When it comes to living our healthiest lives, sometimes we need to look to nature.
LET’S FACE IT: We live in a pretty toxic world. Whether by way of processed food, bad air, pharmaceuticals or any combination of those, many of us are consistently (and often inadvertently) putting crap into our system. And while “detox” and “cleanse” have certainly become buzzwords and quick fixes of the moment, adapting to a holistic or naturopathic approach for overall health isn’t as daunting as one might assume.
Naturopathy is a field of natural preventive medicine utilizing an educational and holistic approach to sustain, stimulate and strengthen overall health, improve quality of life and promote self-healing through natural means. In naturopathy, the emphasis is on supporting health rather than combating disease.
Naturopathic medicine as we know it has been around for more than 100 years, having been popularized in North America by a German, Benedict Lust. But the roots of naturopathy are in ancient Greece, where its founding principles were formulated, principles that include recognizing the healing power of nature, identifying and treating the causes of illness, and utilizing methods and treatments that minimize the risk of side effects. It also adds the concept of holism, from the Greek word “holos,” the whole: It is a “holistic” medicine that aims to treat a person in their entirety—body, mind, emotions and spiritual state. Naturopathy follows this idea that the individual is an inseparable whole, that the mind and body are inextricably linked.
We often think of illness as being rooted in bad dietary habits, and it often is—too much sugar, oily foods, gluten, not enough vitamins and mineral salts. But illness can often be explained by the production of toxins generated by and as a result of coping with our modern world. Beauty products can poison the skin; pollution and tobacco can intoxicate the lungs; alcohol, caffeine, sugar, food additives and drugs can damage the liver and intestines; salt, medications or an excessive meat intake can hurt the kidneys; stress, a sedentary lifestyle and pollution by heavy metals poison the whole body.
Simply put, we’ve never lived in a more toxic environment than we do in the present day. But detoxifying the body is a legitimate path to a higher consciousness.
Naturopathy attempts to purify a person of disease-causing toxins. From excessive weight to sleeping disorders, naturopathic treatments can address multiple issues, including stress, fatigue, anxiety, depression, digestive or circulation problems, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies, eczema, painful joints and decreased immunity. But did you know holistic medicine can address problems tied to aging as well? Rheumatism, loss of memory and sight and even sexual dysfunction can be tackled with the right naturopathic practices.
So how does one adapt a holistic or naturopathic lifestyle? The different techniques used are detoxification (herbal cleanse, mono-diet and fasting), revitalization and stabilization treatments. Together, these will allow patients to decrease or eliminate the production of toxins, counter nutritional deficiencies and stay healthy.
Detoxification treatment: The purpose of a cleanse is to detoxify and revitalize your body by eliminating accumulated toxins. With the guidance of a naturopathic practitioner, your detox may include some specific herbal remedies (mostly in the form of teas), a mono-diet (eating only a single food over a certain period) or even fasting. Detoxing can last anywhere from a few days to three weeks, depending on your needs and your health. Optimal timing for a cleanse might be at the seasonal changes (especially spring and fall), after too heavy a meal or too many drinks at a party (a quick detox) or during the holiday season.
Revitalization treatment: After detoxification, your body will need a reconstruction period to activate, nourish and strengthen the natural defenses necessary for self-healing. This will include recommendations for a specific diet and any food supplements or even a change in lifestyle.
Stabilization treatment: In order to maintain your new level of health, you’ll have to adhere to preventive treatment to counter nutritional deficiencies and to establish a new, healthy lifestyle.
As you can see in these three areas, the practice of naturopathy is highly individualized. During a consultation with a naturopath specialist, he or she will determine your vitality, overabundances and deficiencies and analyze your diet, lifestyle (physical activity, stress management, relaxation, contact with nature), temperament, family health history, as well as your medical, psychological and emotional history to assess your overall state of health. Natural and alternative medicine recommendations will be personalized for you and could include everything from diet adjustments to the use of nutritherapy (organic and natural dietary supplements), phytotherapy (medicinal plants), aromatherapy (essential oils) and oligotherapy (trace elements) for better wellness.
The purpose of naturopathy is to lead you to a healthier lifestyle—regardless of your age and without replacing your regular medical care—to maintain or restore your health as well as improve the aging process. Over the years, individual lifestyle will have as much of an influence in the development of certain diseases as family or personal medical history, yet too few people practice preventive medicine and wait to get sick before taking treatment. Naturopathy simply tries to change the dynamic.
Gilles Compain is a french certified naturopath and a holistic practitioner based in Paris, and a personal counselor and professional consultant for various luxury spas. Gilles also collaborated on Anti-Aging Gymnastics For Senior Citizens, a book focusing on natural anti-aging techniques. For more information, check out his website at www.gillescompain.com or his Facebook page, where he attempts to raise visitor’s health awareness—in both French and English.