A new year is a fresh start. It’s a chance to set goals, focus on your priorities, and put your best self forward. A truly inspired life is one where we’re consumed by our passions, but it can be easy in January to get caught up in the world of health and goal-setting.
Flashy fitness trackers and calorie-counting apps can make us forget what we should truly be focused on: our health.
Here at HealthOne, we believe that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have a deadline. While a fresh year is an exciting time to make improvements, they should be sustainable changes you can maintain all year round. Each day is a new opportunity to learn more about yourself. Gaining a holistic understanding of your overall health is something a naturopathic doctor can play a big role in.
Naturopathy is a form of health care that seeks to address the root cause of any imbalances in your body − whether that’s digestive issues, skin problems, or low energy, among others. According to Dr. Saira Kassam, our Naturopathic Doctor, these are some of the main reasons that patients visit her.
“People are driven by data. It can drive people’s motivation and make them feel better when they see the numbers,” she says.
We sat down with Saira to learn more about how naturopathic medicine can give people a better understanding of their bodies, and in turn, how it can propel their goals forward in the new year and beyond.
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
Let's start by answering the question: what is a naturopathic doctor?
A naturopathic doctor is a doctor who specializes in naturopathic medicine and holistic care. They believe that all components of the body work together. Naturopathic doctors can help you prevent illnesses, treat a variety of symptoms, and improve your overall health just like a family doctor can. The main difference is in their treatment approach.
Are Naturopaths Real Doctors?
Yes! There are many steps an individual must go through in order to be recognized as a naturopathic doctor.
First, they must complete the minimum educational requirements. Dr. Kassam completed a Bachelor of Science degree with Honours at McMaster University, then went on to complete a four-year, full-time accredited naturopathic medical program at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. This type of education covers a lot of similar information as a traditional medical degree, but with further emphasis on naturopathic medicine as the primary treatment approach.
Upon graduating as a "Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine", the individual must also pass several entry-to-practice exams. This allows them to register with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario, which acts as a governing body for all NDs.
What Does A Naturopath Do?
The first step of seeing a Naturopath is having an initial assessment. During this visit, Saira will go through your health history, find out what your main concerns are, and ask more about your health goals. “Everyone’s at a different place in their health journey, so my goal is to really asses that and then meet them where they’re at. Then, we can work together to get them feeling better.”
For some people, slow and steady changes feel the most feasible. For others, they might be highly motivated and ready to jump into their goals right away. Regardless of which category you fall into, Dr. Saira will meet you there and provide sustainable solutions at a similar pace.
A unique component of naturopathic care is that every patient’s experience with Saira will look different. Why? Because each person is unique. As such, each person’s treatment plan is targeted specifically to their needs.
“We don’t treat everyone the same and that’s the whole point of naturopathic medicine,” Saira says. “It really revolves around individualized medicine and personalized treatment plans.”
The Foundations of Health
Diet, sleep, movement and happiness are what Saira calls “the foundations of health”. So, it’s clear why they influence her first course of action. “Most of the time, the first visit I’m doing is lifestyle and diet changes and maybe some supplements,” she explains.
Patients typically return after 4-6 weeks, when she’ll assess any changes or improvements in their symptoms. At that point, if the simple changes didn’t work, she’ll dive deeper and use more testing.
Naturopathic doctors have access to a wide variety of tests that can show you evidence of imbalances in the body. Bloodwork, stool tests, and hormone tests are some of the main ways Saira can accomplish this.
“I’m a firm believer in testing and not guessing,” she says. “It’s really important to understand what’s happening within. Once we understand that, we can take an approach to fix what’s happening.”
Once again, the recommended approach will look different for everyone. There are a number of tools naturopathic doctors can use to treat the imbalances discovered through testing. For Dr. Saira, the tools she most commonly turns to include vitamins, supplements, IV therapy, botanical tinctures, herbal medicine, acupuncture, and diet.
Let’s take a closer look at how naturopathy can support the goals you might have on your mind this time of year.
If your goal is to lose weight...
Saira’s focus will be less on the number on the scale and more on your health.
“It’s really about reframing the weight loss to being healthy overall, and optimizing your health to reach your weight goals,” she says.
These days, there’s a big emphasis on calorie counting as an effective route for weight loss. According to Saira, this mindset can cause more harm than good. It can put you in a more stressful frame of mind that distracts you from what matters most.
“We need to take a whole-body approach and look at things like metabolic hormones, digestive influences, how certain foods are affecting your hormones, and look at individualized testing for underlying causes of the inability to lose or gain weight,” she explains.
Other factors like over-exercising, stress levels, sleep issues, and even your gut hormones can have a big impact on weight as well. In order to achieve weight loss, you need to be in a good state of health − and that’s a huge area of wellbeing that a naturopathic doctor can help you with.
If your goal is to eat better...
Saira will help you set realistic expectations of what "eating better” looks like for you.
“This could include talking about things like macros, timings of eating, foods that are packed with antioxidants and nutrients, and really trying to change the conversation to overall health.”
A patient who eats a diet of highly processed, high-sugar foods each day might have different goals than a plant-based eater with an iron deficiency. Saira’s wealth of knowledge related to nutrition can help regardless of what your current eating patterns are.
She also has access to specific tests that can give a unique insight into the best eating habits for you. The insulin glucose challenge test, for example, can tell you how your body responds to insulin. This can give you and your doctor a better understanding of what time of the day you should be eating carbs to live the most optimally for your needs.
If your goal is to have more energy...
Saira will seek to address the root cause by focusing on the foundations of health.
“Managing sleep, managing stress, ensuring a well-balanced diet, and again assessing for underlying possible causes of the low energy is big,” she stresses.
Suggestions for improving your sleep are most often centered around sleep hygiene. Things like turning off 50% of the lights in your home an hour before bed, having a nighttime routine, and adjusting the temperature in your home can add up to better quality ZZZ’s.
Stress management techniques should also be regularly built into your routine for maximum impact. It’s not just about getting a massage once a month, but rather making self-care a priority for both your mental and physical wellbeing.
She also emphasizes the importance of addressing these signs early on in life. If your energy levels are lower than normal, don’t dismiss what your body is trying to tell you. Dive deeper and seek to find out why you have less energy. It’s never too late to make your health a priority.
If your goal is to begin the journey of parenthood...
Saira can play a supportive role in contraceptive care for both you and your partner.
“There’s a lot of pressure around fertility for women, but it’s important to know there are things men can do to improve their sperm parameters too. Both men and women should be doing pre-conception counselling 2-4 months before they want to start conceiving.”
Deciding to try and conceive is an exciting yet anticipatory time. During this period, a naturopathic doctor can be a great resource to have on your health care team.
One way they can help is by doing preconception blood work to ensure the proper quality of eggs and sperm. Saira can do this by testing your CBC (complete blood count), thyroid, liver, autoimmune conditions, hormones, FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), LH (luteinizing hormone), and stress levels.
She can also ensure you’re getting the proper nutrients prior to conceiving. A good quality prenatal with all activated forms of vitamins is key, as well as having a whole foods diet with enough healthy fats.
A third way Saira can help you on the journey of parenthood is through education. Alcohol, caffeine, smoking, hormone imbalances and intercourse time can all affect a couples’ experience with contraception. A well-educated doctor knowledgeable about the body can help you begin this exciting journey in the healthiest way possible.
Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto
When it comes to living a healthier life, the new year can be a great place to begin. A naturopathic doctor like Dr. Saira has access to the tools, resources, and testing that can help you get where you want to be. But that doesn’t mean your role as a patient ends when you leave her office.
“I want to create long-standing relationships with my patients,” she says. “I’m always here for them when something comes up in their life or they fall off the wagon and want to get their health back on track. I want to be part of their health team forever.”
Just as naturopathy can be part of your health care approach for life, your goals should be long-lasting, too. View the new year as an exciting time to clarify the areas you can improve, but do so in a realistic way. Take small, manageable steps towards achieving better health and wellness that you can build on in the future and beyond!
Our naturopathic doctor in Toronto looks forward to supporting your goals throughout the entire course of your inspired life. Click here to start your journey with Dr. Saira by booking a complimentary consultation.
One Life. Live Inspired.