Unfortunately the natural health industry has gained a bit of a bad name lately with so-called ‘quacks’ making some unforgivable errors. The biggest problem with the media hype, out of context stories, uneducated opinion writers and the fast social media ‘shares’ that follow, is that they miss one BIG point.
ALL of these ‘quacks’ who’ve come under fire were not creditable natural health practitioners.
Currently, Australia has no legal regulations in place to fine self-claimed naturopaths who do not hold a degree. This means anyone could do a quick online course, or worse still, nothing at all, and claim to be a ‘naturopath’.
A real naturopath holds a Bachelor of Health Science degree, which is four years full-time; a nation-wide accredited course. Or, a two year diploma course with many holding a further master’s degree, which is now even being fased out (the diploma) to soon only be available as the Bachelor degree.
The study is serious
We study science-heavy subjects including pathology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, medicinal food sciences, nutritional biochemistry, psychology (that’s just in my first two years of study), as well as all the associated herbal medicine subjects in evidence-based and traditional herbal medicine groundings.
Our lecturers are highly educated like any other uni lecturer
For example one of my lecturers, also a naturopath, holds a PhD in human nutrition, is currently studying her masters in psychology and also studies law. Another one of my lecturers comes from a family line of doctors, in whom she highly respects. Some may also be from outside of a natural health modality such as microbiologists, lab scientists or psychologists.
It’s almost always out of context
We most certainly are not all ‘anti-vaccine’, ‘anti-doctors’, conspiracy theorists against ‘big pharma’ or all that other media hype that gets spun on the daily. (However, some points raised circulating these issues have their place and must not be completely discounted without further enquiry.)
In fact, with the growing movement and popularity with natural health, as well as thousands of positive scientific studies showing promising results in herbal medicine and phytochemistry, a collaborative approach between naturopaths and doctors is growing. Many doctors are now taking further studies to become ‘Integrated GPs’, Medicine degrees are now including education in herbal medicine, and the term ‘alternative’ is no longer used, rather now more accepted is ‘complementary’ or ‘integrative’.
It’s never going to be ‘rainbows and butterflies’
Sure, you’re going to get some qualified naturopaths and nutritionists that have made large pseudo-claims or have done something dodgy. But don’t forget same goes to every other industry.
And not just doctors… also police, teachers, nurses, accountants, journalists, taxi drivers etc. Ninety-nine per cent of them are good at what they do, but there’s always going to be someone who did something dodgy or put someone’s life at risk. It’s just the way the world is (even though it shouldn’t be).
Let’s not forget Dr Patel, or The News of The World phone tapping scandal. Does this make them all dodgy? No. I was a journalist for three and a half years and didn’t come across anything remotely close to that.
I think there are three key problems
One, is that it’s hardly the natural health practitioners or doctors who are causing the debates. It’s the people in between that get caught up in the controversy and spread the wrong message.
Two, is that there is a gross belief that naturopaths are trying to replace doctors or vice versa. While we do have different treatments for many of the same conditions , there are many things that the doctor can do that we can’t, and many things naturopaths and nutritionists can do that they don’t. We need both, and it’s another good reason why integrative clinics are becoming more popular.
Three, our web is awash with ‘wellness’ blogs (I almost cringe writing that word now) that appear to represent the natural health industry. When in reality anyone can create a website and write what they like. I’ve made my own mistakes and learnt some lessons along the way. We’re only human.
Furthermore, health beliefs vary greatly across countries so what one doctor or naturopath is taught in Australia, may be different to that of say America or India.
And what happened to taking your own responsibility?
It’s one thing to accuse the facts you found online that stated ‘this product’ will cure cancer. But it’s another thing to not be taking responsibility for your own welfare and taking that risk in the first place.
Just keep those accusatory and highly offensive words to yourself
In this world, we’re never all going to agree on one thing. But one thing that really does need to stop is the highly offensive words such as ‘charlatans’ and ‘quacks’. These kinds of words suggest someone is simply in their industry to make money, lie to their patients, and purposely ‘make up’ health claims to fool everyone. I’m not saying these people don’t exist, but we certainly don’t fall under that banner.
Now, I’ve had my own dilemmas trying to understand religious beliefs, or some healing modalities not based within science or my own beliefs. But even still, they seem to work for the person being healed and the healer genuinely feels they are helping their patients. If it’s harmless, then their beliefs shouldn’t concern us (again, something I had to work on getting over myself).
Let’s take this industry seriously
Now all that’s left to bridge the gap and wipe out the negativity is for Australia to create a recognised registry for qualified naturopaths and wipe out the fakes.
If you’re curious about naturopaths or not quite sold due to negative media, why not seek out one who’s qualified in your area and make an appointment. You might be surprised what they do and how they can help. The main thing is that we have no right to pass judgement if we haven’t even tried it first or don’t understand it properly.
If you’re in a main city, check out Endeavour College’s Well Nation clinics, which is an affordable option taken by final year students and a qualified supervising practitioner.