Monthly Archives: February 2017

6 ways to think like a naturopath for increased vitality

It's so natural when we're sick to reach for the most convenient fix and get on with our lives as soon as possible. Who has time for sickness, right? It's not in our plans. It messes life up. But the quick fix is not always the long game fix. And sometimes there is no quick fix at all.

I wasn't brought up with naturopathy. There's nothing 'hippy' about my parents, except that they had me. In fact, I only discovered naturopathy as an adult, when a friend​ suggested I might find a new approach to my long term niggles. I'd like to say I immediately transformed my life. More truthfully, I gradually learnt from naturopaths over time to improve my lifestyle, and many of my health issues faded away. This is no miracle cure, and you will never hear me suggest avoiding medical intervention, but naturopathy helped me to build a foundation for health that meant my body was well able to deal with any minor issues that came along. 

The naturopathic approach helped me completely resolve what had been debilitating premenstrual pain and nausea, food intolerances that completely ruled my ability to digest​ - including a few weeks of vomiting on a daily basis, recover from grief and restore my resilience when stress and burnout took over. I experience less allergies and colds, no longer get tonsillitis (doctors were starting to talk about removing my tonsils) and look healthier.

So what is different about the naturopathic approach? While you of course must ​have an assessment by a naturopath for specific strategies for you, there is a way of thinking that can benefit you regardless of your health concerns. The first step is to view your health issue through the 6 layers of the therapeutic order.

1. ​Establish the conditions for health by identifying and removing factors that disturb your health, and creating a healthy lifestyle for yourself.

Truth time. What in your lifestyle continues to disturb your health? Is your job ridiculously stressful? Do you propel through your day on caffeine power? Consider not only what you eat and drink but also smoking, alcohol or drugs, exercise levels, stress, lack of sleep and anything that intuitively pops into your mind when you reflect on what could be disturbing your health. More generally, where could your lifestyle be healthier? Focus on crowding out unhelpful habits with amazing nutrition, gentle exercise, mindfulness or meditation and deep sleep.

2. Stimulate your body's ability to heal itself

​In naturopathy we call this "the healing power of nature". But it's less about the nature out there, and more about the very nature of our body. Our bodies are all designed to restore us to balance as best they can. Support your general self healing abilities by grounded coping strategies, spending time in nature, practicing yoga or swimming or other gentle exercise and pursue the joys of life to give you natural energy. And laugh!

3. Address weakened systems or organs

​We must never ignore what our body tells us, but we can support its ability to heal itself. For example, if you're prone to colds and respiratory infections - don't just medicate the symptoms, work to build up your immune system over time. If you have severe PMS, consider how to gently balance your hormones and stress levels. If being locked in cubicle nation keeps you stiff and sore, implement a stretching practice to keep your muscles comfortable rather than relying on pain killers. Whatever organ or system has been affected in your health history, learn ways to actively support that system through your nutrition and lifestyle.

4. Correct structural integrity​

​Some of our health issues may be contributed to or exacerbated by holding tension, spinal issues or old injuries. Pilates, yoga, physiotherapy, therapeutic massage, osteopathy or chiropractics may support your overall health. Surely you don't need convincing to have a massage!

5. Address pathologies using natural and/or pharmacologic substances

There's no doubt that the above remedies ​offer benefits to all of us, but there are times when illnesses need medicine. This is where this layer of the approach comes in. Engage with health professionals you trust. If you do choose to see a naturopath, be aware that in Australia and many other countries, there is no regulation of who can call themselves by this title, so don't be afraid to ask for qualifications and association memberships. And while each of us must make their own health choices, I encourage you to always have a great doctor in your corner, even if you use natural approaches as well. 

6. Suppress or surgically remove pathology

Where emergencies exist or no other approach will do the job, we may need to suppress or surgically remove an illness. Dangerous fevers, quickly multiplying pathogens, anything of a severe nature and​ growths and tumours may well need surgery or active suppression by your medical professionals. Be open to this where needed, and support your body by using the other layers of support as well.

So there you have it, the 6 steps of approaching your health from a naturopathic perspective. Surprised to see doctors and surgeons included? Don't be. Gone are the times when we had to choose one side of the fence or the other. Naturopathy is no longer viewed as an alternative to allopathic medicine, but rather its complement. ​I may be studying naturopathy but there are also times when surgery or allopathic medicine was the immediate answer for me (afterwards followed up by natural restorative practices). So regardless of your health, consider all the layers where you could heal. If one approach hasn't worked for you, try the others. And be kind to yourself.

I'd love to hear from you - which of these approaches have you not yet tried in your health? And what will you implement now? Let me know in the comments below.​

​For further reading about the therapeutic order, look here.

When fatigue feels like failure

I write a blog about resilience. But a few weeks ago, I could barely get through a day without naps. I would wake up in the morning, and within a couple of hours lie down for a 3 hour sleep. And another in the afternoon. And 10 more hours overnight.

True, it was for good reason, as it was the first trimester of my pregnancy. But I felt like all the work I'd put into recovering from burnout had somehow failed. And worse - I wasn't pursuing any of my goals. My writing ground to a halt. And a previous all-honours student in my naturopathy degree, I found myself avoiding any attempts at my pharmacology subject until days before the exam. Sidebar - pharmacology is not a subject where one can phone it in!

​It brought me back to a time where I went from an enthusiastic employee working 12 hour days even in the days before my own wedding, to someone who crashed and burned under what felt like the crushing weight of grief and overwhelm.

The truth is, fatigue and its causes are never part of our ambitions or dreams. Ask every kid you know what they want to be when they grow up. There may be a variety of answers - teachers, astronauts and (at my niece's recent 6th grade graduation) YouTube stars. But I'll guarantee not a single one will reply "I just want to be in a place where I have to drag myself up each morning and put every ounce of energy I have into surviving the daily grind".

And most of us who have experienced burnout, chronic fatigue or anything similar, do not start out that way. More often, we look back and think "I gave too much, more than I was able to replenish". So for us, the ones who want to give our all, we can feel like failures when it seems there's nothing we have left to offer. We watch our colleagues shining bright like perhaps we used to, or admire a super-mum friend​ who somehow manages to do it all, or think of the big night out we're missing because we can't scrape ourselves off the couch. And it's hard not to feel kicked by failure.

​But here's the thing - fatigue is our teacher. If we stop to listen, it can show us where our lives have been out of balance. It invites us to practice gentleness within, as no amount of self judgement will help. And it creates space to reflect on the meaning we attribute to our lives, and a chance to realign our deepest values.

If you find yourself in a place of excessive or prolonged fatigue, here are some places to start:​

  1. How much nutrition are you taking in each day in the food and fluids you consume? Rather than trying to give up junk food or nutritionally empty foods, crowd them out by eating as much colourful vegetables as you can, with some fruit, healthy proteins and fats, and loads of water
  2. Are you sleeping well and in a helpful sleep routine? If this is something you struggle with, read more here
  3. What's going on for you emotionally? Fatigue is not always tied up with depression, grief or other emotional distress, but it's linked often enough to take a good look at this area of your life. Openly and honestly explore within yourself if there are unresolved stressors, hurts or anger that you suppress rather than process. It's exhausting keeping that stuff in, and poisonous. Reach out for the support you need, talk to a friend or journal or dance it out - whatever you need to allow stuck emotions to flow through you again
  4. Where is your life out of balance? Create a list of your commitments and routine tasks. What can you start delegating, omitting, saying no to? A wise Balinese healer told me recently, "build your own house before you help someone else build theirs". When you're fatigued, it's totally acceptable to put your own needs first - you have to, to recover. And going forward, ensure your needs remain a priority even amongst caring for loved ones and fulfilling work commitments
  5. Where does your health need review or extra care? Ensure you have the best care and advice you have access to for any health conditions. Discuss any medications you take with your health professional to see if they can be affecting your energy levels and how this can be better managed
  6. Take a few minutes of silence to look within. What is the deep cause of your fatigue? What is your body trying to tell you? How aligned with your values, your truth and your priorities is your day to day life? Allow yourself to be guided from within.

Now I'd love to hear from you - what was the greatest lesson from your fatigue? And which tools either helped you or will you try?