The medical system we have today is based on symptom management. If you have a headache, you will be given something to get rid of the headache. As long as you take it you will be free of headaches but if you stop taking it the headaches will return. This is symptom management.
One of the basic tenets of naturopathy is to find the cause. We dare to ask the question of why.
Why do you have a headache?
What is out of balance in the body that would cause a headache?
What is your body trying to tell you and what can you do to support your body so you never have a headache again?
Most of the time if you trace back someone's health history far enough you will find that the cause is either a dietary factor or a lifestyle factor - too much sugar, not enough water, too much stress, not enough vegetables, etc. Once these lifestyle or dietary factors are fully addressed and improved, the health of the body improves too.
Herbs and supplements can be used to support the body but in many cases they are being used instead for symptom management. You can take acetaminophin for your headache or you can take meadowsweet but either way you are only managing the symptom. If you want lasting health you need to make a lifestyle or dietary change not expect miracles from a pill.
I see this all the time with clients who are using isolated nutritional supplements.
An example of an isolated nutritional supplement would be something like Lycopene. Lycopene is a phytochemical found in tomatoes. People who eat a lot of tomatoes have a lower risk of cancer and so scientists determined that lycopene is the chemical component that makes tomatoes good for you. So, they take the lycopene out of the tomato (or make it synthetically in a lab) and turn it into a pill and convince millions of people that they absolutely need to have this pill if they don't want to get cancer.
Resveratrol, inositol, phosphatidylserine, lutein, alpha-lipoic acid, DHEA, curcumin, MSM, Lecithin, Sam-E, N-acetyl cysteine, pregnenolone, vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, and amino acids are just some of the isolated nutritional supplements that we are told we cannot be healthy without. But what about food?
Do you know what a tomato has? Magnesium, calcium, beta-carotene, iron, vitamin C, B-vitamins, lutein, zeaxanthin, lycopene, potassium, and a whole lot of other nutrients we are just starting to understand.
Did you know that human beings come from the Earth. (I know... amazing isn't it?) We breathe a gas that covers this planet. We drink water from rivers and streams, and we eat plants and animals that live here. Our survival depends on this food and our bodies have evolved to eat it and thrive off of the exact nutrients contained within that food. This is the way it has worked for countless generations of human beings. There is no guess work involved. We don't have to understand which nutrients we need in what proportion and with what co-factors. It's all there already planned out for us because our body lives and thrives off of what is available. We crave what we need.
Granted, when we manipulate that food and alter it, change it, refine it, process it... we lose some of that balance. So we begin to think, “Well, I'll just fill in the gaps with that pill.” Only the pill doesn't work like the food does. Or it's not in balance with the right amount. And we don't crave pills so we have no idea what our body really needs. We're just guessing and possibly creating more deficiencies along the way.
Our food system is a far cry from the natural order of this world and we humans are suffering greatly for trying to manipulate it. My best advice to you? Forget the pills. Forget the isolated nutritional supplements. Eat real food. Grow it in your own backyard or find someone who does. Eat local. Eat organic. Reduce stress. Use herbs for health instead of isolated chemicals. Be human. Eat real food.
To Your Health,
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.