You Are What You Eat: Naturopathic Medicine Works

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“I noticed a dime size spot on her scalp when she was about a year and a half.”

For little Eliza, foods she has eaten have broken down her immune system and left her susceptible to a difficult and little-studied disease—Alopecia Universalis.

“I thought it was from sleeping on one side more than the other,” Eliza’s mother explained. “All of her head hair ended up falling out within two weeks!”

Often associated with malnutrition, thyroid issues, and genetics, Alopecia Universalis is the most extreme variation of Alopecia Areata—or hair loss, balding. Universalis encompasses the entire body from head-to-toe.

Critics of naturopathy describe it as a sham; proponents view it as a necessary alternative. Often, the extreme polarization found on the matter of natural medicine is counter to the true message of health—which is balance.

After being given a runaround by her family’s primary care physician, the now three-year-old was sent to a dermatologist who prescribed steroidal topical creams, but with no resulting positive progress, Eliza’s mom looked to a local naturopathic wellness center.

Most of us grew up with catchphrases like, “mind over matter,” or “You are what you eat.”

And, what are we eating?! Does anybody have any clue what we are putting into our bodies? Genetically modified organisms, assembly-line farmed meat, high-fructose corn syrup and sodium-saturated everything. Who the hell can keep up with the ever-expanding modifications of the food we put in our bodies and what how they affect our health?

If we are what we eat, will we be genetically modified alongside our foods?

“If we are what we eat, will we be genetically modified alongside our foods?”

“We did a lot of diet changes, added natural supplements to her diet. She [the naturopathic doctor] started giving me DHA oil, Biotin powder, probiotic powder, and tummy tonic. I didn’t see any results but her tummy did hurt her less.” The ND felt that Eliza wasn’t keeping the healthy bacteria in her body.

While seeking out alternatives, Eliza’s mom also continued to pursue the advice of her pediatrician. Dissatisfied with those results and still lacking in any real answers, “This time she [the ND] did alternative allergy tests, called an Antibody Assessment.” The test, according to Eliza’s mum, is different than what a “modern doctor” would look for and looks at IgA and IgG levels (specific immunoglobins).

“[The ND] found that Eliza had high reactions (Class IV and greater), to the following: casein, garlic, cheese, eggs (duck and chicken), goat milk, grapefruit, milk, orange, spelt, whey, whole wheat, and yogurt. She had Class III specific reactions to almond, hazelnut, and wheat gluten.”

Frustrated, “Basically we had to wipe out our kitchen! She can’t have ANY dairy, eggs, garlic, citrus, breads, grains, and etc.”

“I believe that most things can be avoided if our bodies are clean, which is what the naturopathic doctor has done for Eliza. Now, if I got cancer or had a heart attack, I would still see a regular doctor—you have to. But the risk factors leading up to some of these types of situations, in my opinion, are things that can be addressed with a naturopathic doctor.”

Eliza’s eyebrows and eyelashes are currently growing back.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) according to the National Institute of Health (NIH) is difficult to define “because the field is very broad and constantly changing.” The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) defines CAM as “a group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not generally considered part of conventional medicine.”531687_562790243741413_471882620_n

The boundaries to what qualifies as “alternative medicine” are blurred due to interchanging uses and studies in a constant state of updating. Chiropractic healing, massage therapy, psychotherapy and acupuncture all qualify as alternative medicine but in some cases are as common as modern medicine and often intertwined with the western medicine treatment of a patient.

The ambiguity of what an effective treatment is, when it comes to alternative medicine, is problematic when trying to standardize the treatment.

For many cancer patients, an alternative approach to remedying their illness is highly desired. The common treatments utilized in modern medicine for cancer are extremely invasive and debilitating: chemotherapy and radiation.

As with many alternative treatments, The Gerson therapy is becoming an increasingly common alternative approach to cancer treatment. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), this form of therapy “is rooted in the belief that cancer is a disease of the whole organism, the tumor being only a symptom of a diseased body.”

The NCI simplifies the treatment by saying, “It consists of a specialized diet to ‘detoxify’ the body and rebuild the immune system, adding vitamin and mineral supplements to help in these processes. Coffee enemas are an essential part of the regimen.”

Although many swear by it, the cancer institute warns that there are reports of adverse reactions to the coffee enemas and that there are three reported deaths closely related to the enemas.

An article by Reader’s Digest titled, “When Alternative Medicine Goes Wrong,” capitalizes on the foolish nature of these rare cases. The author takes a comedic and insulting tone toward naturopathic medicine. One story in particular addresses the topic of coffee enemas:

“Patients ask my opinion all the time regarding colon cleansing. There’s nothing normal or natural about it. The bacteria in your colon are important for your health—sending a tsunami down on them is unnatural. When my patients tell me they’ve had a coffee enema, I’m not sure what to say. ‘Would you like cream with that?’” Patricia Raymond, MD, gastroenterologist in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

A commenter below the article rages, expressing a similar emotion that I experienced when reading the article: this feels like Reader’s Digest is just picking stories from doctors that they can laugh about.

“It’s good to use any medicine wisely,” the commenter opens with. “Different systems of medicine are the means, not the ends!”

Exactly! Obviously (or maybe not…) you shouldn’t flush your body over and over with a coffee enema, or any enema for that matter. Our body, as pointed out by Dr. Rayond in the R.D. article, is filled with bacteria and cells that are there to protect us—good vs. bad.

The internet is riddled with arguments both for and against the use of a more holistic approach. Often polarizing, the message is truly in balance and recognizing that your body—as resilient as it is—is very susceptible and can be sensitive to certain things we put in it or on it.

Mobilizing people to become more educated and well-rounded is step one to reclaiming our failing well-being as a society in general. We can keep creating antibiotics to fight off bacterial infections that will in turn keep adapting; or we can take a preventative approach that promotes a healthier—additive/insecticide/pesticide-free—diet and a more fit lifestyle. Cure the disease of the whole organism before it becomes a cancer—for us all.