are essential to recovery from and prevention of disease. This requires a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.

The Physician as Teacher: 
Docere
A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for his or her own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility for the healing process. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately promotes healing. Teaching with hope, knowledge, and understanding; the physician acts to encourage patients to make choices that heal and promote knowledge that supports self-sufficiency in the future.
Prevention is the Best Cure
The ultimate goal of any health care system should be prevention of disease. This is accomplished through education and promotion of life-habits that create good health. The physician learns to assess risk factors, sharpen a patients deductive reasoning, and understand the patients circumstances. Appropriate interventions are then sought to avoid further harm or risk to the patient. Building health takes less energy and is more successful than fighting disease.

Physician Heal Thyself is the final philosophical tenet. It exhorts the practitioner to be actively engaged in their own healing process and take similar responsibility for health as she encourages in others.

 

Text Services

One of the best things that has happened to medicine in recent times is connectedness. We use texting to communicate with clients and to be accessible to our patients at all times.

If you are an existing patient in our practice, you have my cell number and can text any time and for anything. Even if your not sure, just text! Guidelines for using texting with healthcare in our practice can be found here.

If you are not yet a patient,  we can only offer texting services to existing patients. Here are some links about our philosophy.

What DO we do?

Over the years we have done many things….we started out as North End Family Practice, added Healthy by Nature and also go by Dr Karen Erickson. We have practiced Naturopathic Medicine, had the first off campus Naturopathic Residency in the country, ran a healthfood store, taught classes, developed healthcare systems to serve the unserved, integrated new technology to serve people who were located far away, and supported a broad concept of health for people. We stand for education, self sufficiency and self responsibility. We promote that vision by providing education, healthcare, tools and support.

Basically we love a good challenge. When we see something not working, we try to solve it using the philosophical foundation of our practice, the Principles of Naturopathic Medicine. Often that means just reminding people they have options and standing along side them while they gradually take on the responsibility for their own healthcare decisions.

 

Mission; it is our belief that excellent and relevant healthcare is a basic human right. To that end we will endeavor to improve the wellbeing of those within our circle with every interaction using Naturopathic Principles and compassion for those around us.

Natural Medicine

What is Natural Medicine? What does it include? How are practitioners trained? Is it safe? And while I will define these terms, remember that the people using them online or in practice often throw these words aound and use them interchangeably (and incorrectly) making it almost impossible for even well educated consumers to make decisions without talking directly to a practitioner or reseaching a particular source.

What differentiates healthcare providers from one another is the type of training they receive and the philosophy that guides their care. In modern times there has been essentially one choice in the United States for Healthcare. This type of medicine is called ‘Allopathic’ medicine and this includes MD’s, Nurses, hospital care, etc. The philosophy of this care is based on determining a diagnosis and using drugs and surgery to alleviate the symptoms of disease. This has also been called the dominant school of medicine. It is the one that is backed by most insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and clinics, state and federal government, a complex legal system that manages the liability, etc. And we derive much of what we believe about healthcare from this paradigm.

While these practitioners simply think of themselves as ‘Physicians’, the term

allopathic care is ‘an expression commonly used by homeopaths and proponents of other forms of alternative medicine to refer to mainstream medical use of pharmacologically active agents or physical interventions to treat or suppress symptoms or pathophysiologic processes of diseases or conditions.[1] The expression was coined in 1810 by the creator of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755–1843)’. Interestingly enough the term allopathic comes from a root word (Greek állos) meaning ‘other’ or ‘alternative’. The decision to call something alternative is relevant to one’s own perspective! Today an estimated 30-70 % of all Americans have used alternative care according to a simple Internet search….but the impact of alternative care on healthcare choices and practices is, in my opinion, probably higher.

Integrative Medicine is generally an MD or Nurse practicing ‘alternative’ care. I will discuss this in detail in a future post.

There are other types of physicians besides MD’s. Osteopaths, Chiropractors,

Naturopathic Physicians, Doctors of Acupuncture. The training and licensure of these practitioners varies from state to state. I am a Naturopathic Physician and graduated from Bastyr University in Washington, where I went to medical school. Naturopathic Physicians are licensed as primary care providers with mandatory insurance reimbursement, hospital privileges and prescription rights in Washington. In Idaho where I live, the scope of practice is significantly less than my training and there is no legal or academic requirement to call oneself a Naturopathic Physician.

Checking with the professional associations nationally and by state will help you understand the terminology in your area. In Idaho many lay people, chiropractors and others call themselves Naturopathic Physicians even though they have no Naturopathic Training. This makes it challenging for consumers to make educated decisions. I think that it is critical for consumers of alternative care to understand and distinguish between various forms of care.

All these practitioners listed above may practice alternative care or natural medicine in spite of a highly variable levels of training. But alternative care is also practiced by a wide range of other ‘lay’ professionals. Some carry certificates, others have engaged in self study, and still others have learned from others in an apprenticeship setting. I will discuss issues of education in a future post.

Lay practitioners also have a philosophical ideology, but because their education is less standardized, their guiding principles are also less consistent and they generally have considerably more variability in practice.
The area where alternative practice has probably grown the most is by consumers practicing ‘do it yourself healthcare’. Although the increase in all alternative practices probably coincide with the ease of access to information that the Internet created; self care seems directly served by Internet sites, MLM companies, and grass roots movements that disseminate information on a variety of practices and products. The Internet has also impacted allopathic care in the same way as prescription drugs are now easy to obtain – pharmaceutical companies have picked up on this trend and now direct market to consumers on TV, radio and other media…..’ask your doctor about….’.

So while this is an exciting time in history if you seek alternative or natural care; the array of options can be overwhelming. And because everyone promotes their own platform and criticizes all other types of care, your opinions are likely to be formed with biased information. I also have my own biases as I write these articles. Knowing what platform I identify with and what my training is should help you see areas where I may lack objectivity. But as you read about natural medicine these next 31 days, hopefully you will recognize my most prominant bias: knowledge is power. My objective is to provide you with as much information as I can, support you in making a great decision about your care, and provide whatever resources help move you along in the journey towards exceptional health.

Acute Care

Naturopathic Medicine is excellent for an acute crisis and trauma. However it is not easy to bring a new patient up to speed in the middle of an emergency, so crisis care is more appropriate for existing patients. Think ahead!

Many people think that Naturopathic Medicine is not strong enough or fast enough to manage severe conditions. Living in Idaho, where the Laws are restrictive and unfavorable for trained Naturopathic Physicians, has given me the opportunity to provide emergency care in a wide variety of situations – often beyond the line of what I have been trained to do (again why we ‘practice’ medicine and keep learning from our patients). Even though I believe in this type of care to my core… I still feel awe when it works so well.

Although I was trained in appropriate medical technology, which included the appropriate use of ALL medical tools including antibiotics, drugs and surgery…. in Idaho my access is restricted and I have often encountered patients who were unwilling to utilize those forms of medicine due to religious beliefs or philosophical orientation. As a result I have had the opporunity to TEST Naturopathic Medicine in the field under extreme conditions… and IT WORKS!

Since Naturopathic Medicine treats people not diseases, the appropriate course of care for one condition can take an infinite variety of forms…. part of providing individualized care requires looking at the unique needs of the individual, their family, their community, and their environment in light of the existing crisis. What are their beliefs (religious and cultural), what are their resources (internal, family, financial, etc), what is their objective (getting well before a trip, resolving a chronic disease that flares up repeatedly, etc), and perhaps most importantly – what is the vitality of health and the commitment to fixing the problem?

Here are a few thoughts when considering Naturopathic Care for Acute situations.

Prevention, prevention, PREVENTION! How do you prevent acute crisis? Three ways: 1 stop it in it’s tracks! By having a truly useful home pharmacy (and stocked kitchen) and the knowledge to act you can stop many health challenges before they start. 2 By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and investing in wellness promotion you are more successfully able to manage life’s challenges. 3 It’s who you know! Having a relationship with a physician you can reach immediately during crisis is essential. Without support and advice, you are left making decisions on your own when you are least able to be thinking clearly.

When you start to recognize the strengths and weaknses of you health, it is easy to predict what conditions combine to create a crisis and what it will be. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to figure out the weakest link in a person’s constitution. In Western medicine, symptoms are suppressed with drugs…anti-histamines, pain medications, cough suppressants, antibiotics…. so we fail to recognize the VALUE of symptoms and the clues they give us about how the body is reacting….symptoms are like the early warning fire alarm of a bigger problem! When we stop ignoring or covering up the warning, we access the protective mechanisms that God put in our body to KEEP US HEALTHY! Instead of waiting for the house to catch fire to act, symptoms (fire alarms) allow us to see risk, make predictions and make choices that change your health destiny. If you don’t understand this, disease seems like a random occurrance that is inconvenient and innevitable and disempowering.

Who do you know? I grew up with a father that was a physician who DID housecalls. As a kid I went along with him and played with the kids in the family while my Dad worked. My kids have grown up the same way. Illness is best managed at home with the physician going to you. Why get a really sick kid with a ruptured eardrum UP to wait in line with a bunch of sick people in an ER at 3 AM? Is that healthcare? Acute care at Healthy by Nature includes a high level of accessibility. Patients access me in a variety of ways to get their needs met, but ACCESS is the key. When you are scared, sick, and uncertain; regardless of your orientation or health goals…. you need an advocate, someone who knows you, to reassure and give advice and remind you that have what you need to minister to yourself or your family providing EXCEPTIONAL healthcare.

Internet and it’s role in Modern Healthcare

When I started my practice, we did not have access to the Internet. People used physicians as a source of essential knowledge for healthcare. One of the great advantages of the Internet is that it has raised our medical IQ. Not just for patients, but for physicians as well.

This has affected the role of the physician in several way. First of all it has allowed for a more equal playing field where patients have easy access to information and the ability to talk intelligently about a diagnosis or treatment option. It has highlighted the possibility of medical errors and misconceptions, and allowed patients to participate more fully in the process of creating a safer, better experience. And it has allowed people with obscure conditions to connect, find support, share ideas. These are excellent applications of the Internet that improve the quality of health and the experience for patients.

The Internet has forced many physicians to change and has clearly decreased our dependence on the ‘Dr is always right’ mentality. In my own practice where education has always been my focus, the Internet has benefited me and supported the concept of access to information being essential to improving health.

Now the focus of my practice has switched from, ‘where can I get more information’ to ‘I saw this on the Internet, is it true?’ The information overload, conflicting advice and information, data provided without context, and potentially false information crafted to look credible are all hazards of this new tool in healthcare.

The Internet, like almost everything else in life, has the capacity for health or harm. But which side of the fence you come down on has everything to do with your own personal choices. Essentially everything relating to health on the Internet is true for someone. The question is: is it true for you? Here are some things to consider. Figure out the purpose of your Internet use, to self treat or to gather more knowledge, and use that to modify how seriously you take what you read. If you are in a fact-seeking mode, simply review a wide range of opinions and make a decision about what you think. Make a list of questions to run by your physician next visit.

Using the Internet to self diagnose and treat is a bit more risky. On the Internet you often bypass the cautions and risks that are a part of the practitioners knowledge. Because of this people often call in crisis after trying something that went wrong. Lots of the medical advice and ideas printed are frankly dangerous. On the other hand, saving money and time and hassle by figuring something out on your own can be pretty empowering and assist you on your journey to becoming more self reliant in healthcare.

Match the seriousness of your condition with the risk of the treatment. Almost anyone can try a remedy for an occasional headache. But no one should be tackling the complex interplay of hormones by slathering on some natural cream they bought online. Endocrinology is much more complex than that and the effect of upsetting hormone balance is significant. Think cancer risk.

Consider how Internet access has changed your views on healthcare and affected the healthcare you access. Identify things that have benefited you and look for ways to expand those habits. Recognize how Internet Information has adversely affected your health and set some guidelines to protect yourself. Used correctly and with a little bit of caution, this tool can be a significant benefit.

The Question We Can Not Answer

Every day we receive calls from prospective, new, and established clients asking us “what do we do for such and such a condition?” As we ponder how to respond, we recognize that the philosophy of modern medicine has influenced most people’s expectations of healthcare. The paradigm of the conventional medical system is twofold. Symptoms are to be suppressed and treatment is dispensed by matching drugs to specific conditions. This same philosophy may be applied to natural therapeutics where herbs or other natural substances are used for symptom relief and matched to particular conditions. This method is more efficient from a time perspective because an understanding of the person or the disease process itself does not significantly affect the treatment choices. Unfortunately, time efficiency does not correlate with healthcare quality.
Naturopathic Medicine has at heart a very different philosophy. The philosophy is that PEOPLE, not diseases, deserve treatment. This means a few very important things. First of all treatment for the same exact condition in two different people will be very different. It also means that the practitioner must know the client and what their symptoms say about them. Lastly, rather than being a symptom based system that focuses on making your disease state more comfortable, our objective is to promote health, prevent disease, and empower clients with adequate education to maintain a healthier life. Symptom suppression does not improve health or create a cure for a disease.
Asking ‘what to do for a particular condition’is a clue to us that you do not understand what we do or what we can do for you. Many people like the idea of ‘something more natural’ but do not understand that swapping an herb for a drug does nothing to solve the failure of the present medical system. Healthfood stores, medical doctors and self help books often specialize in this one- size- fits -all philosophy. We want you to know that we feel we have a better solution. Although our solution may not be the best for everyone, we have the expectation that those who choose to work with us know our philosophy and choose to move towards the exceptional health we feel is everyone’s birthright.
We feel so strongly about our philosophical approach that we have decided to uphold it. We feel great pressure at times to offer the type of generic mediocre healthcare that surrounds us. Our policies and our office set up supports the philosophy we ascribe to. While we would like to feel that we could serve all people, we know that compromising our standards and providing care we know to be poor is a disservice to those we desire to help and dissatisfying to us.
Because of our approach we will not offer support or advice to people we do not know. We will not provide support over the phone about conditions we have not addressed in a visit, or family members who are not clients, or clients we have not seen recently. We will not skimp on the length and number of visits we require to fully understand your condition. We will not continue to dispense supplements we know require supervision without appropriate office visits. These policies and others we hold to are designed to protect our clients and maintain our integrity. We feel Naturopathic Medicine can benefit EVERYONE by promoting an increased quality of life and empowering people through education to take care of themselves by practicing preventive care and first aid is more cost effective and gives people much greater value for their dollar.

Guidelines for Medical Advice over the Phone or Internet

You would be surprised what happens when people find out you are a physician! Suddenly everyone wants medical advice….. and when you are a physician, your heart is to share your knowledge for the benefits of others…. so why not?

Well sometimes it takes a while to see the big picture. And after some time I realized my efforts to try to benefit others with casual advice was not creating the same great results I was getting in my practice setting.
Good science is based on the Scientific Method…. and above all I think of myself as a scientist. I am always curious about how things work. So I observed the differences between the impact of care that I provided ‘off the cuff’ versus the care I offered as a professional in the context of a therapeutic relationship. And I concluded that while both had some initial benefit, people that worked with me experienced profound long lasting changes in their health while people who were just looking for cheap convenient acute care generally moved on from one thing to another, never really making much change – often concluding that natural medicine doesn’t work……
Several things struck me. One is that people learn differently and have different expectations of their own health. Secondly is that, for my practice anyway, the philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine and teaching how to think about health makes for a significantly more successful experience….  And lastly, responsible healthcare is based on traditional methods of assessment such as medical and family history, physical examination, and careful evaluation of the whole picture.
It might seem like giving ‘off the cuff’ advice on the bus to a stranger would be an act of compassion. Certainly the heart strains that way. But does it actually help?  And what principles does it promote?  Genuinely skilled professionals have good boundaries and when their skills are utilized according to basic guidelines for safety and practice ‘good science’…offer huge benefit.
So understand up front that decent care or advice from a skilled professional will not happen by posting a question on a blog. There is a reason you want someone to take time to figure out who you are and what is wrong. DIY medicine or health food store medicine may have its place but is very different from what I do.
You can expect answers about Naturopathic Medicine, the philosophy of care, different modalities, etc. I am very proud of what I do, very passionate about my profession. but please don’t ask me for medical advice And under no circumstances ask me: ‘what do you do for…..’?