The doctor of the future will give no medicine but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease. Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931)
Treat the Cause is one of the six principles of naturopathic medicine.
Identify and Treat the Causes (tolle causam)
In order to treat the causes of symptoms, it is important to understand not only the physiology and pathology for each person, but to understand the emotional states and how a person thinks about health and disease. Health and disease are logical outcomes based on the number of factors that influence health including a person’s genetics, lifestyle, social, environment and external factors. The aim of a naturopathic assessment is to determine the specific trigger, event, environment factor or behaviour that initiated the disruption and that needs to be addressed.
The body naturally compensates whenever the internal functioning is overwhelmed. This compensation shows up as symptoms and as a disruption to health. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. The body is complex and yet logical. It displays symptoms that correspond - provide a road map - to the root cause. For example, when a patient falls, their injuries correspond to how they fell and how they compensated.
There are times when the physical manifestation of the symptoms and their corresponding root cause indicate a direct correlation and other times the correlation is not as clear. Often when a patient is recalling their history they will use somatic metaphors to describe their symptoms or they intuitively link symptoms with events. For example, a patient recalls that their palms get sweaty and their heart races every time they have to speak to a certain person or speak in public. The primary issue that needs to be addressed is the anxiety associated with the event, not just the sweaty palms and the racing heart.
Steps Taken To Identify the Cause
Both standard and non-conventional methods of diagnosis may be used by the naturopathic physician to find the cause.
- A detailed history
- information relating to diet, emotional state, exercise and other lifestyle factors
- information related to environmental exposure and unique environmental conditions associated with where you have lived
- history of previous accidents, injuries, medical procedures, etc.
- An extensive physical examination may be performed using standard diagnostic instruments and laboratory tests as required, such as X-ray examinations and/or scans, gynaecological exams, blood tests, urine analysis, allergy testing, etc. Referral to a medical doctor may be required for some of these tests, depending on the scope of practice of the naturopathic doctor in each jurisdiction
Identifying the root cause of disease and the aggravating factors is an essential aspect of health care. Nowadays there are just more factors. An assessment needs to be more thorough. As part of the therapeutic encounter, a naturopathic doctor needs to explore a much greater number of factors as health is improved by reducing the number of factors that strain the body and interfere with its normal functioning and ability to heal. Naturopathic treatment involves teaching patients that a return to a more simple and health promoting lifestyle often is the best medicine for them.
Identifying and treating the root cause of dis-ease does not imply a linear causality between events in a person’s life and disease. Human beings are a complex, dynamic and integrated system and it is the accumulation of multiple factors that contribute to health and disease. A specific event might be the primary trigger that initiated or amplified a series of symptoms, but a person's overall state of health, their adherence to lifestyle factors that are suited to their constitution, the impact of environmental factors, the support of family and community etc, all play a role in their ability to handle disrupting factors. The impact of any single event, at any point in time, depends on a number of other factors. The complex workings of the body follows the concept of mutual causality and recognizes that the impact of any specific event is contextual and individual.