In 2006, I was at my wit’s end.
Six years prior, I had discovered an itchy, pinky-nail-sized bump on the back of my left calf.
Little did I know at the time, that bump would begin to rule my life. It determined the clothing I wore, the material it was made of, the lotions, soaps and shampoos I would or could not use, when, what and where I ate.
I did not know that it would grow to be an amorphous painful, itchy blob larger than the size of the palm of my hand; nor did I know that it would shoot off half sized minions onto my torso, legs and arms. It often felt like I was being eaten alive from the inside out.
During the first 3 years of my condition, I went to all the best medical doctors (MDs) that I could afford all over New York City. I saw dermatologists, gynecologists, gastroenterologists, urologists, you name it.
The actual names given to me for these symptoms were diverse, and varied including but not limited to eczema, psoriasis, interstitial cystitis, hypothyroidism, chronic UTI’s, yeast infections, pre-diabetes and intestinal disorders.
They examined me, took samples and prescribed me some topical cream, that would reduce most of the symptoms most of the time, but inevitably, created new symptoms. The rest of the time, I needed an opposing treatment. The creams did remove the rashes at the places I applied it, but then I would get 2 more spots someplace else.
I eventually nicknamed the ailments symptoms A and symptoms B.
When I was treated for symptom A with drug A, symptoms B came on with a vengeance.
When I was treated for symptom B with drug B, symptoms A came on with a vengeance.
When I tried to bring this pattern to the attention of my MDs, my observations were dismissed. When I mentioned that certain foods seemed to make things better or worse, I was always told that the food could not affect said condition. So I let it go.
I trusted them, and why not?
They had the white coats. They have spent at least 8 years of their lives, learning how to keep people healthy, right?
I began to greatly resent this cycle and I started to pushback. If, after examination, I was prescribed the incorrect medicine I corrected them, and explained why I should have the other stuff.
Eventually, because of their complete inability to help me in any way, but mostly because of their inability to admit that they had no idea what they were working with, I began to lose my faith in MDs. And I stopped going to them except for antibiotic prescriptions. And even that was infrequent, because it was $50 for 2 pills and I had no insurance.
At the time, the medical world was just beginning to discover that psoriasis (and many of the other diseases mentioned above) were neither purely dermatological, nor gynecological conditions. It was slowly being redefined as an auto-immune disease. When the yeast and bacterial infections, that found their home in the open sores of psoriatic lesions were killed, the wounds still didn’t heal.
There was some underlying cause that created the sores. This new theory was that the person’s own immune system, (the one that is supposed to protect it from outside invaders) somehow went haywire and began to attack it’s own cells. How does that happen? Why does that happen?
But more importantly, how do you go about fixing a broken immune system?
Desperate for an alternative, I began to look into home remedies, root tinctures, colonics and acupuncture. While some of the alternative health practitioners I met with had good intentions, they had no better results than the MDs; but I did notice that they never made anything worse. Eventually some of them even admitted they were stumped. I appreciated their honesty.
I scoured the internet and, finally, encountered two women who changed my life for the better, forever.
Lets call them lady A and lady B.
Lady B said that she cured her long list of symptoms, (pretty much identical to mine) by contacting a doctor in a midwestern city. She also gave a detailed outline of what she did to recover, down to the details of the diet, and the supplements she took. She said, that after suffering for 15 years, that she has been completely symptom free that for the past 5 years. The diet she recommended, could easily be classified as a stricter cousin of Paleo, with probiotics and some yeast killers made from castor oil beans.
But I was skeptical. All of my drama ended, with an elimination diet, and some castor oil? It could’t be that simple!
Lady A had a very similar symptom profile and went the 100% medical route. She said that her various medical doctors never could find the cause of her bladder pain, but were convinced that if she did not have a bladder, then it could not hurt, so they recommended a Cystectomy (removal of her bladder) to alleviate her bladder pain.
The sad truth is that even with no bladder, she still had pain. Only now, she has to walk around with a bag to collect her own urine outside of her body at all times. She couldn’t work. She could not have children and after 5 year of this her fiance left her. She didn’t know what was going to happen to her or how much longer she would live. Her advice was, “do what ever you do, but DON’T do this. Don’t let them start taking your organs out willy-nilly”. She posted her story online because she wanted to save other women from going through what she went through.
So of course, I was on the phone calling that doctor that Lady B recommended, ASAP!
Lady B did say that she tried to do it on her own but was unable to get lasting results until she went to the doctor in person, lived there for a month and was able to have the support of this doctor.
That was good for her, but I was a “tough woman”. Also in my 20’s I could not afford to take off my job for a month to live in the middle of nowhere to have this royal treatment.
I got a sliding scale phone consult for $50, and he told me the same things her post said. He said to “let food be my medicine, and that with the right tools and ingredients, the body heals itself”.
It was so revolutionary, but it resonated with me. The truth that had eluded me for all of these years. Healing. Not suppression, not fighting biological warfare in my own body. I wanted peace, and for my immune system to be on MY side again fighting the right battle, not fighting me.
I bought the supplements (another $50). I had the list of foods, and I was off and running.
But while the protocol may have been simple, it was not easy!
With all the will in the world, I could not get past 3 days of this 60 day thing!
I felt better on the days I was able to stick to it, but I always caved on the 3 day mark.
I wished that I was able to have more doctors like this man, but close to home. Why couldn’t there be more doctors like him everywhere?
I did the best I could for the next few years, until I got a better job with lots of paid time off and I married a man with great health insurance.
For a while I went to see a highly rated dermatologist. But stopped when I discovered the medication she gave me was not FDA approved.
Then I remembered the Midwestern doctor again. In a few months, I would have enough time saved up to go see him for a week or two of my vacation, and take care of this cross once and for all.
When I dug out the invoice for the phone consultation that I did with him, I noticed something that I had missed years before. At the end of his name instead of having the initials M.D. his said N.D. So I Googled ND and I found:
Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment.
It turns out that:
A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.
Bingo. A Naturopathic Doctor was exactly what I needed and wanted all of this time. No wonder his whole way of operating was so different! There was a whole special profession of physicians who dedicate themselves to removing health barriers and helping your body heal itself.
So I looked for an naturopathic doctor in my area and turns out there was an ND/LAc (Acupuncturist) fifteen blocks from my job!
I went in we talked. A lot. The first time we met we spoke for almost 2 hours! After she listened thoroughly she examined me and she took some blood tests. A week later she had a bag of supplements, a list of foods to avoid, and another list of foods to eat, and some cream that she said does nothing for the healing, but to use it in case the itching became unbearable. This list was many times easier than the other diet, but still very difficult to do. In about two weeks of this easier diet, most of my plaques stopped itching, and half of my more minor plaques faded away. By the third week, my original huge plaque started to shrink.
The only way I stayed motivated enough to keep up the food restrictions was that I saw the plaques fading. Most of them ceased to itch – unless I ate something that was not allowed – talk about motivation!
I felt other symptoms subside, but I had never gotten far enough on the other diet to see my skin begin to clear up. I went to her every week for acupuncture and sometimes I needed additional supplements.
Six months into my new regimen, my original plaque (the hand sized one that I had on my left calf for 6 years) was completely gone. It had never completely disappeared, no matter what any medical doctor had ever given me.
I went to her for weekly treatment for twelve months and I continued with bi-weekly treatments for another six months.
I still eat 80% of the food I learned to eat during my cleansing diets.
Most of all I go months without taking supplements. Honestly, I feel better with them but it’s not like the drugs where I *need* them to live.
I’m always looking for new foods to get the same nutrients as I get from supplements so I quit taking certain supplements and add new foods to see if I feel the same.
I eat wheat and dairy whenever I want (which isn’t very often), and I don’t itch. Occasionally I get a whisp of flaky skin here or there, but it’s usually after several weeks in a row of being stressed or eating especially poorly.
The biggest gift of all, is that I use most of the techniques that I learned with her with my family and friends to help them with the minor illnesses that life brings.
While I often thank God for my ND for “bringing me back the quality of my life”, I know that if someone were to need stitches, a broken bone reset, or a diastasis recti repaired an MD or a board certified surgeon is the way to go.
So my family has dedicated medical and naturopathic doctors!
We’ve since moved a couple of times, so I have gotten to work with a few naturopathic doctors all over the country. Obviously, in any profession some doctors are better than others, but what I can say is, even if a particular naturopathic physician doesn’t help you get all the way better, unlike with MDs I’ve never heard of one of them making you worse.
It’s hard to get worse eating healthier food for you, and prescribing you specific vitamins based on your own blood test results.
They take the hippocratic oath “First do no harm” very seriously.
Of course wouldn’t you know it, in some states like Florida and New York naturopathy is not licensed. In states like, Connecticut, Washington and Arizona, you can elect to have a naturopath as your primary physician and your insurance company will pay for it. You can see if your state has licensing laws for naturopathic physicians.
Despite the fact that true naturopaths go to fully accredited institutions, and go through all of that schooling, it is the individual states that grant licenses. So if you live in a state where they don’t grant licenses, they would be practicing without a license. Some do practice anyway hoping the law keeps up with them, like it did with Acupunture and Chiropractic. Some ND’s understandably avoid states that are especially hostile.
Sadly enough in the states without a license anyone can say they practice “natural medicine”, so this is where checking out their credentials (as with all doctors) is key. There are 8 naturopathic medical universities in the US and Canada.
Each discipline has its strengths and weaknesses but its up to us to use our discernment to use the right tool for the job at hand.
How can we even begin to know the right profession for our health concern, if we don’t even know that they exist?
Is it time for you to find a naturopathic doctor near you for your family?
Shaniqua is a stay-at-home mom living in a small Northern California town with her husband and three-year-old son. She is the chapter leader of the Morgan Hill Chapter of the Holistic Moms Network, through which she hosts playdates and holistic cook-ins.
In her “kitchen-turned-laboratory”, Shaniqua explores the benefits of raw butter, raw cow milk and goat milk products, gluten-free and grain-free cooking, pastured meats, organ meats, and home-fermented foods. You may find her on her blog Kinky Grass Roots.