Naturopathy is a broad term used to describe a multi-disciplinary approach to illness and health. Its practitioners have expertise in a variety of medical therapies, and follow many of the same principles as the Eastern approach to medicine. Ayurvedic, Chinese, Tibetan and other Eastern philosophies of medicine all share a view of life and health that looks at the whole person rather than at just the symptoms. Naturopathy is the Western equivalent, in which a fundamental idea is that the body has the power to heal itself through its Vital force’, and that illness is a reaction to disharmony and imbalance in the body.

The aim of naturopathy is to help the body to regain health by restoring its natural balance rather than by addressing specific symptoms. Indeed, modern research confirms the naturopath’s belief that many symptoms such as fever and inflammation do have a healing function. The naturopath teaches the patient how to help to boost the body’s own defences, mainly through giving advice on lifestyle adjustments and diet. A healthy wholefood diet, fresh air, an unpolluted environment, exercise, adequate rest and sleep, a reduction in stress and a positive mental attitude will all strengthen the body’s immune system and enhance its self-healing abilities.

Naturopaths see themselves as teachers as much as healers, believing that everyone should take personal responsibility for their own health. The body will heal itself and fight off invading organisms when its homeostatic balance is reinstated. The methods used to do this emphasize good nutrition with vitamin supplements, exercise, bodywork, relaxation and breathing techniques, all of which work with nature rather than against it. Natural medicines are also used in naturopathy. Theoretically, a homeopath who spends time on adjusting the lifestyle of an individual is practising naturopathy. Naturopaths have training in some form of bodywork, usually osteopathy in this country. Fasting, massage and hydrotherapy are also important features of naturopathic therapy.

Most health problems, acute or chronic, may be treated by naturopathy and many research studies have shown that naturopathic methods are an effective alternative to conventional medical treatment. The therapeutic value of a healthy lifestyle, a vital part of the naturopathic philosophy, is now being confirmed by modern research and is widely accepted.