F r e q u e n t l y A s k e d Q u e s t i o n s
"How do you diagnose?"
Good naturopathic diagnosis is about more than just a medical name for a condition. It involves holistic assessment by assessing the “determinants of health”. This means asking questions about your diet, sleep, lifestyle, work and family life. Once I’ve heard your story, I will know the physical examinations needed. Most of these are similar to what a doctor might do, but includes naturopathic methods like looking at your tongue and nails. Sometimes I recommend further investigations, perhaps through your GP, but I may also order functional investigations like the GI Effects Comprehensive & Microbial Ecology Stool Profiles, Intestinal Permeability Test, Food Intolerance Tests, and Hair Mineral Analysis.
"How good are the tests you use for diagnosing the problem?"
I have no standard approach, and quite often no testing is necessary. When I think further investigation is appropriate, I will explain to you the nature of the test/s, how they diagnose the problem, and their evidence base.
"What sort of medicines do you prescribe?"
Along with suggestions about lifestyle and diet, I may prescribe herbal medicine and nutritional supplements. I don’t use any particular brand exclusively- I always try to find the best particular supplement for your unique needs. As a Medical Herbalist I favour formulating personalised herbal mixes, although tablets are also available for those sensitive to strong tastes.
For herbal liquids I use Optimal Rx, a high quality practitioner brand independently validated through Southern Cross University. I also favour Flordis, a brand committed to providing products with a strong evidence base. Metagenics, Bioceuticals, Thorne and Mediherb products are also in my dispensary.
"Are the medicines you use safe?"
Generally, controlled trials show that herbs given at the right dosage have no more side effects than a placebo. As with any medication, an allergic reaction is always possible, but is rare and resolves quickly on stopping the medicine.
"Do you treat children and babies?"
Yes, I have a lot of success with younger clients. Children often respond quickly to naturopathic treatment and I believe dealing with issues early on sets them up well for a healthy adult life.
"There’s nothing wrong with me, I just want to make sure I’m looking after myself well and maintain my good health. Can you help?"
What a great idea! Yes, I can help optimise your diet, and look at any particular risk factors you have and help you prevent getting future problems. Prevention is the best sort of cure!
"The doctor says there’s nothing wrong with me, but I feel so tired all the time, is there anything you can do for me?"
Your GP is a good place to start when you’re feeling fatigued, as they can rule out conditions like thyroid problems and anaemia as a cause of your fatigue. But when all the routine blood tests come back as normal, and you still don’t feel well, a naturopathic assessment is well indicated. It might be something simple like chronic sleep debt, or it might be more complex, such as mitochondrial dysfunction. Come and see me and we can look into it!
"I have a rare condition, my GP doesn’t know much about it, and I had to see a specialist. Can you still help?"
I will be sure to do extensive research before I suggest a treatment plan. If you talk to me first, I might be able to give you some idea of whether or not I can help.
"What sort of massage do you do?"
I do remedial massage and naturopathic physical medicine, which includes a range of soft tissue techniques aimed at treating injuries and joint problems and relieving tight and sore muscles.
"My GP has suggested I go on anti-depressants, are there any alternatives?"
Yes. If you have mild to moderate depression, St John’s Wort is an excellent alternative. Reviews of numerous clinical trials have found that St John’s Wort is as effective as conventional SSRI’s (the most commonly prescribed sort of anti-depressant) without side effects such as weight gain and low libido. St John’s Wort has not been trialled in severe depression, and therefore cannot be recommended. Preliminary evidence suggests other herbs are also effective in treating depression.
"How do you diagnose food intolerances?"
The gold standard of diagnosing food intolerances remains an elimination diet followed by food challenges. Depending on the clinical history though, certain tests can help shortcut this trial and error approach. Food allergy panels use your blood to check for reactions to different food antigens. Other types of food intolerances, such as histamine intolerance, demand different tests, such as the DAO test. In many cases, food intolerances can be diagnosed without investigations, the need for any further testing is determined in the consultation.
"I’m on medications from my doctor already, and I think it’s important I stay on them. Can you still treat me?"
Yes definitely. There are some herbs and medications that might interact, and sometimes this has the potential to be dangerous, but usually there is a herb or supplement that can be used as an alternative. Some interactions are a positive interaction, meaning that less medication might be required, or side effects of medications reduced. An example is saffron, which has evidence to improve sexual function affected by anti-depressants. Saffron is also an anti-depressant in it’s own right, and acts in a different way to regular anti-depressants, and so can have an additive effect.
"Are probiotics all I need to improve my gut health?"
Probiotics can be useful for gut health, especially after antibiotics and to treat IBS. Unfortunately, probiotics do not persist in the gut over the longer term, therefore, they will generally only have an effect while you are taking them and for a week or two afterwards. Depending on the diagnosis, I use herbs, nutrition, prebiotics and probiotics to optimise the microbiome and gut function.
"Practitioner-only supplements seem a bit more expensive than the ones from pharmacies and health food stores. Are practitioner-only supplements really any better?"
The short answer is yes. As with anything else, you get what you pay for! Studies by Choice magazine have shown wildly fluctuating quality markers in a range of herbs and supplements on the Australian market. Cheaper nutritional supplements usually use cheaper forms of nutrients, such as magnesium oxide, which are not as well absorbed, and therefore more likely to cause symptoms like digestive discomfort.
"Are you a registered or accredited practitioner?"
Naturopaths in Australia are not registered or accredited. Unfortunately, this makes it hard for the general public to easily assess the credentials of naturopaths. I have the highest level of naturopathic education available in Australia, a 4 year Bachelor of Naturopathy from Southern Cross University, a public university in NSW. Other naturopaths may have anything from post-graduate qualifications, to 3 year university degrees from private colleges, to diplomas, or even on occasion no qualification at all! I am a member of NHAA- the Naturopaths and Herbalist Association of Australia, which qualifies me for private health rebates.
"What is an ND? Are you an ND?"
Some naturopaths call themselves ND, short for Naturopathic Doctor. Despite having the highest level of naturopathic qualification available in Australia, I don’t think it is appropriate to call myself an ND. This term originated from the US, where NDs complete quite a different training and accreditation program and have some level of pharmaceutical prescribing rights, and, like conventional doctors, can perform internal physical examination. The term ND is misleading in Australia and is adopted by personal choice of the naturopath rather than an actual qualification.