A naturopathic physician (NMD) is a primary care physician clinically trained in conventional medical sciences with an emphasis on holistic preventative care. The goal of a naturopath is to find and eliminate the root cause of a patient’s symptoms while educating, inspiring and empowering the patient to reach optimal health. In Arizona, naturopathic doctors are licensed and regulated by the State of Arizona Naturopathic Physicians Medical Board. Physicians must have completed a bachelor’s degree and then graduated from an accredited four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and passed national board examinations. The scope of practice in Arizona includes limited prescription privileges, minor surgery, diet and nutrition counseling, homeopathy, acupuncture, botanical medicine, environmental medicine, nutrient IV therapy, physical manipulation and other physiotherapy modalities. If I listed the number of health issues I’d had in the years prior to utilizing naturopathic medicine, most people wouldn’t believe it by looking at me: sinus infections, pneumonia, recurrent urinary tract infections, yeast infections, interstitial cystitis, eczema, irregular cycles, cystic acne, insomnia, anxiety…When I look back on those years, it feels surreal, like an out of body experience. By all appearances, I looked like a really healthy 20 year old, and maybe this is why it took so long for someone to listen. Many of my patients have told me a similar story- one in which they feel terrible but don’t feel heard by their medical practitioners. For my doctors it was easy enough to prescribe a pill for everything, antibiotics for the sinus infection or UTI, fluconazole for the yeast infections, birth control for the irregular cycles and acne, cortisone cream for the eczema…I think you get the picture. It was getting exhausting, and each time I went in to see my primary care doctor, I felt like we were getting farther from a solution. Thankfully, a nurse practitioner in this office pulled me aside and said, “You’re too young to be headed down this path of chronic illness, you have to see a naturopath.” At the time, I had never even heard of a naturopath, so I took my time learning about it before I jumped in. I could find excuses not to pursue it: I was in college full time, working part time at minimum wage and my health insurance wouldn’t cover this type of treatment. But as time went on, it became more and more clear that a different path wasn’t a luxury, it had become a necessity. I had always wanted to be a doctor, but with the way my health was going, I felt like it was going to be nearly impossible to accomplish this goal. The first time I saw a naturopath, I was blown away by the depth of the intake – it wasn’t just about the symptoms – it was about all the aspects of my life that may have contributed to weakness in my health that left me susceptible to illness. We worked together to come up with a plan that included improving my nutrition, decreasing my stress, and using supplements, herbs and acupuncture to strengthen my body. Through specialty testing, we identified that I had sensitivities to eggs, dairy and yeast, so for a while I was on a diet that excluded these foods and all sugar that would contribute to yeast overgrowth. It wasn’t easy at first, but when I started seeing results, it was well worth it. I took a ton of supplements too, and while it wasn’t cheap and I was skeptical at first, I now know how much these helped me to heal- especially my gut and bladder. I didn’t see changes overnight, but my naturopath gave me some tools to ease acute symptoms when they came up and over several months every aspect of my health started to improve. By sharing my story, I hope to convey that health is a journey, and often takes an unexpected path. As a naturopath, I hope to guide my patients on that journey in such a way that gives them the tools to help themselves reach optimal health.
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