Your body is constantly communicating with you. When something’s wrong or out of balance, you'll know it.
Sometimes it’s subtle, like a stomach ache after eating too quickly. But other times, it’s a bigger issue like severe digestive problems or physical pain.
Dealing with long-term health problems can take a toll on your overall well-being. Sure, there are ways to mask your symptoms, but that’s only half of the problem. Taking Gravol for bloating might reduce your discomfort temporarily, but it’s not a sustainable solution for life.
This is where the magic of naturopathic medicine comes in!
When you visit a Naturopathic Doctor, you can gain a deeper understanding of the signals your body might be trying to give you. Then, they’ll come up with an individualized treatment plan to help you heal from the inside out. Before we jump into the details about naturopathic care, let’s start off with the basics.
What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is an effective form of healthcare that can address many common health problems. It aims to view each person as a whole and address any imbalances in the body.
This is primarily achieved through strategic diet and lifestyle changes, testing, and data. For Dr. Saira Kassam, our Naturopathic Doctor, these are integral components of her care approach.
“It’s about seeing where the patient is at, what their bloodwork is telling us, looking at symptoms and creating a treatment plan based on their specific concerns and the data we come up with.”
So don’t rely on “Dr. Google” to diagnose your symptoms right away–consider the natural route, too! A Naturopathic Doctor will help you skip any of the guesswork and give you real, concrete data about the issues you’re dealing with.
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
A Naturopathic Doctor is a healthcare provider who specializes in the field of naturopathic medicine. They must complete an undergraduate university degree followed by a four-year graduate degree from an accredited naturopathic medicine program. Dr. Kassam completed hers at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Toronto.
Naturopathic doctors work one-on-one with patients to gain a deeper understanding of their symptoms and issues. Whether you’re having trouble with your sleep, diet, or physical health, an experienced ND can play a valuable role in your care approach.
Here are seven common health problems a naturopathic doctor can treat.
Cramping, bloating, IBS, gas... digestive problems can come in a variety of forms. Collectively, they’re some of the most common health issues Saira sees. But what does treatment look like from a naturopathic point of view?
“First and foremost, we address diet and nutrition,” she says.
Saira does this by asking targeted questions to find the underlying causes. Are you eating enough fibre? Is your diet high in processed carbohydrates? Have you recently travelled, or been on antibiotics?
Questions like these help her understand your unique situation. She will then make diet and nutrition recommendations for you to follow for a period of weeks. You’ll return for a follow-up appointment where she’ll assess how effective these changes were in helping your symptoms.
“If that doesn’t work, I move onto deeper testing. For digestive issues, I start with the GI Map stool test. It’s a comprehensive DNA-based test that tells us a lot about what’s happening in the gut.”
Some examples of gut problems this test can identify include parasites, viral pathogens, fungi or yeast overgrowth, and inflammation. This will give Saira a deeper understanding of your gut microbiome so she can adjust your treatment plan accordingly.
“I might suggest things like a natural antimicrobial, lifestyle management, or supplements. I usually like to do plans for about 6 weeks. Then we can change it up if we’re not seeing any movement in the direction we want to go.”
Another option she might recommend is a food sensitivity test. It's a blood test that determines your sensitivity to approximately 300 different foods.
You would remove those sensitivities from your diet for 3 months before bringing them back in. In many cases, a food sensitivity can be the direct cause of your digestive symptoms. By visiting an ND, you can finally understand and treat the why behind your unhappy gut.
Another health problem a Naturopathic Doctor can treat is chronic fatigue. Surprisingly, diet can play a role here, too.
If you don’t eat a balanced diet, you might not get enough protein or good fats. The same applies to vitamins, phytonutrients and antioxidants. These are essential for your energy levels and immunity. Eating a lot of processed foods can also contribute. Many of them can spike your blood sugar.
“The constant up and down of blood sugar can have a huge impact on energy levels,” Saira says.
There are also other health conditions that can cause fatigue. “It could be an under-functioning thyroid, iron deficiency or anaemia, digestive issues, Vitamin B-12 deficiency, Vitamin D deficiency, or hormonal imbalance”, she explains.
The best way to detect these is through blood and urine testing. Another option is a full thyroid panel. It looks at your TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), Free T-3 (triiodothyronine), Free T-4 (thyroxine) and your antibodies.
“Doing that full panel is very important to rule out thyroid issues. Once we find out why you’re having fatigue and what’s the cause, we can really target our treatment.”
Next up is insomnia, which many of our patients experience. Poor quality sleep is a tough one because it can trickle into other areas of your life.
Saira always asks about when insomnia started and what stage the patient is at. Treatment would look different for an older woman who’s menopausal vs. a young woman dealing with high-stress levels, for example.
The first step? Ruling out nutrient deficiencies. She may also test for thyroid issues and blood sugar imbalances. “If blood sugar goes low, your body will use cortisol to make it rise which will increase insulin,” she says.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone. This depicts why the two are strongly linked. “If we’re not looking at sleep and stress, we’re not really fixing insomnia,” she adds.
When it comes to treatment, sleep hygiene is key. Stick to a schedule with regular sleep and wake cycles. Shutting off 50% of the lights in your home an hour before bed can also help.
Make sure the environment and temperature in your home are ideal. You should also incorporate a nighttime routine. “These small changes, if people are consistent with them, can go a really long way in both initiating sleep and maintaining sleep.”
Regular acupuncture treatments can also help insomnia. Certain points in the body can instil calmness. Botanical herbs or hormone replacement therapy can be effective options, too. When it comes to sleeping better, a Naturopathic Doctor can give you the tools and resources you need.
Our fourth health problem is experienced by young people and adults alike: acne. There are many different things that can cause it, which often makes treatment especially difficult to navigate.
While many people focus on treating blemishes from the outside, naturopathic medicine addresses the root cause.
“The cause of acne can be related to hormones, bacteria, medications, and genetics,” Saira explains. “Or from excess estrogen, insulin resistance, androgen excess, liver congestion, food sensitivities, or gut imbalance.”
Once again, testing can be an effective way to narrow down this list and determine what’s happening beneath the surface. Once Saira has identified the root cause of your acne, she’ll make targeted recommendations to help improve your skin.
Glycolic acid, exfoliating, and proper skin hygiene are good places to start. Addressing your diet can also play a big role. A lot of people are unaware that a diet high in sugar and processed foods can alter their microbiome. This can contribute to insulin resistance, which can keep the cycle of acne repeating.
Regardless of your age, acne is a challenging problem to deal with. If you’re tired of testing anti-acne products from the store and having no luck, consider a naturopathic approach instead.
Acne isn’t the only skin-related health problem that naturopathic medicine can treat. Another problem many people start to notice is the early signs of aging.
Lines, wrinkles, and a dull complexion aren’t a welcome sight for anyone. Luckily, for Saira, aging skin is one of her favourite things to treat.
“Facial acupuncture is a great tool for this,” she says. “It helps with fine lines and wrinkles, helps brightens complexion, treat acne, and decreases puffiness around the face. Especially the eyes.”
Acupuncture is rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is done by inserting very small needles into the skin’s surface. They are relatively painless and bring many benefits to your skin’s health.
It can encourage detoxification, get your lymph flowing, and improve circulation. As a result, the appearance of aging problems can be minimized. You will be left with healthier, more radiant skin.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
The next common health problem naturopathic medicine can treat is something Dr. Kassam sees often: polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
“This is a really common women’s health issue that I see a lot of in my practice,” she shares. “It’s really important to figure out the cause of PCOS. It’s different for everybody. First and foremost, we need to make sure we’re diagnosing it accurately.”
If you suspect you have PCOS, it might be tempting to turn to Dr. Google. But it’s a stressful syndrome to be diagnosed with. Seeing a medical professional is the best way to receive a proper diagnosis.
Allopathic practitioners often prescribe birth control or metformin. While these approaches can help, they may not be an ideal solution for all women.
If a woman is diagnosed after coming off birth control, for example, it might feel counterintuitive to go back on it. This is why having access to both allopathic and conventional healthcare providers can help you receive the best treatment for your needs.
Saira does blood work testing to find the possible causes. She'll look at your lipids, fasting insulin, and fasting glucose, among others.
“Ultrasounds can also be helpful for us to diagnose PCOS. Once we figure out what’s driving it, we can target our treatment. It’s different for everyone.”
Treatment can include changing meal times, regulating blood sugar, and fasting. Supplementation can also play a role in getting periods back on track, as well as botanical tinctures, herbal medicine, and acupuncture.
PCOS is a difficult syndrome. Both allopathic and conventional medicine can play a role in your diagnosis and treatment.
The importance of mental health should never be overlooked. “It’s something we’re seeing a lot more of right now and it’s becoming really, really common," Saira says.
There are a number of effective lifestyle tools Saira recommends to patients. Examples include deep guided breathing, yoga, spending time outdoors, regular massages, stress management techniques, light therapy boxes, and mind dumping.
“I do a lot of stress management techniques. But I find a lot of people do need that counselling perspective. I get more positive benefits with patients if they’re also seeing a therapist in tandem.”
At HealthOne, we aim to bring you a unified healthcare approach by offering allopathic and naturopathic practitioners working together. This is why Saira works closely with our psychotherapists to offer comprehensive treatment of patients’ mental health.
”I think we can really work together in the best interest of the patient,” she concludes. Having a well-rounded healthcare team allows us to offer effective treatment from all angles.
Are Naturopathic Doctors Covered by OHIP?
If you experience any of the seven health problems above, you might be a good candidate for naturopathic care! Many people are curious if Naturopathic Doctors are covered by OHIP.
Currently, the services provided by ND’s is not covered by OHIP. Certain insurance programs, however, may cover a portion or all of your visit. Our clinic would be happy to complete an insurance check for you to see what your coverage options are.
Naturopathic Doctor Toronto
At the end of the day, our aim is to help you live an inspired life free of disease. Naturopathic medicine is an effective form of care based on testing, data, and treating imbalances.
When you visit our naturopathic doctor in Toronto, you’ll receive the highest quality of care. She will seek to understand how all areas of your life work together and how they might be causing any of the symptoms you experience.
Then, she’ll come up with an individualized treatment plan to help you live a healthier life! The more you understand about your body and how to help it thrive, the better.
If you’re looking for a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Dr. Kassam would love the chance to work with you! She offers free 15-minute consultations so you can learn more about her care approach.
One Life. Live Inspired.