Complimentary Medicine for End of Life Care

Complimentary Medicine for End of Life Care

No matter how different our lives are, one thing is for certain: none of us live forever. Eventually, each one of us will face the end of our life. In some cases, such as an accident or sudden cardiac arrest, death may be unexpected. But in other instances, a person experiences a gradual fading due to an illness. In cases where death is anticipated, decisions about end of life care need to be made.

What is End of Life Care?

End of life care involves the medical care and support a person receives in the final stage of their life. In some cases, such as a terminal illness, death is expected. But just because a curative treatment may not be possible or desired, does not mean care stops. End of life care can make the final days of someone’s life comfortable, meaningful, and peaceful.

Becoming informed about the options for end of life care is helpful to make sure a person’s needs are met. Everyone is unique and may have different concerns regarding end of life care. For example, some people may want to know that everything that could have been done medically, was carried out. For others, it’s essential to maintain a good quality of life until the end.

Providing the best possible end of life care helps the dying person remain comfortable and calm. It also decreases stress for those left behind.

Traditional End of Life Care

Traditional care, which may be given at the end of life may vary from treatment, to try to prolong life with comfort measures. Support to prolong life, such as medications to maintain blood pressure and a mechanical ventilator to assist with breathing, may be administered. Comfort measures may include supplemental oxygen, pain medication, and sedatives.

Complementary therapies may also be used along with traditional end of life care. In fact, hospice services often incorporate different complementary therapies in the care that they coordinate.

Types of Complementary Medicine as Part of End of Life Care

Typically, complementary therapies are used in end of life care to improve physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being. The treatment is not used to cure a person or prolong life. Instead, complementary treatment is performed to improve quality of life.

Physical and emotional symptoms may vary greatly in the weeks and days before death. Symptoms which may occur at the end of life vary, based on the underlying illness. It’s common for people who are dying to experience shortness of breath, pain, and restlessness. Additional symptoms, such as nausea, edema, and anxiety can also occur. Complementary medicine may be useful in treating many of the typical symptoms experienced at the end of life.

But it’s not just physical symptoms that are common the months, weeks, and days before death. Emotional symptoms, such as anxiety, fear, and depression may also occur. Complementary medicine may also help improve emotional well-being and promote feelings of peace.

Therapies which may be helpful include:

Massage Therapy: There are different types of massage, which may help meet the needs of a terminal condition. Gentle massage may be especially useful to improve circulation, decrease fluid retention, and ease pain and stiffness. Massage therapy can also promote feelings of well-being and decrease anxiety.

Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy involves using essential oils to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. Aromatherapy may also be useful in decreasing sleep difficulties and nausea. Most commonly, essential oils are applied to the body during a massage or are added to a bath.

Music Therapy: Music therapy interventions may vary based on a person’s interests, beliefs, and physical condition. Music therapy may include songwriting, moving to music, and active listening to live music. Music therapy is a non-invasive therapy, which may decrease pain, anxiety, and shortness of breath. It can also reduce feelings of depression, isolation, and fear.

Acupuncture: Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. It involves stimulating specific points in the body by inserting thin needles. Acupuncture is used to restore balance to the body, which may improve well-being. When used as a complementary therapy for end of life care, acupuncture may ease nausea, fatigue, and pain. It may also be useful to decrease sleep problems.

Reflexology: Reflexology involves applying varying degrees of pressure to specific points on the feet. The theory behind reflexology is the feet are associated with specific areas of the body. By applying pressure to the feet, it can relieve certain symptoms, such as pain, nausea, and insomnia.

Benefits of Complementary Medicine

There are several potential benefits of complementary medicine. For instance, complementary therapies often do not interfere with conventional treatment, such as medication. Therapies, such as those above, usually do not cause negative side effects. Therapies can often be provided in the home, as opposed to a hospital. Certain complementary therapies can be done without having to move or reposition a patient, which may be helpful for people in pain.

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Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine

Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine

You might have heard of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), but you may not be sure of what it involves and if it is right for you. Although TCM may not be right for every condition, it can be a good option for people in many circumstances. The first step is learning more about what TCM is and how it is used.

The Basics; What is Involved in Traditional Chinese Medicine?

The practice of Chinese medicine has been in existence for thousands of years, and originated in ancient China. It is one of the oldest healing systems on the planet. Although many facets of TCM have evolved over the years, the primary philosophies remain the same.

TCM involves a system of therapies that encompasses a variety of methods to treat illness and disease. Although the illness being treated may vary, the goal of treatment is to restore balance in the body. By restoring balance, it allows the body and mind to heal itself.

One of the unique aspects of TCM is that it takes a more holistic approach to treatment than conventional western medicine. Chinese medicine is intended to create wholeness within a person. Western medicine often treats specific symptoms or conditions, but may not focus on the entire body.

Practices used in TCM may vary and can include Chinese therapeutic massage (Tuina), acupuncture and Tai Chi. Herbal remedies may also be used to treat various conditions. Herbal medicine may include combinations of formulas derived from flowers, seeds, leaves and roots. The herbs are given in capsules, extracts, liquids, powders and teas.

Nutrition (TCM food therapy) and exercise are also used in TCM. Although some practices, such as massage and acupuncture, are mainstream and well known a few other therapies may not be. For instance, the practice of moxibustion may be unfamiliar to most people. It involves burning an herb near the skin to treat various conditions.

Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM can be beneficial for several reasons. One of the most obvious benefits is it can help you feel healthier and treat your ailments. But there are also additional benefits. For instance, TCM does not just focus on the physical body. Instead, it pays attention to the mind-body connection associated with disease and healing. For example, various practices of Chinese medicine can help you manage emotions that may affect physical health.

Another benefit is that TCM takes a natural approach to treating many conditions. It focuses on improving well-being through living a healthy lifestyle, such as with exercise, relaxation and eating nutritious foods. The result may not only improve a specific medical condition or disease, but it can mean an overall healthier life and further disease prevention.

TCM also teaches you how to understand what your body is telling you. It is common not to recognize or to ignore the symptoms and signs of illness until something more severe/complicated develops. But TCM also incorporates the importance of being in tune with your body.

It is also helpful to understand that some aspects of TCM can be used in conjunction with conventional Western medicine. For example, acupuncture and tai chi can be used along with common modalities such as chiropractic and massage therapy.

There are a wide variety of conditions that TCM may treat. These include diseases and illness such as:

  • Asthma
  • Low back pain
  • Headache
  • Arthritis
  • Bronchitis
  • Gastritis
  • GERD
  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • Fertility problems
  • Symptoms of menopause
  • Ulcers

Safety and Considerations

Whether you are seeking treatment from a conventional doctor or a TCM practitioner, it is important to keep several safety tips and suggestions in mind including:

Don’t delay lifesaving emergency treatment.

TCM may not be appropriate in every situation. For instance, if you are having symptoms of a heart attack, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, emergency medical care is needed. Although TCM had been used for a wide variety of emergency care for many decades, it may not be the best option to treat emergencies or life-threatening conditions in this day and age.

Not everything that is considered “natural” is safe.

Although many aspects and practices associated with TCM are safe, there is not a lot of research yet on certain herbal remedies. Herbal remedies do not go through the same review or regulation process as pharmaceuticals. Don’t assume that something is safe just because it is made from a root or a plant.

Find a qualified Chinese medicine practitioner.

Just as you would with any doctor or dentist, it is essential to make sure a TCM practitioner is well qualified. In the United States, you can visit the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine website to locate a certified practitioner in your area. In Canadian provinces such as Ontario, visit the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario.

Make sure your healthcare providers are on the same page.

Always talk with your doctor about any herbal medicines that you are taking, and also be sure to talk with your TCM practitioner if you plan to start taking a new medication. In some cases, herbal remedies and supplements can interact with medication and cause unwanted side effects.

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Chiropractor Care During Pregnancy

Chiropractor Care During Pregnancy - pregnant woman sleeping in bed at home

Pregnancy can be an exciting time filled with anticipation, but it also means a lot of physical changes, some of which are uncomfortable. Changes to the body occur due to a combination of shifting hormones, increase in blood volume and weight gain.

Although all women are different, pregnancy discomforts can include nausea, headache and back and pelvic pain. Swollen ankles and aching joints are also common. Pregnancy discomforts can be challenging to deal with since typical treatments for aches and pains, such as medication is often not recommended during pregnancy. With that being said, chiropractor care may be a good option to keep your body in balance during pregnancy.

How Chiropractor Care Can Treat Pregnancy Discomforts

During pregnancy, weight gain and the increase in the size of the uterus can put pressure on various nerves throughout the body. It can also lead to some changes in the lumbar spine, as well as a misaligned pelvis. Changes in the thoracic spine may also develop. The thoracic region may compensate for the lumbar spine misalignment and bend the opposite way leading to even more problems.

Misalignments in the spine may cause an uneven distribution of weight, which leads to pain, but that’s not all. Misalignments in the spine and pelvis can stress a women’s nervous system. When the nervous system is stressed or overloaded, it can lead to a variety of other problems including impairment of the organs.

Pelvic misalignment is not only a problem for you, but it can also cause problems for your baby. The muscles and ligaments can become tense, which can constrain the uterus and may prevent the baby from getting into the correct position for birth. If the baby cannot get into the correct head-down position for delivery, it can result in a breech birth, which increases the chances of complications.

Chiropractic care during pregnancy helps keep the spine and pelvis aligned throughout your pregnancy, which may alleviate many common pregnancy discomforts.

Benefits of Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

Chiropractor care can be beneficial during all three trimesters of pregnancy for several reasons including:

Decreased back and joint pain: Between pregnancy hormones that relax your ligaments and carrying extra weight, your back may start to lack support. The joints can also ache from the added stress placed on them from carrying a little one for nine months. Regular chiropractic care can help a woman maintain a healthy back throughout pregnancy.

Improved posture: The extra weight women carry in their front from pregnancy can cause a curve in the back. The protruding tummy and increased curve place stress on the lower back, which can lead to posture problems. Chiropractic care can help restore correct posture and prevent any long-term posture issues.

Pelvic alignment: It is very common for pregnant women to experience pelvic pain. When the pelvis is misaligned, it can lead to additional problems, such as hip pain. Chiropractic care can help maintain correct pelvic alignment throughout pregnancy.

Shorter delivery time: Correct alignment of the spine can improve overall nervous system function. When the nervous system is functioning optimally, your entire body works more efficiently. Some research has indicated that women who have regular chiropractor care during pregnancy have shorter delivery times.

Keep in mind; continued chiropractor care can be beneficial. Chiropractic care may also be helpful after a woman delivers. For example, as a woman’s milk comes in, it can lead to a heaviness in the chest that causes back discomfort. Delivery itself can lead to a misalignment of the spine. Also, carrying around a baby can lead to tension in the shoulders and neck. Regular chiropractor adjustments can ease some of the aches and pains many new moms may feel.

RELATED: Benefits Of Acupuncture During Pregnancy

Precautions and Safety Tips

According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are no known contraindications for chiropractic care during pregnancy. Although chiropractic care is considered safe for most women throughout their pregnancy, it is always best to talk with your family doctor, ObGyn or midwife first. There may be unusual circumstances, such as if a woman has a history of premature birth or multiple miscarriages, which chiropractic care may not be recommended.

All chiropractors should be trained to treat pregnant women, but some chiropractors go on to receive further training specifically in prenatal adjustments. Before scheduling an appointment, consider asking the chiropractor if she/he has any additional training related to care for pregnant women.

Chiropractors who are trained to treat women during pregnancy may have expertise in using special techniques, which are especially gentle. For example, chiropractors may use techniques that avoid putting unneeded pressure on the abdomen. They may also use special tables and pillows that are more comfortable for pregnant women.

Before scheduling an appointment with your chiropractor, make sure you inform him about your pregnancy. Also, you may want to avoid any chiropractic x-rays during pregnancy. As always, be sure to talk to your chiropractor about your specific aches and pains and any concerns you have.

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Debunking Myths About Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Homeopathic Medicine

When it comes to naturopathic medicine, many people may not fully understand what is involved.

Naturopathic medicine involves treating the whole person instead of just the illness. Treatments often include a variety of approaches including nutritional counseling, homeopathy and manipulative therapies.

There are often misconceptions out there about what naturopathic medicine is and how it can help. Separating the myths from reality can help you decide if naturopathic medicine is right for you. Consider some of the common myths below:

Myth: Naturopathic doctors do not have special training.

Reality: Although naturopathic medicine is not regulated in all fifty states, qualified naturopathic doctors go through an extensive educational program that includes classroom work and clinical practice. Programs for naturopathic doctors must go through a review process to make sure they meet certain standards. To become licensed, naturopaths must complete a program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Although the curriculum is different, in some ways, their requirements are like medical doctors. An undergrad degree is required before being admitted to a doctorate program. Programs for naturopaths are usually four years. The first two years are spent taking science classes. The next two years of training involve hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Post-graduate residences are also completed in which naturopaths can choose a specialty.

Myth: When it comes to medical care, you must choose between either convention or naturopathic medicine.

Reality: Naturopathic treatment is not always an all or nothing option. In many cases, aspects of naturopathic medicine can be incorporated into a conventional treatment plan. It is critical to get all practitioners on the same page, so everyone knows what treatments are prescribed. In some instances, certain naturopathic treatments may be contraindicated depending on the conventional treatment used. But medical and naturopathic doctors can work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that utilizes treatments from both philosophies.

Myth: Naturopathic doctors are anti-medication and surgery.

Reality: One of the philosophies of naturopathic medicine is the body’s ability to heal itself. But that does not mean that naturopaths are anti-surgery or medication. Many naturopaths are not opposed to certain types of surgery or other conventional treatments. In fact, naturopaths may make referrals to the appropriate practitioner as needed.

Myth: Naturopathic medicine is pseudo-science

Reality: Naturopathic medicine sometimes gets a bad rap. Some people who hear the terms alternative or naturopathic medicine, automatically think it is a pseudo-science. But the reality is many of the treatments and philosophies associated with naturopathic medicine are supported by science.  In fact, some natural products, such as herbal remedies, have given rise to traditional medications commonly used. The effectiveness of natural medicine is being studied more frequently, and clinical studies continue to examine the therapies and treatments.

Myth: If it is natural, it must be safe.

Reality: Just as in conventional medicine, there may be risks associated with some naturopathic treatments. Also, not all homeopathy medicines are approved by the FDA. Typically, homeopathic medicines don’t have to go through the same approval process as conventional pharmaceuticals. Keep in mind, naturopathic and conventional treatments can both have side effects. But that does not mean that all naturopathic treatments are risky or unsafe. Whether you are having conventional treatment or naturopathic treatment, it is essential to be well informed about the risks versus the benefits of treatment.

Myth: You can’t ask your physician about naturopathic medicine.

Reality: Because of some of the myths associated with naturopathic medicine, patients may be hesitant to bring the subject up to their medical doctors. If you’re interested in natural medicine or just have questions, it is critical to speak up. Your medical doctor can discuss various options and let you know if something is unsafe or contraindicated due to your current treatment. For example, certain herbal remedies may interact with your current medications and can be harmful. Increasingly, medical doctors are understanding more about naturopathic medicine and may be able to offer advice on what natural therapy or treatment may be beneficial for your condition.

Myth: Naturopaths only treat minor illness and conditions.  

Reality: Naturopaths can treat a wide variety of illness and conditions from minor to serious. They can treat acute problems, as well as chronic conditions. Naturopaths consider the underlying cause of the disease and treat the whole person, which is beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing. In some instances, one medical condition causes another health issue. For example, people with lung disease often develop heart problems at some point. Conditions that naturopaths treat include diseases of all body systems, including the respiratory, digestive, reproductive and circulatory. Diseases may include COPD, asthma, lupus and high blood pressure.

Myth: Naturopathic doctors mostly prescribe herbal remedies and massage.

Reality: Naturopaths may prescribe herbal remedies, but that is only a fraction of what they do. They also order diagnostic tests including blood tests and imaging studies to determine the patient’s problem. A treatment plan will vary based on the condition but can include hemopathy, injection therapy and dietary counseling. Treatment may also involve prescription medication, acupuncture and minor surgery. Part of the role of a naturopath is also to focus on preventive medicine. Additional therapies and treatments may be recommended to prevent future illnesses.

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Nutrition as You Age

Beautiful young girl volunteer is giving food to handsome old man and smiling while sitting on couch

Eating a wide variety of nutritious foods is one of the best things you can do for your health. But how do you know if you are getting enough of what you need?

Exact nutritional needs vary based on your age, height, weight and any medical conditions you have, such as diabetes and food allergies. Since there are so many variables that go into developing a healthy diet, nutritional counseling with a registered dietitian or nutritionist can be helpful.

Nutritional Considerations with Aging

Although not everyone ages the same, some common changes take place. During adolescence, a teen requires a lot of calories to maintain their development. Their bodies are still growing, and metabolism is high. But your needs are not the same throughout your life.

It is important to understand that your nutritional needs may change as you age. The number of calories you should eat depends on your activity level, gender and height. But your calorie needs are usually the highest in your 20s and decrease in the following decades.

There are several reasons for the decrease in calorie requirements. For example, muscle mass often decreases with age. If you are not doing strength training, you may lose a little muscle as you age. Muscle tissue requires more calories to maintain than fat. So, it makes sense the less muscle you have, the fewer calories you need.

It is also important to pay a little more attention to your cardiovascular health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease continues to be the number one killer of adults in the United States. Your diet can play a role in preventing heart disease.

Foods high in trans-fat are thought to contribute to heart disease according to the American Heart Association. Trans-fat appears to decrease HDL cholesterol, which is considered “good” cholesterol because it offers some protection against heart disease. LDL cholesterol, which is “bad” cholesterol may increase with a diet high in trans-fats. High trans-fat foods to avoid include fried foods, crackers and donuts.

Dietary Recommendations in your 40s, 50s, 60s and Beyond

Regardless of age, to maintain good health, adults should eat a variety of fresh veggies, fruits, lean protein, healthy fat and complex carbs. Simple carbs, such as sweets, chips and soda should be limited. Excess added sugar, sodium and saturated fats should also be limited. Also, consider the following:

Considerations in your 40s

During your 40s, your calorie needs may have slightly declined from your 30s. Your 40s may mean juggling working and raising a family. Healthy eating may take a back seat for both men and women. But your 40s is a bad time to neglect your health. How you eat and take care of yourself during your 40s and 50s sets the stage for your retirement years. It is important to be sure you are getting enough of the following:
Vitamin D: We typically get vitamin D from the sunlight. But if you are like many busy adults, you may not be spending enough time outside. Low levels of vitamin D are associated with heart disease and depression. Good sources of vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish and milk.
Protein: Protein helps you feel full and aids in muscle repair and growth. Don not skip on protein during your 40s. Good sources include eggs, lean red meat, and tuna.

Considerations in your 50s

If you are not careful, you might start to see your weight creep up in your 50s. Most women also have reached menopause sometime during their 50s, which increases their risk of osteoporosis. Some nutrients to keep in mind include:
Calcium: Eating foods high in calcium may combat bones loss that can occur in middle age and beyond. Calcium is not just important for women. Men also need it to maintain strong bones. Good sources of calcium include fatty fish and low-fat dairy including milk and cottage cheese.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Omega 3 fatty acids are said to provide some cardiovascular health benefits. Studies have indicated that omega 3’s may lower triglyceride levels and decrease blood pressure. Tuna and salmon are good choices for foods rich in omega 3.
Potassium: Blood pressure may increase as we age. Decreasing sodium intake and increasing potassium may help. Plus, if you are taking medication for hypertension, it can decrease potassium levels in the body. Good sources of potassium include broccoli, baked potatoes with the skin on and bananas.

Considerations in your 60s and Beyond

Your 60s and beyond may mean retirement and other life changes. You may be busier than ever. But exercise and healthy eating should be a priority. Do not forget to include the following:
Antioxidant Rich Foods: Antioxidants help combat cell damage. They may also help fight disease, protect memory and prevent age-related changes in the vision, such as macular degeneration. Antioxidants are found in foods including blueberries, kale, red grapes and broccoli.
Fiber: Constipation is common as we age. Be sure to eat enough foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruits.

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Preventing and Treating Cold and Flu Naturally


As the weather outside grows cooler, that means cold and flu season is just around the corner. Although the common cold can make you feel miserable, it is usually not serious. But the flu can be a different story.

The seasonal flu can lead to complications including sinus infections, bronchitis and pneumonia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children under five, adults over 65, pregnant women and those living in a nursing home are at the highest risk of developing complications from the flu.

Flu and Cold Prevention

When it comes to both cold and flu, prevention is your best strategy. A season flu vaccine is offered every year, which can decrease your chances of developing the flu. But not everyone wants to get the vaccine. Plus, it may not always be effective since it only protects you against certain flu strains. Fortunately, there are also additional things you can do.

Keep Your Immune System Strong  

Although it may be impossible to protect yourself from all germs, there are several ways you can keep your immune system strong:

Eat a healthy diet: A diet high in fresh veggies, fruits, lean protein and healthy fats keeps your body and immune system strong. The right nutrients also help you fight viruses that cause colds and flu.

Exercise regularly: Exercising regularly appears to improve immune system function. One theory is it improves white blood cell function, which helps your body fight off infection more efficiently.

Get enough sleep: Sleep deprivation decreases your body’s ability to fight infections. Although individual sleep needs vary, aim for seven to nine hours of sleep each night to keep your immune system functioning well.

Wash your hands often: One of the best ways you can prevent colds and the flu is by washing your hands thoroughly. When you don’t have access to soap and water, consider using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Don’t smoke: Smoking prevents your immune system from functioning optimally. It decreases your body’s immune system response, which makes you more likely to get sick.

Vitamins, Herbs and Supplements to Prevent and Treat Cold and Flu:

There are several herbs, vitamins and supplements that may help decrease cold and flu symptoms or prevent the illness from developing. As with all supplements, it’s important to talk with your doctor before taking anything. Consider a few of the following herbs:

The following vitamins and supplements may also help prevent or fight colds and flu:

  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C may not prevent a cold, but certain studies have indicated that taking vitamin C at the first signs of symptoms may shorten the duration of your illness.
  • Vitamin D: A Harvard study indicated that adequate vitamin D might decrease your chances of developing a cold. Vitamin D contains a protein that helps kill viruses.
  • Omega 3: Omega 3 may help improve immune system function by increasing cells that destroy bacteria. Some studies also indicate it may increase airflow to the lungs and help prevent colds and flu.

Natural Cold and Flu Treatments

Colds and the flu can be difficult to escape completely. Even if you do everything right, you might still get sick. If you feel under the weather, there are several natural ways to treat symptoms and get back on your feet, such as:

Rest: Your body needs to focus all its energy on fighting the virus. If you’re getting up early, going to work and doing all your regular activities, there may not be much energy left over to fight the virus. If possible, take a few days off from work or school and catch up on your sleep. Go to bed a little earlier and sleep in.

Drink plenty of liquids: Drinking enough liquids thins mucus, prevents dehydration and may improve fatigue. Consider drinking a few hot beverages too. The steam can loosen congestion, and the warmth may ease a sore throat. Sipping soup, especially if you add spices, such as curry powder and pepper, may help ease chest and nasal congestion.

Try nasal irrigation: Nasal irrigation involves flushing your nasal cavity with sterile water. The water can help flush bacteria from the sinus cavity and may alleviate congestion and help you breathe easier.

Blow your nose: If you have nasal congestion, it’s important to avoid sniffing the mucus back up into your head. It’s also helpful to blow your nose correctly. When you blow your nose, press one nostril closed while gently blowing. Repeat on the other side. Avoid blowing out too hard, which can lead to an earache.

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How Naturopathic Medicine Differs from Conventional Medicine


Whether you have a chronic disease or a sudden illness, you want to feel well as soon as possible. But how do you know what type of treatment is best?

In addition to conventional medicine, naturopathic medicine has been gaining in popularity over the last few decades. Before deciding what method of treatment is best for you, it’s helpful to learn more about the differences.

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a form of patient care that involves not just treating a medical condition, but improving overall wellness. Many of the treatments have been around for centuries. Some naturopathic therapies have been well researched and published in peer-reviewed journals.

In addition to principles of traditional healing, naturopathic medicine also relies on aspects of western medicine and modern science. For example, naturopathic doctors may order certain conventional tests, such as x-rays or blood tests to make an accurate diagnosis.

There are six main principles involved in naturopathic medicine including using the body’s own natural healing abilities, doing no harm, treating the cause of disease, prevention and the doctor as the teacher.

The principles are incorporated into how care is provided. For instance, naturopathic doctors use therapies that promote the body’s healing capabilities and improve health. They also focus on therapies that minimize side effects and pose no additional harm to the patient.

Treatment methods vary based on the condition and individual needs of the patient, but they may include herbs, vitamins and other supplements. Nutritional counseling to promote optimal health may also be recommended.

It’s important to understand that naturopathic medicine does not have to be an all or nothing type of treatment. Aspects of naturopathic medicine can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine to manage a medical condition.

What is Conventional Medicine?

Conventional medicine is a system of medical care that includes diagnosing and treating diseases with traditional methods, such as surgery, drugs and radiation. Various diagnostic procedures are often used in conventional medicine, such as CT scans, ultrasounds and lab work.

In emergency situations, conventional medicine is often necessary. For example, if someone has a heart attack, traditional treatments, such as medications and procedures to unblock arteries may be recommended.

Although conventional medicine can be lifesaving, it does have some pitfalls. For example, medications are often used to treat symptoms of certain conditions. But the drugs can lead to side effects, which means more symptoms to treat.

How Naturopathic Medicine is Unique

Naturopathic medicine involves more than just treating an illness or a set of symptoms. It incorporates treating the whole person. There are a few main differences between the conventional and naturopathic medicine including the following:

Treating the root of the problem:

Naturopathic practitioners try to treat the underlying cause of an illness, so that the body can work towards healing itself. Although medical doctors also try to get to the bottom of an illness, they may spend a large amount of time treating symptoms.

Prevention is the best medicine:

Preventing illness and maintaining proper balance in the body is often a part of naturopathic medicine. Techniques to improve health tend to focus more on natural methods including lifestyle changes, supplements and diet.

The doctor is the teacher:

A core principle in naturopathic medicine is that the patient is the one who accomplishes healing. The doctor is responsible for guiding and providing information, but the patient is encouraged to take responsibility for their own health.

Differences within Naturopathic Medicine

There are differences within naturopathic medicine itself. Some doctors practice traditional naturopathic medicine, while other practice modern naturopathic medicine.

Traditional naturopaths focus on promoting wellness and apply natural approaches to preventing disease and improving overall health. They do not usually diagnose and treat specific diseases in a traditional sense. The goal is often to restore balance to the body.

Examples of traditional naturopathic medicine may include teaching the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices and utilizing mind-body therapies to assist with stress relief. Traditional practitioners may also provide information on homeopathic remedies and herbs.

Modern naturopathic doctors still believe in the body’s ability to heal, but incorporate methods and practices from conventional medicine. For example, they may diagnose and treat specific conditions and perform invasive procedures. They may also specialize in an area of medicine, such as gynecology or rheumatology.

Conditions Naturopathic Medicine Can Treat

Naturopathic doctors can treat a wide range of problems including allergies, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome. fatigue, pain, headaches and many more conditions can also be treated with naturopathic medicine.

Although it can be effective in treating some conditions, naturopathic medicine does have some limitations. For example, emergency situations, such as excessive bleeding and respiratory emergencies require conventional treatment.

Naturopathic doctors have extensive training. They must complete a post-graduate program in natural medicine. Graduates must also pass a licensing exam before applying for state licensure. Requirements to practice as a naturopathic doctor vary by state. Some states license naturopathic doctors and other states don’t. Before visiting a naturopath, consider asking about qualifications and training.

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Natural Ways to Treat Depression


Young sad girl with depression sitting on the stone stairs outside her home

Everyone gets down once in a while. Feeling sad or unhappy about certain events can be a normal reaction. But depression is more than just a typical response to a rough patch.

Depression can impact all areas of your life from work to relationships to physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, in some situations, if left untreated, it can also lead to suicide. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, about seven percent of people in the United States have experienced a major depressive episode in the last 12 months.

Although anyone can develop depression, several risk factors may increase your chances of developing the condition. Risks for depression include:

Conventional Treatments and Side Effects

Although psychological counseling is often used to treat depression, it is not always effective in decreasing symptoms. In a large number of cases, medications are also prescribed.

Medications to treat depression may include different classifications of antidepressants including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Although medications for depression are sometimes helpful, they are not without risks. Side effects can include worsening depression, fatigue and weight loss or gain. Additional side effects may include nausea, dry mouth and trouble sleeping.


A Natural Approach to Treating Depression

The good news is there are options when it comes to treating depression. In some cases, natural strategies, such as lifestyle and nutritional supplements, as well as mind-body therapies such as acupuncture, can make a big difference in decreasing symptoms. In other instances, natural treatments can complement conventional treatment and provide a comprehensive plan to combat depression.

Lifestyle Changes

Changes in sleep habits, diet and other activities are not always easy to make. But they can have a big impact on your mood and overall wellbeing. It may seem overwhelming to make a complete overall of your lifestyle all at once. It may be even more challenging if you are depressed.

Instead of changing several things at once, focus on small goals and make changes gradually. For example, if you smoke, consider programs that can help you kick the habit. After successfully making one positive lifestyle change, set another goal to work towards.

Stress Reduction

Chronic stress and depression often go hand in hand. Although it may not be possible to eliminate all stress, participating in stress reduction activities may help. Find activities that help you unwind and spend a little time each day relaxing. Common stress reduction activities that may help include playing an instrument, listening to music and going for a walk.

Exercise to Combat Depression

It probably does not come as a surprise that exercise strengthens your body. But it can also have psychological benefits. According to research at Duke University, exercising moderately to briskly 30 minutes a day three times a week decreased symptoms of depression as effectively as medication. Find some type of exercise, such as brisk walking, biking or aerobic classes, that you enjoy. Make exercise a habit. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of exercises most days of the week.

Body Work Techniques

Various bodywork techniques can promote relaxation, better sleep and may decrease symptoms of depression in some people.  Consider some of the following suggestions.

Herbs and Supplements

There are several herbs and supplements that may decrease symptoms of mild to moderate depression. The Food and Drug Administration has not approved the following supplements or herbs for the treatment of depression in the United States. But they may be effective for some people. Keep in mind, certain herbs can interfere with medications, so it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before taking supplements.

The supplements below show promise in decreasing symptoms of depression.

  • SAMe: SAMe is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that affects serotonin levels in the brain. Some studies have indicated that levels of SAMe are low in people with depression, which is why a supplement may help.
  • John’s Wort: St John’s wort is one of the most studied supplements for treating depression. Many studies have indicated that St. John’s wort is just as effective as antidepressants in treating people with mild to moderate.
  • DHEA: DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone produced in the brain and adrenal glands. Levels peak in your 20s and gradually fall as you age. Some research suggests that changes in DHEA levels may contribute to a depressed mood.
  • Omega 3: Omega 3’s are fatty acids that play a role in cardiovascular health and brain function. Although additional research is needed to prove a definite link, some studies show people with depression tend to have lower levels of omega 3.
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