Naturopassy Medicine

Dr. Jules Passy, Naturopathic Doctor
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How to Ease Tension With Acupressure by Guest Blogger Ben Stanford

How To Ease Tension With Acupressure

Acupuncture, which is a form of Traditional Chinese Medicine states that there are 12 meridians that contain over a total of 107 acupuncture points on the body.   These meridians link channels through nerves, muscles and joints to allow energy to flow freely.

The acupuncture philosophy is one that enables a person to be treated holistically as opposed to easing individual symptoms.  Modern studies have indicated that acupuncture stimulates our nervous system signaling, which, can increase the healing rate in our bodies.

Acupuncture points are sensitive when there is feedback through the autonomic nervous system. Your brain communicates with this system. Fear, frustrations and other stresses all play a role in sensitizing a specific point with acupuncture.

Stress and tension can cause cardiovascular changes, as well as headaches, fatigue and other chronic diseases. The greater the conflict with your particular stressors, the greater the tension on each acupressure point.

If you don’t believe in tension examine yourself next time you are stopped at a red traffic light when you are in a rush and the car behind you starts blowing their horn. Did you notice a rise in tension? A sudden clenching in your gut? Grinding of your teeth? Of course you have, most people can relate to this. It is a normal reaction as the body responds to an emotional tension.

A quick technique for handling tensions

Reach back to the base of your skull; place the third finger of each hand into the hollow at the base of your skull. Rotate and massage them around and notice the tenderness.

Now move to the right of the hollow, note the bump, it will be tender or even painful. Now, repeat the process on the opposite side.

Now with your head bowed forward, run each hand firmly down the back of your neck towards your shoulders, repeat this process five times.

This should help release your tension in a few seconds after the acupressure points have been activated. Check with your health practitioner if you need help locating these specific points.

How to run a tension test on yourself

Test one

Insert your right finger into the hollow behind your right ear lobe. If the pressure from your finger hurts as your massage the spot shows you are holding tensions. It is an acupuncture point awaiting therapy.

Try on the other side of the neck, is it less painful?

Test two

In a seated position, lay your head towards one shoulder, of the exposed side run your fingers firmly down the heavy muscle extending from the base of the skull to the shoulder. Note the little bumps in the muscle. Locate each of these. Each is a point of tension and fatigue. Repeat the process on the opposite side.

Now you have noticed the tension areas on your body, acupressure each of the knots until the tension disappears under your fingertips.

Now move up on the muscle base of the skull to its insertion. You may find a hardened tense bump. These are also key spots; you can sink your third finger into each one by one. This may not be a blissful feeling, though once you apply acupressure you are on your way to healing the tension.

 How to treat facial points with acupressure

The first step is to rub your hands together; this gets the hands more sensitive to feeling.

Procedure 1

Rub the palms of your hands briskly up and down the side of your face with a scrubbing motion. It is a shotgun technique, which puts pressure on all the facial meridians. You can stimulate many acupuncture points this way.

Procedure 2

  • With the fingertips of your third finger, make tiny rotating motions at the inside corners of the eyes.
  • Repeat at the outside corners of your eyes.
  • Then go below the eye
  • Then move to the bridge of the nose, squeeze and pull, then go below the nose to the side
  • Make circular motions

Procedure 3

  • Plant all your fingertips in a straight line across the top of your chin and jaw. Massage the area in unison.
  • From here go to the side of each jaw and repeated

Procedure 4

Gun massage – with the fingertips massage the upper and lower jaw.

Eyelid pinch – with the index finger and thumb grasping the upper lashes and pulling the lid up and away from the eyeball.

Ear vibration – by grasping the top of each ear with the thumb and index finger pulling upward as if you were going to lift yourself from the ground. Then grasp the earlobe and pull downwards. Now bend the ear forward with the third finger and with the tip of the index finger tap the cartilage

With these techniques you can do at your desk at work, the train or bus or when sitting at home, you are preparing yourself for a wonderful day with no cost involved, maximum results with minimum effort.


About the author:

 Ben Stanford

Starting his practice in 2003, Ben’s been continuing studies at Physiotherapy Victoria and has expanded his scope to include yoga, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine and applied kinesiology.









The Future of Health: Uniting Medical and Naturopathic Doctors

This post recognizes the importance of collaborative health care and was written by an amazing colleague, Dr. Joanna Rosenfeld, ND.   The original article can be found on the Huffington Post.

“Medical doctors and naturopathic doctors are often placed on opposite sides of the medical spectrum. In reality, conventional and naturopathic medicine is most effective when used together. An integrative healthcare team that features both a medical doctor and naturopathic doctor can help to ensure an accurate diagnosis, employ the least invasive treatment and support/ educate patients to develop actionable health plans.

In a health-care system that is facing increasing rates of chronic disease and preventable illnesses, integrative medicine offers a novel solution for health care and improved patient outcomes.

More Accurate Diagnoses

Time is a precious commodity in the Canadian medical system. Medical doctors are only allocated 15 minutes per patient, even if your doctor wants to spend more time with you. As a result, patients can be left feeling rushed through their appointment, forgetting to ask pertinent questions. Incorporating a naturopathic doctor into the health-care team allows more time for patients to discuss physical and emotional health. Patients are better able to understand their diagnosis, medication or side effects.

Less Invasive treatments

It is well known that not everyone responds to the same diet, lifestyle or medication. As practitioners, we often see patients presenting with similar conditions but find the same treatment doesn’t work for everyone. Integrative medicine recognizes individuality and personalizes each treatment to the patient. Working with both a medical and naturopathic doctor allows each practitioner to present greater treatment options and individualization.

Patient Education and Support

Integrative medicine promotes optimal wellness and looks at health as more than just an absence of disease. Perhaps your blood work is ideal but you’re still having digestive issues. Maybe your menstrual cycle is out of balance or you are struggling with chronic tiredness. These are all important markers of overall health but will often not be diagnosed with abnormal blood work or imaging. With an integrative approach, a healthcare team can offer additional support and address concerns with effective and safe interventions.

Communication is critical

The relationship between a patient and physician is very important, and open communication is critical. Studies show that patients who feel comfortable asking questions and voicing their preferences or concerns have higher quality of life and higher satisfaction levels. Integrative medicine places this relationship as a partnership, in which the physician listens, asks questions and together, helps the patient decide on treatment options.

Case Study

Jane was experiencing chronic urinary tract infections. Every few weeks she was given a course of antibiotics, only to have her symptoms return. After six months and six courses of antibiotics, her family doctor referred her to a naturopathic doctor (ND). Her ND helped her work through some of the causative factors, including dietary changes, supporting a healthy physiology and optimizing bacterial balance. Within a month, Jane’s infections went away and haven’t returned.

A few months after, Jane was experiencing negative side effects from her cholesterol medication, and decided she wanted to try stopping her medication. Her doctor agreed, but when her cholesterol levels began to increase, she was once again referred to her ND. Through natural supplementation and dietary support, her cholesterol returned to optimal values, with no side effects. She continues to see both her medical and naturopathic doctor, and reports an extremely high level of patient satisfaction.”


“Bulletproof” Coffee

I LOVE coffee.  I originally tried adding coconut oil to my coffee when I was eliminating dairy from my diet.  I love the taste so much now that it’s hard to have coffee any other way!

There are many benefits of coconut oil but here are a few of my favourite reasons for adding it to my coffee in the morning;

- it increases satiety

- it decreases the coffee caffeine spike

- it is energizing

- it boosts brain power

Once your coffee is made, throw it in a blender (make sure your blender is able to release heat), with a good heaping teaspoon of coconut oil.  Sometimes, I throw in a small heap of ghee too (but it is not needed).  Blend on medium intensity for 15-30 seconds and you should have a rich, creamy, delicious coffee.  Finally, I usually top it with cinnamon because it helps regulate blood glucose.





Do you have a thyroid issue?

The thyroid helps regulate many processes in our body.  Symptoms of thyroid dysfunction can be vague and unspecific and overlap with other systems in the body.

Dr. Aviva Romm breaks down the role of our thyroid and possible symptoms we may be experiencing if it is not functioning optimally.  She wrote this article for Mind Body Green.

10 Signs You Might Have A Thyroid Problem

Almost all of us struggle with a little fatigue now and then, a few weight fluctuations, or the occasional blue mood. After all, we’re busy, it’s hard to get in all the yoga we dream of doing, and hey, life happens.

But if you find yourself struggling with symptoms like these on a regular basis, or with some severity, your thyroid may be the culprit.

Incredibly, of the estimated 25 million Americans living with thyroid disease today, as many as 50% don’t realize they have it — and most are women.

Here, I’ll take you through what you need to know about the thyroid gland, and how to spot the signs of a problem.

What Is The Thyroid?

The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the front center of your neck, about midway between the under part of your chin and that dip at the base of your neck in front.

The thyroid serves as the body’s thermostat, regulating energy, temperature and metabolism. Through a series of chemical reactions that rely on minerals like iodine and selenium, it controls everything from your mood to your menstrual cycles — not to mention about a thousand other functions, including how efficiently you burn calories and how easily you lose weight.

3 Types Of Thyroid Problems

  • Hypothyroidism, or under-functioning of the thyroid gland. This means that energy and metabolism are low.
  • Hyperthyroidism, or over-functioning of the thyroid gland. In this case, your metabolism is running on overdrive.
  • Autoimmune thyroid diseases. This includes both Hashimoto’s disease, where the thyroid is underactive, and Graves disease, where it’s overactive.

Autoimmune thyroid diseases are the most common, accounting for 90% of all hypothyroidism in the US, most of which is Hashimoto’s.

10 Signs Of A Thyroid Problem

These symptoms suggest that your thyroid might be either under-functioning or over-functioning:

1. Weight struggles

If you’ve tried diet after diet and exercise after exercise without success, it’s probably not that you’re “just not doing it right.” Instead, it might be because you’re not able to burn off calories because of a low functioning thyroid. This is a great time to stop beating yourself up and pinpoint whether your thyroid might instead be to blame.

On the other hand, if you’re losing weight like crazy this can be a sign of hyperthyroidism, and merits a visit to your doctor for blood work.

2. Energy issues

The thyroid dictates how much energy you have. When it’s running low, so are you. You might be anywhere from a little more tired than usual, to excruciatingly fatigued. While this can be related to other problems like anemia or viral infections, low energy is one of the most common symptoms of a poorly functioning thyroid.

On the other hand, when the thyroid is overactive, you feel anything from slightly agitated, to bouncing off of the walls. If any of these are new symptoms, consider having thyroid testing done.

3. Sleep problems

You’re probably catching on to a pattern here: the thyroid can also affect your sleep. When your thyroid function is low, you might feel like sleeping way more than usual. You may also wake up feeling unrested, or like you’ve had a poor, dream-disrupted sleep.

If, however, you feel like you’re an electric cord plugged into a live socket, this can be a sign of adrenal overdrive, or a hyperactive thyroid.

4. Mood swings

Feeling blue for no reason? Hypothyroidism can be making you feel depressed and down.

But if you’re feeling irritable, angry, and worked up more than usual, this might be a sign that your thyroid is hyperactive. Think of it as your body getting fired up and overheated, thanks to the overproduction of hormones in your thyroid.

5. High or low appetite

A low functioning thyroid can tank your appetite. That’s because your dialed-down metabolism tells your brain you don’t need as much fuel to burn. Interestingly, low thyroid function can also make you crave sugar and carbs for energy, in order to overcome your fatigue.

On the other hand, when the thyroid is hyperactive, it can make you feel insatiably ravenous — like you could eat and eat and never get full. That’s because your overactive thyroid is using up tons of fuel, even when you’re resting. Your appetite gets ramped up in order to regain the calories constantly being burned.

6. Slow or fast digestion

With hypothyroidism, things are going to slow down — and that includes your digestion. As a result, constipation is a common symptom of low thyroid function, along with gas and bloating.

The opposite is true with hyperthyroidism: you may need to go to the bathroom super often, and loose stools become common.

7. Irregular periods, heavy periods, fertility problems, or miscarriage

The thyroid controls the regularity of menstrual cycles, as well as fertility and women’s hormones in general.

If you’ve been having trouble getting pregnant, have hormonal issues or irregular periods, think you aren’t ovulating, or have had a miscarriage, get your thyroid function checked before you get pregnant to make sure your levels are optimal.

I’ve worked with many women who, after getting proper thyroid treatment, became pregnant or never had another miscarriage.

8. Joint pain

A little known fact is that chronic joint pain, especially carpal tunnel syndrome and overall aching, can be due to a low functioning thyroid.

So before you start popping ibuprofen and other medications that can wreck the health of your gut, have a quick check of your thyroid labs, especially your TSH, FreeT3 and FreeT4, and thyroid autoantibodies. Your primary doctor will be able to order these for you.

9. High cholesterol, even with a healthy diet

Hypothyroidism can also lead to high cholesterol, since your slower metabolism isn’t burning up fat. So before you go on a statin drug to control your cholesterol, get your thyroid levels checked. The solution might be in finding the root cause: a thyroid problem.

10. Too hot, or too cold

Because your thyroid is your body’s thermostat, you might often feel chilled or have chronically chilled hands if it’s under-functioning.

But if it’s over-functioning, you might feel overheated in a normal temperature room, and pleasantly comfy when everyone else is freezing. Whether you’re too hot or too cold — get your thyroid checked out!

Now What?

The good news is that if identified, thyroid problems can be repaired.

In more conventional medical practices, you may have to advocate for yourself to get the testing you need. But a functional medicine, integrative medicine, or naturopathic doctor will usually be willing to run the whole gamut of thyroid tests, including TSH, FreeT3, FreeT4, Reverse T3, and thyroid autoantibodies.

Of course, it’s important to be careful not to get over-diagnosed and unnecessarily treated if you don’t actually have a thyroid problem. However, if the symptoms and the labs fit, then appropriate treatment can make you feel like a million bucks.

Sometimes thyroid function can be recovered and restored with natural methods like stress reduction, diet, herbs, and supplements. Other times, medications are needed long-term.

But either way, it’s important to identify whether you have a thyroid problem in the first place — so you can get the help you need to feel like yourself again.


Carrot Fries

Each week I get a new bundle of fresh vegetables from Makaria Farm.  Lately, my veggie package has been loaded with carrots.  This easy and delicious recipe ensures that none of the carrots go bad before I eat them!

I cut the carrots up into “french fry” looking portions and throw them into my iron skillet.  I love my iron skillet, not only do I use it on the stove, but I bake with it too!  This helps keep it seasoned and using the skillet frequently helps boost my daily iron consumption.  I throw in some coconut oil, Himalayan salt and sprinkle on some cinnamon.  It’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty.


I usually bake for about 5-10 minutes on 350 ℉ and then broil for about another 5 minutes.  You can adjust this depending on how crispy you want your carrot fries to be!


Summer Salad

Living in a house without air conditioning has made this summer a little bit more difficult to tolerate than I expected.  Of course, I have no reason to complain.  The ocean is part of my backyard.  Surviving the heat on Vancouver Island is much easier and more enjoyable than almost every summer I’ve had in Toronto.

Hot meals in the summer don’t appeal to me too much. Especially when it requires me to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with the oven on.  My place heats up quick!  Thankfully, I’ve recently started to get weekly veggie baskets from a local farm.  Most of the veggies can used in a salad which is one of my favourite summer meals.  The best part about this salad is I had all of the ingredients at home!  There’s nothing worse than being one key ingredient short of a delicious meal.

The veggie base:

I started with a spring mix and tossed in some collard greens.  For some crunch, i shredded some carrots and cabbage and sliced up  cucumber.  Then I threw in some finely sliced purple onion.

The dressing:

The creamy dressing is avocado and herb based courtesy of Angela Liddon at Oh She Glows .  The recipe can be found here.  It’s one of favourite dressings of hers.  I halved the recipe, added hemp seeds and used maple syrup for a touch of sweetness.  It’s nutrient packed and full of flavour.  I really liked using avocado in the base of the dressing instead of topping up my salad with it.

The toppings:

I used chick peas as croutons for some extra protein and because I am gluten free.  I used the roasted chick pea recipe from Oh She Glows, it’s used on the Kale Caesar Salad recipe. If you are using this recipe as an entree, I would also suggest throwing in some left over meat from the bbq.  I used chicken.

This salad is refreshing,filling and very satisfying.  Even though it is both gluten and dairy free, I think it will be enjoyed by most!



Thinking Twice About What’s in our Supplements

There is a reason supplements are different prices.  Quality matters.  Don’t trust just any brand you find on the shelf.

“What’s in Those Supplements?” by Anahad O’Connor of the New York Times Posted February 3, 2015

The New York State attorney general’s office accused four national retailers on Monday of selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and in many cases contaminated with unlisted ingredients.

The authorities said they had run tests on popular store brands of herbal supplements at the retailers — Walmart, Walgreens, Target and GNC — which showed that roughly four out of five of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels. In many cases, the authorities said, the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies.

At GNC, for example, the agency found that five out of six samples from the company’s signature “Herbal Plus” brand of supplements “were either unrecognizable or a substance other than what they claimed to be.” In pills labeled ginkgo biloba, the agency found only rice, asparagus and spruce, an ornamental plant commonly used for Christmas decorations.

At Target, the agency tested six herbal products from its popular “Up and Up” store brand of supplements. Three out of six – including ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort and valerian root, a sleep aid – tested negative for the herbs listed on their labels. But the agency did find that the pills contained powdered rice, beans, peas and wild carrots.

Here are the products that were analyzed by the attorney general, along with the test results that were described in cease-and-desist letters that the agency sent to the four retailers.

From GNC, Herbal Plus brand:

Gingko Biloba:

  • No gingko biloba found
  • Did detect allium (garlic), rice, spruce and asparagus

St. John’s Wort

  • No St. John’s Wort found
  • Did detect allium (garlic), rice and dracaena (a tropical houseplant)


  • No ginseng found
  • Did detect rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus


  • Contained garlic


  • No echinacea found
  • Did detect rice in some samples

Saw Palmetto

  • One sample contained the clear presence of palmetto
  • Other samples contained a variety of ingredients, including asparagus, rice and primrose

From Target, Up & Up brand

Gingko Biloba

  • No gingko biloba found
  • Found garlic, rice and mung/French bean

St. John’s Wort

  • No St. John’s Wort found
  • Found garlic, rice and dracaena (houseplant)


  • Contained garlic
  • One test identified no DNA


  • Most but not all tests detected Echinacea
  • One test identified rice

Saw Palmetto

  • Most tests detected saw palmetto
  • Some tests found no plant DNA

Valerian Root

  • No valerian root found
  • Found allium, bean, asparagus, pea family, rice, wild carrot and saw palmetto

From Walgreens, Finest Nutrition brand

Gingko Biloba

  • No gingko biloba found
  • Did detect rice

St. John’s Wort

  • No St. John’s Wort found
  • Detected garlic, rice and dracaena


  • No ginseng found
  • Detected garlic and rice


  • No garlic found
  • Detected palm, dracaena, wheat and rice


  • No echinacea found
  • Identified garlic, rice and daisy

Saw Palmetto

  • Contained saw palmetto

From Walmart, Spring Valley brand

Gingko Biloba

  • No gingko biloba found
  • Found rice, dracaena, mustard, wheat and radish

St. John’s Wort

  • No St. John’s Wort found
  • Detected garlic, rice and cassava


  • No ginseng found
  • Found rice, dracaena, pine, wheat/grass and citrus


  • One sample showed small amounts of garlic
  • Found rice, pine, palm, dracaena and wheat


  • No echinacea or plant material found

Saw Palmetto

  • Some samples contained small amounts of saw palmetto
  • Also found garlic and rice

Anti-Aging Nutrients

DNAAs we age, the amount of oxidative stress in our body increases.  Oxidative stress refers to a process in our body that damages cells and affects our DNA.  This occurs when harmful free radicals in our bodies aren’t balanced by protective antioxidants.  Our bodies do not properly detoxify free radicals with this disharmony.  This disruption advances into systemic inflammation.  This inflammation can ultimately lead to chronic, insidious and autoimmune disease.

Free radicals are caused by both external and internal variables. There are many contributing factors to increased free radical production, including:

  • Stress
  • Exercise
  • Air & Water Pollution
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Medications
  • Food & environmental chemicals
  • UV Rays
  • Unhealthy foods

Here are a few vitamins and nutrients that work in different ways to help slow the aging process and decrease oxidative stress:

 Vitamin D: this sunshine vitamin not only plays a huge role in our immune system but is also crucial in both calcium and phosphorus metabolism.  Vitamin D is vital because all of the cells in our body have a Vitamin D receptor.  Deficiencies seen with this vitamin are linked to chronic and autoimmune diseases.  Very few foods naturally contain Vitamin D.  Daily skin exposure to the sun is the best way to get your daily dosage of Vitamin D.  In places such as Canada where that is less feasible year round, supplementing is the next best option.  Vitamin D deficiencies are common with aging.  The best way to determine your Vitamin D levels is through getting tested by your doctor.

 Omega 3: this essential fatty acid protects our DNA and has been proven to help protect against aging on a deep cellular level.  Naturally, Omega 3’s are found highest in fish such as: herring, kipper, mackerel, salmon, sardine and trout.  Omega 3’s contain both eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  The body is not able to produce Omega 3’s so they must be supplemented in the diet.  Studies have shown that Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory, and support both cardiovascular health and brain health.   Your health care practitioner can help you decide which ratio of EPA to DHA is right for you.

 Coenzyme Q10: this powerful antioxidant is a naturally occurring component of almost all of our cells in the body.  CoQ10 plays a major role in energy production and also recycles other antioxidants such as Vitamin C and Viamin E.   Low levels have been shown to contribute to DNA damage and accelerate the aging process.   Some medications like Statins, are known to deplete CoQ10.  There are many different forms of CoQ10 available – so it is recommended you discuss the best one for you with your health care practitioner.

 Vitamin B12: this vitamin plays a very important role in blood formation and cell reproduction.  It is required for DNA synthesis and it is involved in fat and carbohydrate metabolism as well as protein synthesis.  Deficiency is more common in those that do not consume a lot of animal foods or in those that have medications that deplete B12.  It is important to know B12 levels before supplementing with this vitamin, especially because there are different causes as to why B12 may be low.  Deficiencies may lead to mood disturbances, neurological problems, anemia and other symptoms.  Since there are different forms of B12, it is important to discuss with your health care practitioner which kind is best suited for you.

 Magnesium: this wonder nutrient is important for DNA stability, integrity and repair, and helps to fight off oxidative stress and inflammation.  Magnesium is also important for bone structure, protein synthesis, and carbohydrate metabolism.   Did you know that magnesium is required for over 300 different processes in the body?  It is certainly a nutrient that you wouldn’t want to be deficient in, even though many people are!  Magnesium is highest in foods that contain large amounts of fibre, especially from vegetables.  Although often subtle, examples of deficiency can be seen with constipation, anxiety, and muscle cramping.  Because Magnesium has so many roles in the body, symptoms can be seen in almost every organ system. Because most individuals are most likely deficient in Magnesium, it is not essential to get your levels tested.  Focusing on increasing your intake from food is important.  Supplementing with this nutrient may be beneficial if you are familiar with the correct form of Magnesium to take.

 Pycnogenol: an extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, this is an incredible antioxidant that protects DNA from damage by free radicals.  Pycnogenol contributes to vascular integrity, is anti-inflammatory, boosts the immune system, helps to manage blood sugar, lowers blood pressure, enhances athletic performance and also helps to stimulate the mind.  The uses for pycnogenol are limitless!  Because Pycnogenol has so many functions in the body it is crucial to consult a health care practitioner before deciding on a dosage level and a supplement.

 The aging process is straining enough on the body as it is! Slowing down this process helps to keep us at our best, for longer.  These recommendations are intended as a starting point and guide only – it is important to consult a health care practitioner to find which supplements best suit you and your needs.


What to Bring to Your Naturopathic Visit


This blog post was written by my colleague, Talia Marcheggiani, ND.  It really encompasses what you can expect on your first visit to see a Naturopathic Doctor.  To read more of Talia Marcheggiani’s posts, visit her website.

I remember sitting in the walk-in clinic. I’d been waiting for over an hour, not to mention the time lost denying my symptoms, waiting until they got bad enough to warrant the visit in the first place. Finally, it was my turn. I walk into the treatment room, where a thin, middle-aged doctor was seated, her hair short and grey, her eyes encased in dark, baggy skin. She didn’t smile. “How can I help you?” She asked, bored already. I began where I thought the story began, at the beginning. I got a few sentences out before she cut me off. I was surprised; couldn’t she see that all this information was relevant? I didn’t just have fatigue, it was a part of me. It was woven into the fabric of my life; it had a back-story. This doctor needed to know when it began, what my life was like at the time, what I’d tried to do to treat it myself, when it felt better, when it felt worse. I didn’t believe she could treat me without that information. Surely it all mattered.

It didn’t matter to her. I realized at that moment that in her eyes I’d become something less-than-human: a mere symptom. I was just fatigue and fatigue just equalled a series of blood tests. Nothing else about me was relevant. When I left the visit I cried for all the power I’d felt evaporate from me during that visit. I felt hopeless. I hadn’t yet begun my career in healthcare and yet, as a patient I intuitively knew I wouldn’t feel better until I had someone listen to me.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience. Maybe you simply know what naturopathic medicine is and are looking for a second opinion. Perhaps you would like treatment from a specific modality – dietary advice or acupuncture, for instance. Whatever the reason for booking an appointment with a naturopathic doctor, there are some things you might want to bring with you to prepare for your first appointment.

Bring patience: Know that healing, real healing, takes time. Naturopathic medicine, unfortunately, is not a one-visit kind of model. In the first visit we take a thorough patient history – asking detailed questions about your health and your past medical history. First visits can take 1 – 1.5 hours. From there, it can take a naturopathic doctor 1-2 visits before delivering a treatment plan and it can take weeks to months before seeing significant improvements. This doesn’t mean that things aren’t working, it just means that, in the same way it took a while for the symptoms to develop, it takes time to get back to a state of health. For those of you who are used to the listen-for-5-seconds-before-interrupting model, this might seem foreign.

Bring commitment: Healing requires some action on your end. Whether it means taking your supplements every day, being open to changing diet and lifestyle, or committing to a treatment protocol, healing requires some work on behalf of the patient. Naturopathic doctors seek to empower and, with great power comes some responsibility. We want to take the strings of your health out of the hands of puppet masters with white coats and stethoscopes and hand them over to you. You have the power to do more for your own health than any doctor, drug or piece of medical equipment. You might just need someone to show you.

Bring awareness: It’s important to pay attention to your symptoms. This might mean keeping a headache diary for a week or two to see if there is a connection to stress or the food you eat. It might mean bringing along some verbs and adjectives to describe the pain you feel in your back – does it radiate, is it sharp, is it dull? Does it throb? etc. No two people and no two diseases are alike. Therefore, it is useful for your naturopathic doctor to know everything about you and your condition that makes you unique so that he or she can tailor their treatment plan to you, not the name of your disease.

Bring any supplements, medications and past blood work to you visit: Coming to see a naturopathic doctor is similar in some ways to seeing your family physician. We work with conventional medical diagnoses and it’s very important for us to have your complete health history, including what supplements and medications you’re taking (including doses and brands) and, if you have it, recent blood work so that we can see what’s going on inside your body as well.

Bring your questions: Be prepared to make decisions about your health. Naturopathic doctors try to put the power back into your hands. Rather than telling you what to do, we like to give you information so that you are better able to make a decision about what you think is right for you. This means learning about your disease, paying attention to your body and symptoms, making lifestyle changes or taking treatment as prescribed. One of our principles of naturopathic medicine is docere, or “doctor as teacher.” This means our job is to teach you about your body. Knowledge is power and we’re invested in empowering you with your health and well-being.

Bring openness to change: Many people assume that seeing a naturopathic doctor will involve going home with a list of foods that they can no longer eat. However, this is rarely the case. We move at a pace that is right for you, encouraging you and empowering you to make small, relevant changes towards a healthier way of life and feeling better. However, getting better involves change. It involves being willing to let go of your symptoms, evolve your understanding of health and change the way you feel mentally and physically. Chances are you sought out a naturopathic doctor because you realized that you need to change; you want your health to change for the better. And, congratulations, because booking your first appointment is your first step towards that change.