Thinking back over my history as a Naturopath I can think of several cases early on that heavily influenced the trajectory of my career. These are the tough cases that really puzzled and frustrated me at the time but ultimately caused me to be a better Naturopath overall.
The Rash from Hell
I can think of two distinct cases of irritated and itchy rashes that didn't seem to respond to any of the traditional natural health approaches. At the time I thought it would be easy... the skin is cleansing toxins. Clean up your diet, detoxify your liver, remove any environmental toxins and voila! The rash should go away. Only it didn't and it didn't and it didn't. We tried fasting, we tried colonics and enemas, liver cleanses of every kind. Essential oils on the skin, heavy metal detoxes, coconut oil, more and more strict diets. And still the rash either got worse or there was no change. Sadly, in both cases the client eventually tired of my suggestions for even more austerity and extreme lifestyle changes and never came back. But this failure in turn led me to question our traditional approaches and to dig deeper into the physiology of the inflammatory skin response. While I can't say I've got it all completely figured out I have had more success working with skin disorders than ever before through the GAPS nutritional protocol.
I can remember my first breastfeeding eczema case. It was so tough to watch this little one suffer from terrible, itchy, complexion marring eczema while the mother, who had always been more natural health minded, expressed her frustration. She was doing everything right, so why was this happening? Similar to the skin rash cases above it seemed no matter what we tried, the eczema never seemed to get much better. Finally the mother went with the conventional medical approach of steroid creams and I never heard what happened after that. She'd given up hope of finding her answer through me. But again this failure deeply troubled me and led me to a better understanding of the mother/child connection in immune response and detoxification. Once I realized that the baby was reacting to the immune components created within the mother's body due to waste material in her bloodstream... a plan of action could be created and the eczema resolved.
Getting the Lead Out
This case was simultaneously a great success as well as a failure. A woman brought her ten-year-old son to me. He was basically growing sideways faster than up and down and they were worried about his metabolism. Thankfully my analysis led me to suggest a hair analysis to look for heavy metal poisoning (a service I do not offer in my current practice). I suspected mercury as mercury toxicity was all the rage at the time. But instead the results came back with high levels of lead. It was an exciting and very informative discovery but unfortunately one the client felt more comfortable addressing through conventional medical approach. Fair enough, but it would have been nice to see how things panned out for that young man.
I remember this client had all the classic signs and symptoms of candidiasis, a yeast overgrowth in the digestive tract. I recommended a two-week candida cleanse that came in a box. Three days later she returned the product saying that she was allergic to something in it. Turns out that the herbs in the product had caused such die-off of candida that it resulted in vomiting and diarrhea. The client came back years later with the same issue but this time we took a much gentler approach to try and control the die-off reaction. I've learned to be careful about overwhelming the body's elimination systems. Cleansing is good but making a client so miserable they can't function... FAIL! I'm happy to say that the last I saw of this client, she was doing rather well.
Here's to learning from our mistakes!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.