Want to achieve (and maintain) your total health in a manner that’s safe, sane, and sustainable? You can diet and exercise all you want, but some- thing comes before that. It’s called wellness—and, without it, you could be wasting your time, your money, and (most of all) your energy.
When it comes to the eternal pursuit of health and vitality,
some people jump right into diet, while others run (literally) to exercise. Yet others endeavor to bring both into their lives at the same time.
While such energy, enthusiasm and to self can be inspirational to behold—or, better yet, to experience—it’s not necessarily the safest, sanest, nor most sustainable approach. So, then, what is?
According to the experts at ARM Systems of Milton, Ontario, Canada—and their collective quarter-century of observation and experience—what tends to work best is learning, correcting, and optimizing one’s own wellness first.
But “wellness” is a slippery word, meaning different things to different people. So let’s clarify and simplify. According to Adam Robert McDonald, ARM’s founder and president: “Wellness is the most basic level of health. When one is well, one can pursue one’s daily activities without threat of pain, harm, injury, illness, or (worst of all) fatality. In other words, when one is well, one is relatively safe, sane, and stable.”
“Beyond wellness, there’s fitness, which goes beyond the basic, into a new realm—one of optimizing one’s health for better appearance and performance in all areas of work and life. Fitness is achieved very simply, though not always easily, through exercise.”
“Finally, beyond fitness, there’s indulgence, which is a very difficult concept for most Canadians to accept. We think of indulgence as evil, selfish, unnecessary. However, without a certain amount of indulgence, health cannot be sustained. After all, dieting and exercising are physically (and sometimes mentally) stressful. Good stresses, and necessary stresses, but stresses nonetheless. That needs to be balanced out, or compensated for, by foods and other sensory experiences that ease the mind, soothe the soul, and pleasure the body.”
WHY NATUROPATHIC DOCTORS ARE CRITICAL TO YOUR HEALTH
Circling back to wellness, McDonald recommends that clients start with basic physical assessments, which can be provided by one’s own family doctor. A good assessment includes an ECG, lipid/sugar panels (A1C, cholesterols, triglycerides, et cetera), hormonal work-ups (cortisol, prolactin, estrogens/ androgens, et cetera), and other diagnostics as determined by doctors themselves.
Once test results are received and reviewed, the next step is to find a caring, competent naturopathic doctor for another assessment—this time from a slightly different angle.
Once resented and resisted by the medical establishment, naturopathic doctors are now highly respected and relied upon, to the extent that the province of Ontario has recently empowered them to prescribe basic medications. There are many reasons for this expanded trust. First, as complements to primary-care physicians, they have the luxury to treat patients like actual human beings, not just collections of symptoms and complaints.
Second, they tend to excel in areas that leave their better- known counterparts baffled and/or annoyed—subtle and/ or subclinical concerns like obesity, infertility, allergies/ sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, and many forms of mental illness.
Third, they can provide guidance and expertise in areas where patients typically make mistakes, waste time and/or money, some- times even harm themselves— areas like nutrition, supplementation, lifestyle modification, and mindfulness practices.
While all naturopathic doctors pursue the same education and receive the same certification, in practice they tend to vary in approach. Some practitioners favour approaches like Ayuruveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and others drawn from ancient eastern and/or western civilizations. Other practitioners are more traditionally “medical” in their orientation—with additional emphasis upon nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle/mindfulness techniques. Yet others place themselves at the cutting edge of hybrid conventional/alternative research, with expertise in new areas like intermittent fasting, electro-neurological stimulation, so on and so forth.
WHAT TO DO WHEN EVEN NATUROPATHIC ISN’T ENOUGH
What about dieticians and nutritionists? According to McDonald, “At one point, we were considering bringing someone like that on board. But what’s the point? A naturopathic doctor can also help you figure out what to eat, and how to supplement, but they can do it with far greater accuracy and specificity. Plus, while they’re at it, they can help you manage all of your other wellness issues as well. To us, it’s about efficiency and excellence. Naturopaths, not nutritionists, are the way to go.”
Just as MDs often refer patients to specialists—cardiologists, dermatologists, et cetera—NDs do the same, except their pool of specialists are considered “paramedical” by most SHI (supplemental healthcare insurance) plans.
For those experiencing physical aches, pains, and/ or imbalances, referrals are often made to osteopaths, chiropractors, massage therapists, and acupuncturists (especially those adept at “cupping”, the common name for moxibustion).
Other common recommendations revolve around: aroma- therapy; products for the main- tenance of skin, hair, and home; and paramedical devices—for example, small battery-operated units that send mild electrical currents into aching muscles or stressed-out brains.
However, not all wellness issues are physical. Others are mental, emotional, and/ or practical—prompted by the stresses and demands of fast- paced, over-booked, tech- nology-saturated lifestyles. Naturopathic doctors can be of service here as well, with knowledge of and access to a variety of modalities that may help. These modalities include: psychotherapy and psycho- analysis (for those seeking to understand themselves and the world around them); hypnotherapy and neuro-lingustic programming (for those seeking immediate psychic relief and/ or behavioural modification); meditation and mindfulness (for those seeking long-term tranquility and effectiveness despite life’s distractions and complications); and even life coaching (for those seeking tactical and strategic advice in the face of major challenges, obstacles, and/or limitations at work or anywhere else in life).