Natural Medicine with Dr. Monique

By on October 21, 2014

Natural medicine 101


Naturopathic doctors work to uncover the underlying causes of health problems. Their tool boxes are equipped with herbs, supplements and other natural treatments. Photo:

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – For this week’s column, I thought I’d give a little background on naturopathic medicine and how it’s used to treat patients.

Since I started practicing naturopathic medicine 18 years ago in Washington, D.C., things have changed. The Capitol was certainly not California – the average person didn’t know a thing about Echinacea, hadn’t heard of St John’s Wort and thought that acupuncture was some sort of voodoo.

Fast forward to 2014 and the presence of natural therapies has increased to 38 percent of adults. Last year, the U.S. Senate declared the week of October 6 to be Naturopathic Medicine Week. That’s gratifying progress, but I still get some confused looks when I tell people what I do.

Naturopathic physicians attend a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school. The program includes basic sciences, clinical sciences, diagnostic techniques and tests, naturopathic therapies and techniques, and clinical training.

The underlying principles of naturopathic medicine are similar to those my father learned when he was in medical school in the 1950s:

First do no harm. Try to minimize the side effects, avoid suppression of symptoms and acknowledge respect and work with the individual’s self-healing process.

The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae). Identify and remove obstacles that are interfering with the body’s natural process for maintaining and restoring health.

Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam). Seek to identify and remove the causes of illness, symptoms return unless the root of illness is addressed.

Doctor as Teacher (Docere). Educate and encourage self-responsibility for health.

Treat the Whole Person. Every person has their unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors to name a few. These all affect our health and are taken into consideration when planning treatment.

Prevent Illness. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease we can make appropriate interventions to prevent future disease.

Naturopathic medicine can treat a wide range of health conditions including digestive disorders, fatigue, mood disorders, hypertension, chronic pain, autoimmune disease and many more. When you choose to see a naturopathic doctor, their primary focus is on a natural approach to health care. Acupuncture, homeopathy, massage, hydrotherapy, clinical nutrition and lifestyle counseling are among the typical treatments that you could expect to receive from a naturopath, depending on your needs.

Expect to answer a lot of questions. The naturopathic approach is based on real teamwork between the doctor and the patient. The more a patient shares with me, the more I learn, which helps us reach the end goal of restored health. Expect a longer appointment, too. My patient sessions usually last for an hour, or more if required.

Naturopathic physicians work in conjunction with medical doctors to promote the best health care possible. People are sometimes surprised that I don’t urge them to make me as their sole health provider, but as I said, the idea is teamwork. If you have a good relationship with your current doctor, their input will be valuable.

Health is not about avoiding coffee, ice cream, gluten, wine or French fries. Health is the overall condition of one’s body and mind, the condition of being well and free of disease. A healthy person has the awareness when she doesn’t feel well and needs to change something. The interactive experience of working with a naturopathic physician can help you develop this awareness and put you in charge of your health program.

Monique Lai, ND, is a naturopathic doctor and natural health expert with a family practice in Jackson Hole.

About Dr. Monique Lai

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