What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is unique in many ways. For one, in the healing modalities that it uses, including but not limited to: clinical nutrition, lifestyle counselling, botanical medicine, Asian medicine & acupuncture, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, and physical medicine. Beyond just the modalities used, naturopathic medicine differs from other forms in how we both view and approach disease.
Treating the root cause of disease is very important in naturopathic medicine. We identify and address this root cause as opposed to simply managing and palliating symptoms. This leads to lasting and sustainable change.
Also, in naturopathic medicine, a patient is a whole person, with not only a body, but a mind and spirit, and we treat each level since each level affects the other, and they all affect well-being. This whole person is also a unique individual, and their health concerns should be treated as such. The reasons one person has an ailment could differ from the reasons another has the exact same ailment, so why treat them the same?
Lastly, in our approach to treating disease, naturopathic medicine uses the therapeutic order. This means that we first set the fundamental stage for wellness before tackling problems specifically. We find and remove obstacles that will impede the healing process (such as insufficient sleep or improper diet, emotional conflicts, etc.). This will also help prevent further illnesses from developing since doing so is laying the groundwork for wellness. We stimulate the self-healing processes that exist within every person using modalities like homeopathy and acupuncture. We use the most basic and fundamental therapies to guide the body into balance. If at this point the illnesses have not resolved, we target them more specifically, directly treating pathology. The next step would be medications and then surgery, in the grand scope of health management. There are overlaps and exceptions to this order- for example, if someone is in pain, we will likely remove the pain whilst working on the fundamentals, but striving to treat the root cause of the pain is vital.
What training has a naturopathic doctor received?
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) attain an undergraduate degree with specific course requirements, then receive another four years of training at an accredited naturopathic medical school. Classes encompass all of our healing modalities, along with anatomy, physiology, immunology, etc. There are two licensing exams, along with any regional exams, that one must pass to be a certified ND. To maintain active status, NDs must also complete specific continuing education courses throughout their practice.
About Dr. Shayla Garland
Naturopathic medicine is a beautiful profession and I feel so honoured to be a part of it. We help people by guiding and empowering them in their own health. We use all-natural therapies to gently push them in the direction of cure. We take into account the entire person- not just the physical, but the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects. We treat people as the individuals that they are. We emphasize prevention so as to avoid the route to disease. We teach healthy living and we are always searching for the root cause of disease, which is incredibly important to me.
I made my decision to be a naturopathic doctor at age 15. I read about it for a class assignment and everything about this practice immediately resonated with me- it was love at first sight! Addressing root cause was the most important part for me, as I have never seen the point in making manifestations (i.e. symptoms) better if you’re not addressing, and actually suppressing, the real cause.
To reach my goal of being an ND, I attained an honours degree in a 4-year Life Sciences program at McMaster University. I then knew I needed to get the travel out of my system before spending another 4 years in school, so I spent a year travelling Latin America alone, and then another half-year in Asia (followed by more medical trips during school, and topped off with 3 months in Africa while awaiting my licensing results!). I learned so much and truly gained a worldly perspective and appreciation. In 2009, I commenced the program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). This was the most intense program I have ever been a part of, but the rewards outweigh the costs by far. Treating people with our medicine is the most beautiful, satisfying thing I can possibly imagine doing with my life.
To unite my love for naturopathic medicine with my love for the globe and the people in it, I travelled to Haiti to work with Naturopaths Without Borders (naturopathswithoutborders.org). Inspired by my experience, I founded a Naturopaths Without Borders chapter at CCNM. We have since sent dozens of people to Haiti and Guatemala, and there is more to come.