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Comprising Western herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, homeopathy, and sometimes massage, naturopathy offers the most holistic treatment available, writes Kat Blyth.

Naturopathy addresses the source of the illness, assessing imbalances in body systems and uncovering pathology, pathophysiology, and lifestyle factors that cause pain, inflammation and biochemical imbalances. “Dis-ease” is traditionally thought of as the body being at ill ease, and the naturopath determines the cause and rectifies the condition to return the body to balance. Assessment techniques used to identify causative factors and treatment may involve nutritional advice, dietary changes, herbal medicines, homeopathy, bodywork or nutritional supplements. The practitioner may not use all these therapies, but will have a range in which they specialise.

Naturopaths address chronic health conditions, referring to other practitioners as needed. Naturopathy can help the following: Improve immune resilience (colds, flu, viral illness); menstrual conditions (irregular, heavy bleeding, lack of bleeding, fertility preparation); skin conditions (inflammatory and skin ailments); bowel disorders (diarrhoea, constipation, IBS, inflammatory bowel conditions); fatigue (post-viral and low-energy conditions); low mood and mild anxiety (related to adaptation to stress and tension); difficulty breathing (nasal, sinus, bronchial, throat conditions); joints (tendon and muscle pain, overuse and inflammatory conditions); paediatric and geriatric health (adaptation to stress, sleep issues, immune health); blood glucose disorders (balance and assist blood glucose function); nutritional support for conception and healthy pregnancy; childhood conditions (cradle cap, indigestion, skin conditions); assistance in weight regulation and dietary advice; regulation of sleep patterns; improve gastrointestinal pain and spasm.

Minimum qualification

“The minimum requirement is a Bachelor degree, as deemed by the industry, national educational standards, and the health funds,” says Teresa Mitchell-Paterson, Senior Lecturer, Bachelor of Health Sciences, Australian College of Natural Therapies (www.acnt.edu.au). “As naturopathy consists of three separate modalities, a student must have a keen interest in all three. Because the qualification is a Bachelor of Health Science, it does have a large proportion of background science subjects, which enhance understanding of each modality.”

“Some students may not have studied for many years and may find academic writing a little challenging. For this reason, it’s important to choose a college that supports students through their first year with one-on-one, online and group support,” she advises. How should students prepare themselves for life as a practitioner? “First, and I cannot stress this enough: come to class! Students can opt to study from home, but the wealth of knowledge brought to the course by the practitioner lecturers is exceptional and clinically valuable. A good college will support and assist students with the business skills, soft skills and technology needed to practice. Additional social media training can be valuable.” What qualities make a good naturopath? “A naturopath first and foremost must be analytical and empathetic: these are the two most important traits. If you’re not a people person you would be better suited to research degrees. Naturopathy is very much a practice based on valuing the diversity of health conditions in each person and working with that person individually to help them achieve a healthy outcome.”

For more information: NHAA (http://www.nhaa.org.au), A.N.P.A. (http://anpa.asn.au), ATMS (http://www.atms.com.au/naturopathy).