A Naturopath’s Vow: First, Do No Harm
What side effects could I experience from my prescribed medication? Are pharmaceuticals the best option for optimal health? Are there other solutions?
If you’ve ever found yourself staring down at a prescription pill, wondering if you should take it, you’re not alone.
Half the time, patients choose not to take their medications. Usually it’s out of fear—of serious side effects, long-term health consequences, or addiction. Prescription drugs might make us feel better, but the risks are real.
One “side effect” of pharmaceuticals is that, by suppressing pain and other symptoms, they disable the body’s most primary way of communicating that something’s wrong.
The truth is, many medications aren’t a sustainable solution because they work by throwing your body out of balance. When they relieve your symptoms, they’re actually suppressing your body’s natural response to disease. Left unaddressed, the underlying health problem can run amok and give rise to other symptoms.
Although prescription drugs are necessary sometimes, they’re often used as a front-line attack rather than a last resort. They frequently make symptoms go away but don’t resolve the underlying cause, which removes motivation to actually reverse the condition and improve our health. As a result, many of us spend our lives dependent on long-term medications.
But not everyone wants to live that way—and you don’t have to. For a growing number of patients from every corner of the world, natural medicine has can help decrease need for pharmaceutical medications. It’s a gateway to living a medication-free life, a life of health rather than symptom management.
Prioritizing the Least Harmful Therapies
Do no harm: All doctors take this oath. For a naturopathic physician, those words are more than just a professional oath; they’re a guiding principle.
Your most powerful healing tool is your body’s natural ability to heal itself. Dis-ease arises when that ability becomes disrupted. Medications can throw the body out of balance by suppressing the problem and triggering side effects, often causing unnecessary harm.
In some cases, doing the least harm means NOT treating the symptoms. Rather, naturopathic medicine treats the root of the problem—the imbalances causing illness—with therapies that support your natural healing process. There are a myriad of ways to help with this process. Many options are listed below. These are not in any chronological order, as every patient has different needs. Whenever possible, starting with therapies that do the least harm, naturopathic doctors at Portland’s Heart Spring Health prioritize treatments, which can involve:
Removing the obstacles to healing. Your body has a natural ability to heal itself, but outside factors can get in the way. Our Portland naturopaths will work with you to identify what’s blocking your health—whether it’s stress, lack of sleep, an imbalanced diet or an external pollutant.
Stimulating the body’s natural healing process. Once the blockage has been cleared, it’s time for your natural healing process to kick in. We use natural therapies that stimulate your internal vitality, creating homeostasis (balance) between your body’s systems.
Supporting weakened bodily systems. Our naturopathic physicians target damaged or imbalanced systems with treatments designed to bring them back into harmony. This may include supporting a weakened immune system, regulating hormones or treating systemic inflammation.
Correcting the body’s structural integrity. We work on restoring your body to optimal functioning through physical manipulation techniques such as massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic adjustments. This often involves collaboration from our many providers in order to determine the best protocols so that you obtain maximum health.
We provide patient-centered, collaborative, team-based natural medicine. We invite you to learn more about collaborative care and how it can benefit you.
Use natural medicine to address the specific dis-ease. Sometimes, more potent natural medicines are called for. We then attack the dis-ease with powerful botanicals, medicinal foods, and vitamin or mineral supplements.
Prescribe pharmacological medications. We use pharmaceutical drugs only when we have to—for staving off serious illness when the imminent risk is great (or when other methods aren’t feasible).
Why Strive for Natural Healing?
Nature has provided us with solutions to many chronic conditions. Often, these solutions are the least harmful way to go. They’re more sustainable than prescription drugs—and often more effective.
Here are just a few examples:
Ear infections. When a child gets chronic ear infections, antibiotics are often the go-to therapy. But antibiotics harm the digestive system by depleting your gut’s microflora—and they don’t even kill the viruses responsible for most ear infections. Changing the child’s diet to remove offending foods is a less harmful approach that promotes overall health.
Acid reflux. Patients with acid reflux often take suppressive treatments that inhibit digestive functions or decrease stomach acid. This can lead to long-term digestive problems. We prefer natural therapies involving removing offending foods, supporting the proper functioning of the sphincter (which holds the acid in the stomach) and restoring normal stomach acid secretion.
Allergies. Some allergy medications ease symptoms by suppressing the immune system, which reduces the body’s ability to deal with environmental allergies. Our Portland naturopaths prefer to use less harmful botanical treatments and eliminate foods that hinder the immune system. Natural medicine can even treat and prevent life-threatening asthma, reducing dependence on medication.
High cholesterol. Many patients use pharmaceutical therapies to control high cholesterol. Many drugs may have undesired side effects, both short term and long term. These side effects can decrease the patient’s quality of life. Our naturopathic physicians can help you treat high cholesterol naturally with herbs and through lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise.
When Aggressive Treatments Do the Least Harm
Although natural medicine is usually the best solution, there are times when doing the least harm means turning to medication or surgery first. A naturopathic physician is trained to recognize these times.
Breast cancer, for example, requires swift treatment. Aggressive therapies such as surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy offer a more than 75 percent survival rate for women with stage I or II breast cancer. Most people would find that worth doing. Our Portland naturopaths know our patients are not statistics, so while we value research-supported standard treatment protocols, we also take into consideration that you are an individual. With additional testing and an office visit we get to know you as a whole person. We look to create a plan that will be the most effective treatment for you as an individual. In these cases, we would work with your oncologist to combine aggressive treatments with naturopathic care for optimal outcomes.
- Cause less harm
- Result in better outcomes
- Improve overall quality of life
For some people, a naturopathic treatment plan is not feasible. If the patient has a complex or advanced disease process, has a lot of unavoidable demands on their time and energy, or otherwise has obstacles that prevent them from compliance with some recommendations, the naturopathic physician might decide that prescribing a pharmaceutical is the least harmful path. Our naturopathic doctors are trained to determine when drugs or referrals for specialized treatment are necessary and when there’s a healthier alternative.
What to Do Next
Are you ready to start living without medication? With the help of naturopathic medicine, our Portland patients can:
- Improve their quality of life
- Relieve symptoms without drugs
- Feel good without side effects
- Boost their energy
- Become more balanced and peaceful
- Stay healthy and avoid medications throughout their life
Call Heart Spring Health today to make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor who can help you navigate your symptom picture and make treatment decisions that cause the least harm.