What’s the secret to living a full, active life? To me, it’s good health. Maybe that’s not so obvious when we’re young, but in my early 20s, I recognized that I don’t want my choices determined by what I’m able to do or not do, or be saddled with something I could have prevented. I can’t count the times I heard, “it runs in the family,” so I made up my mind to beat my genetics.
From an early age, I watched relatives live with illness and chronic conditions, many of which are now largely deemed preventable. So I did a lot of reading, but what made the biggest difference was that first appointment with a naturopath, where I saw the research-based connection between lifestyle and disease. These early visits were in Canada, which at the time offered more options for healthcare.
Back in Seattle, I habitually went to my mom’s general practitioner for ailments I needed help with – even though I wasn’t impressed with the 10-minute appointments, the quick diagnoses, and a penchant for prescriptions. But when I had a (temporary) chronic condition of my own, and the diagnosis and treatment didn’t mesh for me, I started looking for a new doctor.
As I searched, I learned:
- My insurance now covered —and still does—alternative options, including naturopathy
- Bastyr University, located just north of Seattle, is internationally renowned and one of the most respected schools in the country for natural medicine, where many doctors of naturopathy (NDs) get their training
- Consequently, we have some of the very best practitioners right here in the Northwest
Why a naturopath?
My appointments are never less than 30 minutes. My ND asks me questions, and she listens to my answers. She wants to know what I’m eating, am I exercising, how I’m sleeping. How’s my stress? My social life? My digestion? She doesn’t make assumptions.
By training, naturopaths are licensed medical doctors who merge conventional and holistic medicine, with a focus on prevention. Based in science, their additional training includes the whole person, from nutrition to mental health. My naturopath recommends I have the same health screenings other doctors would. And she’ll prescribe antibiotics if I need them, but she knows I prefer to be drug-free.
My ND is also more accessible than any conventional doctor I’ve had. When I have a question that doesn’t require an appointment, I’ll send her an email, and I typically get a response within 24 hours. She’ll let me know if I need to come in.
What is naturopathy?
Bastyr describes naturopathy as a “primary healthcare system that encourages the body’s self-healing process through the use of natural therapies, drawing on both traditional healing methods and modern medical science.”
In other words, naturopaths work with your unique physical and mental characteristics for the best possible health outcomes. Our bodies have the capacity to heal if we give them what they need, and get out of the way.
Naturopaths look for root causes and don’t just treat symptoms. Once a year, my ND will order a blood panel and take a look at how things are going beneath the surface. This gives a 360 degree view of my internal workings, and she’ll let me know what steps I need to take for better health. This includes what supplements may help me, so I don’t waste money on buying a vitamin I don’t need, the newest product on the market, or the new trendy herbal tonic.
How to find a practitioner
I found my naturopath through a friend, but there are plenty of resources out there. Bastyr is a great place to start. They have a Seattle clinic but also a list of practioners on their website. I go to Seattle Healing Arts, which also has an impressive array of medical professionals. Although not all states license naturopaths, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) has an online directory here. And you can learn more about naturopathic doctors here.
Healthier than ever
So far, many years later (more than I’m willing to say), I’m as healthy as can be. I’m physically active, eat better than most, aim to be chemical-free and see my naturopath at least once a year. I trust I’ll stay that way.
Laura McLeod is an internal communications manager at LifeWise, and is convinced that lifestyle trumps genetics. Because her genetics include many lifestyle-based illnesses, she strives to eat well, exercise and get regular check-ups. While she’s officially reached ‘mid-life,’ she believes you’re only as old as you feel. Laura lives in Ballard with her long-time partner and her energetic, playful cat.