What to expect at a Naturopathy consultation

Naturopathy consultation patient

If you want to care for your health and you appreciate the expert natural, holistic approach offered by a Naturopath, then you may decide to book a Naturopathy consultation.

To demystify the process, Catherine Smith, Naturopath and Program Director of Naturopathy and Western Herbal Medicine at Torrens University Australia, explains what to expect in your first meeting with a practitioner.

What conditions is Naturopathy suitable for?

Just as you would go to a general practitioner (GP), you can consult a naturopath for any condition, such as a chronic disease or to improve your general health. People often come to us with all kinds of stress-related conditions, as well as anxiety and depression. Naturopathy’s also effective in treating digestive conditions, including constipation, diarrhea, indigestion and bloating. Many Naturopaths specialise in women's health, including reproductive issues, irregular periods and the different concerns that come up during the life stages. Heading into winter, people will come to us with colds and flu, and immune problems in general. As well as dealing with existing issues, we might design a regime to help prevent those conditions, because Naturopaths work on prevention too.

What happens during Naturopathy consultation?

The consultation is comprehensive and longer than you might have with a GP. It will take about an hour or more, as the practitioner needs time with you to really understand your personal experience of your condition. They will ask about the history of your condition, the severity of the symptoms, and how it impacts your life. This information allows the Naturopath to build a baseline understanding of both your condition and your general health.

Once we have a thorough understanding of your condition, we’ll talk about what changes you should make, including to your diet and lifestyle. Naturopaths see nutrition as the foundation of health, so in the consultation we will look at your diet and provide nutritional advice. Then during further consultations, we'll implement changes. We might start with a diet and then include some herbal medicines, for example.

Does the Naturopath do physical examinations?

During an in-person consultation the Naturopath will do general observations, check blood pressure and pulse and other appropriate health assessments. In our student-led Practice Wellbeing Centre, we use body composition analysis machines, which give us an understanding of a person's general body composition – fat mass, body mass, intra and extracellular water, and many other biomarkers that will help us to work effectively with the patient, especially if they come to us for weight loss or gain.

If the Naturopath is meeting with a telehealth client, they will assess whether a referral to medical or other practitioners for a physical assessment is necessary.

What types of treatments do Naturopaths offer?

That is a big question, but in a snapshot, we offer herbal medicines, nutritional therapy, which could include therapeutic diets and supplementation, and lifestyle advice. For example, encouraging more physical activity or offering some self-care recommendations. In Naturopathy, the individual has a say in their treatment, and that makes a big difference with compliance. For instance, if someone doesn't like the taste of herbal medicines, we can give them a tablet product instead. When treating someone who has a diagnosed condition, the Naturopath would help them to be as well as possible within the management of that condition. We’d let our medical colleagues know what we've prescribed, which is particularly important when someone is on medication.

Naturopathy consultation uses a holistic approach

The Naturopath will look at your health holistically and come up with an individualised treatment to suit your needs and situation. So, a Naturopath looks not only at a person’s physical health, but also the social and community health parameters. We make a thorough assessment of the client’s situation so we can recommend therapies that are appropriate to every aspect of their lives. For example, if we had a patient who couldn't afford the herbal medicines, we might examine their diet and use food as medicine for that person. To help a patient overcome mental and emotional blocks, we’d try to identify the challenges in their life. Then we might introduce them to techniques that could help them manage their stress, such as lifestyle changes, yoga, meditation, or a walk in a green space.

Consultation at The Practice Wellbeing Centre

Tell us about your analogy of looking after your car versus looking after your health

I use that analogy because it resonates with many of us. There is no way I’d change the spark plugs or the carburetor in my car. I would take it to the mechanic because they're experts, and they'll make sure my car is safe for me to drive.

We need to apply the same thinking to our health. While you can use ‘Dr Google’ and self-treat, unless you’re a trained Health practitioner there's often things that you'll miss. An expert practitioner can help you to give your body the care it needs. Also, in naturopathic philosophy the role of the practitioner is as teacher – one of our responsibilities is to teach you about how your body works, and how to maintain your wellness. So that over time, you can build your understanding of your own body and your own health. You can feel calmer and more confident looking after yourself.

Find out more about the Practice Wellbeing Centres
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