Hello and welcome!
My name is Isabel Ocaña and I’m the resident nutritionist here at Wild Unicorn Club. Over the coming posts I’ll be sharing some of the knowledge that has helped me and my clients progress towards a healthier life. It is my hope that providing this educational material about positive ways to eat will empower, inspire and assist you on your own path to wellness.
What is naturopathic nutrition?
Naturopathic nutrition is the healing discipline of using food, vitamins and minerals to address disease and its causes. It works on the basis that the body has the capacity to heal itself over time if given the correct materials and environment to do so.
This first post will cover some basic principles that govern a naturopathic approach to nutrition. These concepts have been distilled over centuries from the ancient medicinal disciplines of Indian Ayuveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine and now guide a wide body of holistic therapies. Understanding the fundamental differences between conventional western medicine vs naturopathic healing can be helpful in understanding why certain diseases proliferate and how to implement effective disease prevention.
1. Health is the absence of symptoms
The term ‘healthy’ is an emotive one that touches on our very mortality. Product manufacturers know this and use the word to entice their consumers to purchase. With ever-more labels boasting the beneficial nature of the content inside, it is difficult and confusing as a consumer to know exactly what is meant by ‘healthy’ and whether the claim can be trusted.
In naturopathic nutrition, health is the absence of symptoms across mind, body, emotions and spirit. Unlike conventional medicine, naturopathic philosophy extends beyond the physical and mental to include the wider components of emotional and spiritual health. The reasons for this are not esoteric but holistic – emotions produce strong chemical influences on the body, which in turn affect cellular health. To ignore the influence of emotional and spiritual wellness is to potentially miss wider symptoms they create in the body. The end goal for the naturopath is therefore to ensure all four components of wellness are equally supported to achieve a truly holistic standard of health.
2. You have the power to heal yourself
At the heart of naturopathy is the recognition that the human body has an incredible innate ability to heal itself when provided with the right tools, materials and conditions to do so. Naturopaths carry this belief forward into their practise, empowering their clients to learn how to heal themselves through nutrition education. There is only one person that can heal your symptoms and it is not me, your doctor or your therapist – it is you! As a nutritionist, I equip my clients with the information they need to improve their health but ultimately it is up to them to apply it and reap the rewards.
While responsibility for your own health can be a frightening concept to digest and take ownership of, it also offers freedom, autonomy and empowerment. Given the right information, anyone can feel better for life. Know that there are very many sources of support and information to help you along your path to wellness but it is ultimately a journey that you make alone, one choice at a time.
3. Disease is personal
There is a diet book for virtually every condition, each full of testimonials praising their effectiveness. But if diets really work, then why are there so many? Why do more keep surfacing every year? And why aren’t we all thinner, healthier and more vital?
The truth is that every person sustains a universe inside them. From the millions of bacteria in the gut to the highly complex balancing mechanisms of our hormonal system, the human body holds infinite varieties, anomalies and differences. Your body and its health have been shaped by hundreds of factors both in and out of your control. The largest is genetic inheritance from your parents and family, but no less important are the influences of environment, climate, seasonal changes, nutritional integrity of diet, hydration levels, past illnesses, emotional trauma – the list goes on.
Naturopaths understand that everyone is different and treatment must reflect this. Historical context is vital; the cause and severity of a condition will dictate the appropriate level of therapeutic response. What works for one may not work for another – the body is highly personal and so are the causes of disease and responses to treatment. Success is far more possible with a customised therapeutic approach tailored to individual health need.
4. Treat the whole person
Building on the ideas above, the nature of any holistic therapy is that it treats the whole person rather than just addressing immediate physical symptoms. Good health is achieved only in reference to the whole, not individual parts of mind, body, emotion and spirit – if one part is out of balance it will throw the rest off. Think of a business made up of Sales, Marketing, Production and Leadership. If one of these functions failed, either suddenly or slowly over time, there would be an intense corresponding impact on the three remaining parts of the company. For example, underperforming sales would slow production and place extra pressure on marketing, giving leadership more work for less money.
Naturopaths understand that wellness is created from harmony and health at every level – underperformance in any area will have a corresponding effect on the surrounding systems and eventually the whole. The discipline of naturopathic nutrition seeks to identify and address root causes of imbalance to restore a state of health that is the sum of mental, physical, emotional and spiritual vigour.
5. Do no harm
It may seem obvious to point out but the founding principle of naturopathy is that it uses the most natural treatment approach possible, leveraging just the power of organic nutrients to stimulate our own innate healing systems. This approach is the sum of centuries of pre-scientific knowledge that was learned from observations of the seasons and natural world and kept our predecessors alive. Naturopaths believe in taking the least invasive, least stressful approach to wellness – in this space, administration of pharmaceutical drugs or surgery are viewed as a last resort once all natural therapeutic approaches have been ruled out as non-viable.
Naturopathic nutrition is not a magic bullet or an instant fix when it comes to disease, rather it focuses on supplying the body with a rich abundance of what it needs to thrive while eliminating the things that harm it. Over time, imbalances are corrected at the source, systems become robust and conditions for illness to thrive are reduced. In this sense, naturopathic nutrition advocates a path of disease prevention in addition to curative response.
I hope this information provides some useful context about my particular discipline of nutrition and the philosophies that birthed it.