Come Learn about Naturopathic Medicine!
(Script from previous live video with Dr. Laura Macleod, interviewed by Carly Clifton, Clinic Director)
Today, we’re going to do a little Q&A with our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Laura MacLeod.
Many of you may be new to Naturopathic Medicine and have questions on what a Naturopathic Doctor does and how Laura can work with you. We hope to answer those questions over the course of this Q&A so you can better understand when you could benefit from Naturopathic care. So let’s dive in!
Laura, I’d love to let everyone hear a bit about your background and I think the first question will help people understand who you are. Let’s start with you telling us what led you to become a naturopathic doctor?
My path to becoming a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) was not a direct one. I started my career as a Registered Nurse and I have been working as a Pediatric Nurse at SickKids since 2011. Before starting at SickKids, I had a work related back injury while working in an ICU. That injury began a long, arduous and trying time of figuring out how to heal myself. I utilized a lot of different health care professionals from massage, chiropractic, osteopathy and naturopathic medicine. That injury is really what made me realize the impact of the mind-body connection and the need to take ownership over your own health and wellness. My views of health broadened at that time with a focus on nutrition, movement and mindfulness. I decided to pursue Naturopathic Medicine so that I could practice this broader vision of what wellness was.
What are your favourite parts about being a Naturopathic Doctor?
For a lot of the same reasons that I love being a nurse! I love people and I love being a part of someone’s health journey. When you work with a ND, you form significant professional relationships with your clients due to the nature of our appointments. We really take the time to understand your concerns in the context of your life and our view of health and wellness is very holistic. I love making the connections for someone and helping them understand their health because to me, knowledge is power and the most important person in any health care team is the client. So they need to be armoured with the best knowledge and skill to care for themselves and bring themselves back into balance.
Amazing. While we have this time together, I thought it would be helpful to touch on some of the most commonly asked questions. One of the biggest curiosities I think people have is: What is naturopathic medicine, and what can it do for me?
Naturopathic Medicine is a primary care profession focused on prevention and optimizing health. It takes a holistic approach to understanding someone’s chief concerns in order to identify the root cause. By identifying and treating the root cause (rather than managing the symptoms) you can have more sustainable and lasting health benefits. It utilizes treatment modalities that support the body’s innate ability to heal such as botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, diet/lifestyle, acupuncture, homeopathy and hydrotherapy. Naturopathic medicine recognizes that each individual is unique and therefore treatment is individualized.
Someone would go to a ND when perhaps they have been told that their symptoms are normal and there is nothing that can be done to change them but they don’t feel normal. What I often say to people is that normal is not the same as common.
For instance, pain with periods is very common but it’s not normal and there are lots of ways to explore the underlying etiology of painful periods to correct it. There are many other examples like this such as bloating after meals, constipation, irregular periods, headaches, fatigue and joint pain. These symptoms are very common in people and oftentimes when a client comes to see me, they thought they had to live with these symptoms and it was just the way it is. They are surprised to find out that although common, they do not have to accept this new normal and there is lots that I can do to identify and treat the underlying biochemical or functional disturbances that are contributing to someone’s symptoms and help them feel better.
Another common question that I think many people have is: How does Naturopathic Medicine differ from Conventional Medicine?
I love this question because with my background as a Nurse, I see the commonalities and differences between the two everyday.
Conventional Medicine thrives in the management of acute illness and takes a reductionist approach whereas Naturopathic Medicine thrives in prevention, optimizing health and chronic disease management and taking a holistic approach.
Maybe we can illuminate this with an example.
Let’s say you have eczema. If you were to go to your Medical Doctor (MD) about your eczema, they would likely provide you with a steroid cream to reduce inflammation in the skin. A ND would look more broadly or holistically at the eczema and explore that concern in the context of your life. They would explore your diet (do you have food sensitivities that are exacerbating your symptoms?), they would look at your digestion (is there an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in your gut having an impact on skin health?), we would look at stress levels, possible deficiencies in essential fatty acids which protect the skin and so on.
Our treatments are also different, rather than trying to manage symptoms and override the body’s healing mechanisms (like a steroid cream), we try to address the root cause and provide treatments that work with the body’s innate healing to heal from the inside out.
I have a huge respect for Conventional Medicine and there are certain times when you should see a MD over a ND. If you have a severe infection requiring antibiotics, you need to see a MD. If you have a broken bone, a health emergency, need surgery, have uncontrolled high blood pressure – you first need to see a MD. Certainly I can help once your health has been stabilized and support you in your healing.
To further our discussion on that topic, does a Naturopathic Doctor replace my Medical Doctor?
So this answer is a little more nuanced. NDs are Regulated Health Care Professionals and are considered Primary Care Providers, meaning that they could function as your primary contact for your health concerns for most things. However, I typically work with people that have both a MD and a ND and I think this is the most ideal set up for most people.
My goal is to bridge the gap between conventional and naturopathic care and I can do that because of my understanding of both systems. I like to work with your other health care providers to ensure that your care is seamless and consistent. Many of my patients are on medications and I can work with that individual to optimize other areas of their life.
I can order blood work however blood work requisitioned by a ND is not covered by OHIP and is an out of pocket expense. This is because OHIP covers the big, bad and the ugly and its purpose is not to ensure optimal health/wellness.
I can perform head to toe physical exams and requisition blood work from your MD if needed.
Where it becomes necessary for you to have a MD is if you need other diagnostic testing which I am not able to provide such as an Xray, ultrasound or MRI. Oftentimes if I feel that these things are needed, I will send someone back to their MD and write a doctor’s note explaining why I have sent them their way, the symptoms and the concerns leading me to my clinical judgement in needing these diagnostic tests.
Sometimes when we are looking for a specialist, we try to feel ‘prepared’, and one of the ways we do this is by trying to pick one principal complaint or issue to address. Does someone need to have specific health concerns to consult with an ND?
There are two things that I’d like to address with this question.
First, you do not have to have a specific health concern, oftentimes in my intake process which takes 75 minutes and is very thorough, I will find areas that could be optimized or I’ll identify certain risk factors that we should put some preventative measures in place in order to do what we can to prevent someone from developing a disease.
Secondly, you do not have to have just one chief concern. As a ND, I have the luxury of time that a MD does not. They only get 10 minutes and therefore, understandably, have to limit you to addressing one concern. I have 75 minutes and oftentimes people will come in with 3 or 4 chief concerns and by the end I am able link all those chief concerns to likely originating from the same root cause. For example, someone’s headaches, bloating, constipation and fatigue could all be related to a food sensitivity. Or, their heavy periods, fatigue, hair thinning and constipation could all be related to a thyroid disorder.
There seem to be a lot of myths and misunderstandings about naturopathy out there. What would you say is one of the most common misconceptions about naturopathic medicine?
I would say the most common misconception is that Naturopathic Medicine is not evidence based. There is lots of evidence to support the treatment modalities of naturopathic medicine and almost everything that I recommend to clients is based on what has been proven to provide the most clinical benefit to a client.
Do you have a particular focus area in your practice?
Growing up in a family filled with women, I have four sisters, I have naturally gravitated towards and have a passion for women’s health. My practice is primarily focused on women’s health, pregnancy, fertility and digestive health. I also tend to see a fair amount of pediatrics given my background as a Pediatric Nurse and oftentimes clients will comment on their comfort level with seeing a ND that also understands the conventional pediatric system. In my experience, many people don’t want to choose between the two, I don’t think they should have to. My goal is to bring the conventional and naturopathic worlds together in order to put my clients at the centre of their health journey.
Other than my focus area, I would say that my care centres around building self-compassion, empowering people with education about their health and meeting someone where they are at with no judgement.
There is no right or wrong time to see a ND. Your definition of wellness is individualized to you and my goal is to help you identify what wellness is to you and then help you get there.
I think that’s a great point to end on. Thank you Dr. Laura for sharing this with us today. If you would like to learn more about how you can work with Dr. Laura, she is currently providing virtual care and would be happy to set up a complimentary virtual meet and greet to see if you two are a good fit.