On Naturopathy and Psychiatry

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Naturopathy, Homeopathy

I am growing intolerant.

Many of my patients over the years have attended Naturopaths. And I assume that for every 10 who confess this, the number must be closer to 20 or 30 for the 10 usually confess with a sheepish grin. I seldom react save for a slight smile and nod for it is usually a harmless event and most Naturopaths, I am pretty sure, do not recommend that their patients stop actual medical treatment.

One mother came back with the story that the Naturopath had studied the blood of her three sons under a microscope and found all three samples revealed high concentrations of parasites. I began to react but first asked what she had recommended. A good diet and lots of exercise was the prescription, so I let it pass. How long would it take to explain that if, indeed, her children did have parasites in their blood we should be heading to the emergency of the nearest hospital as quickly as possible.

Another told me his Naturopath had put him on Lithium. Now, if that were true I should monitor his serum lithium levels, his kidney and thyroid function. But I didn’t. Because I assumed if there was some actual lithium in the concoction he was given it was miniscule, less than might be found in a pistachio nut, or, in fact, embodied that other silliness of naturopathy and homeopathy: some distilled or diluted water that had fond memories of a lithium salt that once resided in it.

So naturopathy and homeopathy are mostly harmless. And it was a logical approach to some dis-ease in the early 19th century, based then on two extrapolations: 1. We thought a few dis-eases might be caused by deficiencies in diets so perhaps all dis-eases are caused by deficiencies. 2. We had no idea what those deficiencies might be so let us give each patient a concoction comprised of small amounts of many things and let his or her body choose which it needs. Not a bad idea at the time. Especially at a time when barber-surgeons and physicians were experimenting with drugs and procedures that could do more harm than good.

But we are no longer in the 19th century, and we know a little more about human and animal physiology now. And we can test for deficiencies if they are suspected. And we now know those deficiencies can occur from an absence in diet, or a genetic or acquired inability to absorb and use a particular vitamin, protein, amino acid, or mineral. And we know that a true deficiency leads to a specific clinical condition.

I forced myself to read an “award-winning” article by Jonathan E. Prousky from the Townsend Letter which purports to be the Examiner of alternative medicine. He starts by presenting two cases (fictional compilations he admits), and then proceeds to slander most medical care and all psychiatric care (with the exception of brief interventions for psychosis). In fact he lists psychiatric treatment and the “mental health system” as “oppressors causing a negative load on the allostatic system”. (meaning they are bad for you)

But then he goes on to list the alternatives that will make you well again and keep you well. They are:

  • Exercise
  • Good diet
  • Connecting with Nature (a walk in the woods)
  • Limiting computer/TV/video gaming time.
  • Religious involvement, or at least paying attention to this
  • Regular adequate sleep
  • And finally, supplements of vitamins and Omega 3

My mother would have agreed in the mid 20th century. Though she insisted on fruit and vegetables for Vit C and A, meat and beans for the B vitamins and iron, milk for calcium, playing outside for Vitamin D, a little extra D through the winter, and Cod Liver Oil for brain development. She would also talk of balance, a good nights sleep, and moderation in all things.

We medical doctors spend a lot of time reviewing exercise, diet, finding a balance in life, limiting gaming and virtual reality, seeking comfort and solace in nature (or vacations, dancing, music, art, work, hobbies, relationships, helping others) finding a way of accepting the realities of life and living with the unknowns, getting a good night’s sleep, eating breakfast, and taking Vit D and Omega 3.

All good advice providing that we don’t overdose on vitamin supplements, for excessive quantities can do damage.

But not as a replacement for medical or psychiatric treatment for illness. Not as a replacement for vaccination. Not as a replacement for real blood tests, scans, medical examinations and investigations, treatment with antibiotics, treatment with modern medicines, medical treatment for depression, severe anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar illness. Not as a replacement or “alternative” for science.

The nonsense of naturopathy and homeopathy is not harmless when it convinces people to ignore or forgo real medical prevention and treatment for themselves and their children.

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7 thoughts on “On Naturopathy and Psychiatry

  1. Thank you for this. Naturopathy and homeopathy has gone beyond harmless if it often interferes with essential medical intervention. It beats me as to why faculties of medicine and the CMA OMA do not go after the nonsense . If one has little wrong then probably it is not going to kill one but if one has something serious that needs the best available treatment then it buts in where angels fear to tread . But homeopaths and naturopaths do. They now seem an accepted part of the healthcare system. Stuff and nonsense . And they are getting away with it. I could go on but my patience has left me. they are hustling for business everywhere.

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  2. ive had good experience with naturopaths. one at a county clinic helped me diagnose my hep c and sent me to real med, not snake oil. great woman. I won’t talk with any one who mentions homeopathy. However, my (personal and family evidence says: proven and never says it has been disproven) experience with Traditional Chinese Medicine for dx and rx is all on my own dime. which infuriates me. when someone looks, and tells me to say nothing, and then replicates the dx of an allopath, and mentions my (other) symptoms (blood in urine)….. there is something beyond blind luck operating.

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  3. This discussion brings to mind a recent event in the family support group which I attend. A mom was reporting on her success in finding a psychiatrist who actually listens to families as well as listening to the patient and how her son’s condition has greatly improved accordingly. She went on to describe how the psychiatrist after prescribing an antipsychotic drug had also recommended vitamin D and another vitamin which I did not pick up. This remark elicited a chorus of approval from the other participants and a vigorous discussion about the benefits of Naturopathy ensued. I was struck by how much enthusiasm there was for this topic. All of the participants are successful professionals or retired professionals.All have been the recipients of post secondary education. These people are not exactly dumb. So what was the reasons for the enthusiasm? Perhaps an answer can be found in listening to this mom’ s journey. For years her son had struggled with addiction and suspecting that there might be an underlying illness, this mom set off to get appropriate help. In her search she had encountered a physician who was clearly uncomfortable with patients who have mental illness and behaved in a very rude manner toward her and later a psychiatrist who would not talk to her or her husband when they accompanied their son to the appointment. But through persistence, and later the guidance of a kind and experienced psychiatrist, she did find the right psychiatrist for her son. The point that I would like to make is that there are too few psychiatrists who take the time to listen to families. And when you find them, they are like gold. Could not this enthusiasm about Naturopathy, also be interpreted as a reaction to current all too frequent custom of psychiatrists to see the patient for a brief 15 minutes, write the prescription, and not even ask the patient if his/her family can be consulted. Perhaps Naturopaths spend more time with the patient.

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  4. The recent news of a mother and dad who allowed their little child to die slowly because they believed natural remedies could save her. A real danger of naturopathy.

    We must find a way to protect children from this dangerous environment by insisting on medical doctors involvement with the such families. We can’t call on parent’s rights as an excuse to allow children to die in their care.

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