“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We’ve all heard this phrase at least once in our lives. Sure, it might have been believable when we were kids. But let’s face it: no amount of Granny Smith’s will turn you into a superhuman.
A balanced diet is only one component of living a healthy, happy life. Plus, as we get older, we realize that going to the doctor isn’t so bad after all.
At HealthOne, we’re proud to have allopathic and naturopathic doctors working together under one roof. The allopathic route refers to medical doctors – like a Walk-In physician or Family Doctor. You’ve likely visited one for an acute illness, like a lingering cough or sinus infection.
On the other hand, naturopathic medicine refers to a different kind of healthcare – one that not so many people are 100% familiar with. It has become increasingly recognized as an effective modality for improving your health. Today, naturopathic doctors are equally as important as medical doctors in today’s healthcare system. And visiting both can give you a complete approach to a life that’s free of disease.
In this blog, we’ll be covering everything you need to know about naturopathic medicine including:
- What is naturopathic medicine?
- What is a naturopathic doctor?
- Do naturopathic doctors go to medical school?
- What is the difference between a medical doctor and a naturopathic doctor?
- What does a naturopath do?
- Can a Naturopath write prescriptions?
- Get to Know Our Naturopaths in Toronto: Dr. Kassam & Dr. Louie’s stories
- Cost of a naturopathic doctor
- Tips for finding a naturopathic doctor in Toronto
We sat down with Dr. Saira Kassam and Dr. Sarah Louie, our Naturopathic Doctors at HealthOne, to find out all the answers to your biggest questions.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Let’s start off with the basics: what is naturopathic medicine? Here’s a brief definition from the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors:
“Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is based on the healing power of nature and it supports and stimulates the body’s ability to heal itself.”
Naturopathic medicine can help people of all ages, from infants to seniors. It can be used to prevent, diagnose, and treat different types of illnesses and diseases.
“When I think about naturopathic medicine, the first thing that comes to mind is a holistic approach,” says Dr. Kassam. “It’s really important for people to understand that you have one body, and everything works together. The premise of naturopathy is to get all of your systems working together, and to get them working efficiently.”
If you’re having digestive issues, for example, a naturopathic doctor like Dr. Kassam will ask about the other areas of your life as well. Along with what you’re eating, your sleep and stress levels might also be the problem. “It’s not just about the symptoms, it’s about what’s causing them,” she explains.
Naturopathic doctors believe that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. Rather than prescribe a pharmaceutical product to treat your presenting issue, they’ll create an individualized treatment plan to find the root cause and help you improve.
Here’s a timeline of how naturopathic medicine first came to be in Canada.
- 1902: Naturopathic medicine was first established in North America.
- 1925: Naturopathic medicine became regulated by law in Canada.
- 1955: The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors was created.
- 1978: The first-ever College of Naturopathic Medicine opened in Toronto. Later, in 1992, it was named the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM). Coincidentally, this is where both Dr. Kassam and Dr. Louie completed their formal education to become naturopaths in Toronto.
As a regulated healthcare profession, a person must complete vigorous educational requirements and training in order to practice naturopathic medicine in Canada. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly a naturopathic doctor is.
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
Put simply, a naturopathic doctor is a doctor who specializes in naturopathic medicine. They can help you prevent illness, treat symptoms, and optimize your overall health.
Instead of asking about symptoms and providing pharmaceutical remedies, though, a naturopathic doctor will seek to understand the why behind those health problems. Based on this information, they’ll make targeted recommendations to address the root cause of imbalances within the body.
“If a patient visits me who isn’t able to sleep properly, I’m going to ask about everything else in their life as well,” Dr. Kassam explains. “Because it’s not just about sleep, it’s about what’s causing that lack of sleep.” Dr. Louie adds that anxiety is often the root cause of insomnia for some of her patients. “In that case, I’d recommend a combination of counselling, acupuncture and herbal remedies,” she shares.
By understanding the root cause of the issue at hand, a naturopathic doctor can help you see real, sustainable progress. It’s less about masking symptoms and more about creating change.
In order to use the title “Naturopathic Doctor”, a practitioner must complete a minimum of seven years of post-secondary education. Let’s learn more about the schooling that all ND’s must go through.
Do Naturopathic Doctors Go To Medical School?
Similarly to other healthcare providers (like a family doctor or dentist), a naturopathic doctor must complete an undergraduate degree at university. Dr. Kassam completed an Honours of Bachelor of Science at McMaster University, for example, and Dr. Louie completed a Bachelors in Chemistry from the University of British Columbia.
Following this, the person must complete a four-year, full-time accredited naturopathic medical program. In Canada and the United States, there are eight programs recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Dr. Kassam and Dr. Louie both graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto, a world-class institution with over 2,500 graduates to date!
Upon graduation from an accredited program, a person will receive the title of “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine”. Following this, they must successfully pass several entry-to-practice exams so they can register with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
“What they do is regulate us,” Dr. Kassam explains. “They act as our governing body and provide us with all the information we need – like our rights, roles, and what we’re allowed to practice.”
This ensures that the care you receive from an ND, regardless of whom you visit, will be carried out under specific guidelines and criteria. If you’re looking for a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, you should always make sure your provider has met these educational requirements and is registered.
Are Naturopaths Real Doctors?
Since a lot of people aren’t exposed to naturopathic medicine at a young age, it sometimes begs the question: are naturopaths actually doctors?
The answer is yes – and a naturopathic doctor is equally as knowledgeable, skilled, and trustworthy as a traditional medical doctor. They study a lot of the same information about medical practices, human anatomy, and clinical science. The main difference between a medical doctor and a naturopathic doctor is in their treatment approach.
“We investigate and try to understand the patients’ health like a family doctor, through taking a detailed history and having lab testing done,” explains Dr. Louie. “We have been taught about the pharmacological options that are available for each problem, but instead of us offering prescriptions and surgery like an MD might, we focus on non-pharmacological treatment options.”
This is why it’s so beneficial to have both types of doctors on your health team. More than one practitioner means more than one care approach. And based on the health problem you’re experiencing (or trying to prevent), there’s a good chance a naturopathic doctor can play a valuable role.
What is the Difference Between a Naturopathic Doctor and a Medical Doctor?
Still confused about the difference? Here’s an example.
Derek is a 45-year-old male with high cholesterol who wants to lose 20 pounds. He decides to visit both his family doctor and a naturopathic doctor to help.
His family doctor might...
- Complete a 10-15-minute medical exam.
- Learn details about his lifestyle, family history, and risk factors for things like heart disease in relation to his cholesterol.
- Tell Derek to exercise more, drink less alcohol, and stop eating processed foods.
- Make sure that no further testing needs to be done, and ask Derek to come back in 3 months for a follow-up.
A naturopathic doctor might...
- Complete a 60-75-minute initial assessment.
- Learn details about his lifestyle including sleep, diet, stress, social support, physical and mental-emotional health history.
- Create an individualized treatment plan to reduce his cholesterol and sustainably lose five pounds in one month (as a starting point).
- Ask Derek to come back in 1 month for a follow-up.
There isn’t one “right approach” when you consider these two options. Both routes will help Derek improve his health and work towards his goals.
The difference is that a naturopathic doctor will spend more time educating patients on how to optimize their diet and lifestyle to improve their health. A medical doctor will have a shorter visit and focus more on pharmaceutical solutions.
Let’s take a closer look at what else naturopathic doctors can do.
What Does a Naturopath Do?
As we mentioned, all naturopathic doctors receive the same training and education. Once they graduate, though, most ND’s will narrow their scope of practice based on the areas they’re most passionate about. It’s better to do a few things extraordinarily well than do everything only sub-par!
Some of the main things a naturopathic doctor can help with include:
- Weight issues/weight management
- Diet and nutrition
- Hormone imbalances
- Digestive health
- Skin problems (acne, anti-aging)
- Chronic illness/disease
- Body pain
- Mental health
- Stress management
Of course, each one of these areas encompasses many specific subsections underneath them. You should always look for an ND that specializes in the area you’re looking to treat.
“It’s important to find an ND that focuses on what you’re looking for because we have a broad scope of practice,” says Dr. Kassam. “If you do a bit of research beforehand, you’ll get more out of the visit.”
With that, let’s uncover the areas of expertise that our ND’s here at HealthOne focus on.
What Does Dr. Kassam Do?
At HealthOne, Dr. Kassam’s main areas of practice include hormones, fertility, digestive health, weight management, and women’s health. During your initial visit, she’ll seek to understand your reason for visiting and what your health goals are.
Based on this information, she’ll create an individualized treatment plan to help you get there. First and foremost, this normally includes some form of lifestyle counselling/recommendations. For instance:
- If you struggle with bloating, she might recommend mindful eating tips and eating more prebiotic-rich foods.
- If you struggle with fatigue, she might recommend sleep hygiene tips and drinking herbal tea instead of coffee after 2pm.
In addition to lifestyle counselling, Dr. Kassam has a number of other treatment methods that she uses with her patients. Common examples include testing (I.e., hormone tests, blood tests, stool tests), supplements, tinctures, facial acupuncture, IV therapy, and vitamin injections. To revisit our previous examples, she might also recommend:
- A GI Map stool test for bloating. This would help identify any potential imbalances in the gut that could be causing the bloating. She might also recommend a natural supplement to help you digest food more easily.
- Bloodwork for fatigue. This would help identify any underlying health conditions that could be causing fatigue such as an under-functioning thyroid or iron deficiency.
“A big thing about my practice is I’m a firm believer in testing and not guessing,” she shares. “I find this is really important to fix what’s happening. There are lots of tools we can use, but it’s really important to figure out what’s happening first through testing and then treat holistically so we can treat the root cause and get all your systems working together in unison.”
Dr. Saira offers free 15-minute consultations so you can learn more about her approach before booking an appointment.
What Does Dr. Louie Do?
For Dr. Sarah Louie, who works at HealthOne’s North York clinic, the main thing she treats in her patients is pain. “I see myself as a doctor who addresses physical or mental/emotional pain,” she explains. “That can include things like joint pain, digestive pain, or menstrual pain for the physical side. Emotional could be anxiety, depression, or even fear of social interactions.”
Similarly to Dr. Kassam, Dr. Louie will seek to understand how all areas of your life might be contributing to your symptoms. A lot of patients don’t realize how their lifestyles are affecting their health. They might think a prescription from a family doctor is the solution to all of their problems when in reality, there are many other things under the surface that need to be addressed. Dr. Louie shares the following example which is similar to the work she does with her patients.
Miguel is dealing with chronic tension headaches. He visits his family doctor who recommends over the counter pain killers. When he visits a naturopathic doctor, however, she uncovers through in-depth conversation that Miguel is experiencing high levels of stress which are affecting the muscles of his neck and shoulders, posture, and sleep. The naturopathic doctor provides acupuncture and cupping therapy to reduce muscle tension that is causing the headaches, recommends daily stretches and exercise to improve posture, and provides lifestyle recommendations to improve sleep and reduce stress. This allows him to treat the cause of his headaches instead of just masking them.
It's true that medication can be effective in some scenarios, but it isn’t a band-aid solution for every health problem in existence. “So many people come to see me and expect me to give them a natural supplement that’s going to help them,” she shares. “Even though it’s something I can provide, that’s not what naturopathic medicine is about. There are a lot of other components that contribute to a patient’s success.”
Dr. Louie also offers free 15-minute consultations both virtually and in-person.
Can a Naturopath Write Prescriptions?
Perhaps you’re a bit unsure about how prescriptions come into play with naturopathic medicine. As Dr. Louie said, naturopathic doctors can write prescriptions, but this is not their only approach to treatment.
“It’s a big myth I hear often that when you see an ND, they just put you on supplements,” Dr. Kassam agrees. “For some people that works, but for other people, it doesn’t. I actually try to take people off of them first, and look at their blood work and health concerns. Afterwards, we can really tailor the supplements to their needs instead of giving them everything under the sun.”
Typically, the product prescribed by a naturopathic doctor will be a different brand than what you’ll find at your local pharmacy. There might be variances in the brand, dosage, and active ingredients. Rest assured, you can always count on your products being professional-grade and safe to use. If it’s part of your treatment plan, your ND will review all the necessary details during your visit.
Get to Know Our Naturopaths in Toronto
Coincidentally, both of our naturopathic doctors in Toronto started their careers in the pharmaceutical world. It wasn’t until they worked in this realm of healthcare that they realized what their true passions were.
Here’s a deep dive into how Dr. Kassam and Dr. Louie ended up in the career path of naturopathic medicine!
Dr. Kassam's Story: The Beginning
"I grew up overweight, so I always struggled with my self-confidence, the way I looked, how I felt, and how different foods would make me feel.
When I went off to college and did my undergrad, I did a coop term with a pharma company and had to do things that didn’t jive with me. It led me to consider other options. My boss at the time was seeing an ND, and when I started looking into it, it really resonated with me.
It led me to realize that there’s way more to healthcare than being reactive – it's about figuring out the underlying causes of whatever’s happening. For me, it was weight loss – but for others, it could be hormones or fertility. I realized I wanted to be part of peoples’ journeys before they got sick. Spending time with patients and getting to that root cause became very important to me.”
Dr. Kassam's Story: Present Day
Now, Dr. Kassam is thrilled to work at HealthOne in downtown Toronto fulfilling her mission of helping patients heal from the inside out. “What I love most about what I do is seeing people evolve and get better,” she says.
Patients will visit her during all different stages of their journeys. Some people might have little to no knowledge about living a healthy life, and some might be frustrated with trying things that just don’t work.
“For example, with weight loss, I might have a patient that doesn’t know the difference between a carb, protein, and a fat,” she explains. “On the other hand, some patients come in and they’ve tried keto, Whole30, and all these other diets but nothing seems to be working.”
This is why a big component of her care approach is meeting patients where they’re at. Becoming a part of their health journey, no matter what age or stage they’re in, is always incredibly rewarding.
She also brings her passion for naturopathic medicine to the online world! She’s spoken about a variety of topics in our healthy living blogs including gut health, anxiety, and more. Here are some examples of articles she’s featured in:
- The Food Sensitivity Test: What It Is and Why You Need One
- Why Am I Always Bloated? Your Biggest Bloating Questions, Answered
- The Most Common Digestive Issues in Millennials, Explained
- It’s Not You, It’s Your Diet: 8 Easy to Digest Foods for a Healthier Gut
- How a Naturopathic Doctor Can Support Your Goals in the New Year
- 7 Common Health Problems a Naturopathic Doctor Can Treat
- How to Cope With Anxiety Using Naturopathic Medicine
In addition to this, Dr. Saira is active on Instagram! On her account, @drsairakassam, she shares everything from tips about healthy living to graphics that will leave you feeling inspired. Toss her a follow (and our account too, while you’re at it!) for a daily dose of inspiration in your feed.
Dr. Louie's Story: The Beginning
The great thing about having different practitioners at our clinic is the uniqueness that lies in each of their stories. Here’s how Dr. Louie began her journey towards naturopathic medicine.
“I knew I wanted to be in a career that involved getting to know people one on one on a deeper level. I was also interested in learning physiology and anatomy, so I asked myself, ‘What career has both?’. I shadowed a whole bunch of medical doctors like a paediatrician, ENT, and surgeon but found that although they have the knowledge to take care of people, they don’t have the time to understand their patients on a deeper level. Usually, their appointments are very quick, which was not what I was interested in providing.
I shadowed an ND and realized that there can be time for connection. Aside from medical history, you get to hear about their family, their life stressors, and you can educate them on how their body works. I figured it would be a good career that balances those two things. It means a lot that I get to connect with my patients in this way.”
Dr. Louie's Story: Present Day
Now, Dr. Louie is doing exactly what she hoped she would be! One of the highlights of her job is making real, genuine connections with patients and educating them about their health.
“I love getting to teach people things they never knew before,” she says. “A lot of people might be too busy with their kids or too focused on their job to worry about their health and wellness. So, when they see me, it feels great to provide them with new information that allows them to live a healthier life.”
Similarly to Dr. Kassam, Dr. Louie also enjoys educating people through the online world! When she began her career as a naturopathic doctor, she also decided to start documenting her journey through the world of YouTube.
Her channel, Sarah Wellness and Greatness, provides her patients with an insider’s look into the world of naturopathic care. Here are some of the vlog-style videos she’s uploaded to her channel:
- A Day in the Life of a Naturopathic Doctor
- 6 Things She Loves About Being a Naturopathic Doctor
- What It’s Like to Get Acupuncture
- All About Cupping Therapy
- Advice for People Who Want to Become a Naturopathic Doctor
Whether or not you decide to visit a naturopathic doctor yourself, we hope these educational resources help you learn more about holistic health. If you are considering seeing a naturopath, however, keep reading to learn about some important things to consider.
How to Choose a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto
As we mentioned, all naturopathic doctors must complete the same education and training. But once they graduate, the direction of their career path is completely up to them!
Some choose to enrol in additional courses and certifications, for example. Dr. Kassam is certified in cosmetic/facial rejuvenation acupuncture and licensed to provide IV nutrient therapy and vitamin injections. Similarly, Dr. Louie is also certified to provide acupuncture and uses cupping therapy in her practice as well.
Here are some additional things you should consider when looking for a naturopathic doctor in Toronto.
What clinic do they work at? At the end of the day, healthcare is about teamwork. A naturopathic doctor is an incredibly useful resource, but they’re also only one person. If you visit a clinic that has a multidisciplinary team, your naturopathic doctor can refer you to other practitioners based on your needs.
- If you deal with severe anxiety, they could refer you to a mental health counsellor.
- If you require bloodwork, they could refer you to a Medical Walk-In clinic.
- If you require additional support with your oral health, they could refer you to a dentist.
Even better, when you visit a clinic like HealthOne, you’ll have access to all these referrals in one convenient location! We have 8 departments under one roof so you never have to travel to another clinic in the city.
What areas of health do they specialize in? Your health needs are unique, so your care should be, too. It’s wise to choose a naturopathic doctor who specializes in the area you’re seeking support. There are a wide variety of reasons why you might work with an ND in Toronto. The areas our team can support you with include:
- Weight loss/weight management
- Hormones and fertility
- Chronic pain
- Disease prevention and management
- Mental health (anxiety, depression)
- Emotional pain/trauma
- Low energy levels/mood problems
- Trouble sleeping
- Diet/nutritional support
- Digestive health
Where are they located? It goes without saying that the GTA is a bustling place! That’s why you should always consider the location of a naturopath doctor when you’re looking for the right one to visit.
Dr. Kassam works out of our clinic in downtown Toronto. Located conveniently in the One York tower at 110 Harbour Street, it’s easily accessible to those who live in the downtown core. We’re also accessible via the PATH (and only a 5-minute walk from Union Station), so it’s easy to access us via the TTC as well.
Dr. Louie works out of our clinic in the heart of North York. We’re located just down the street from North York Centre Subway Station and Mel Lastman Square. Our clinic is easy to get to via the TTC, by car or on foot. We’re proud to have two locations in the GTA so we can serve patients (just like you!) in multiple neighbourhoods.
Do they offer virtual services? 10 years ago, nearly all healthcare appointments were taking place in person. These days, the virtual world has grown to exciting new heights! It’s always worth considering if a naturopathic doctor offers online services. There are a lot of reasons why you might prefer virtual over in-person services.
- It can be done privately from the comfort of your own home
- All you need is a Wi-Fi connection and a phone, tablet, or laptop
- You reduce the amount of time required to commute
- You receive the same quality of care as you would in-person
- It allows for more freedom and flexibility in your day
Dr. Kassam and Dr. Louie both provide their services online. For services such as acupuncture or cupping therapy, they will ask you to visit them in-person – but you can attend most other services privately from home.
Naturopathic Doctor Cost
You’ve learned the ropes about naturopathic medicine, what a naturopathic doctor does, and how they can help you. One of the last things you’re probably eager to learn is how much naturopathic medicine costs.
15-minute consultations are free at our clinic so you can learn more about an ND’s approach before booking your appointment. This is a great opportunity to ask them any questions you have, share a bit about your goals, and learn more about how you two could work together.
Here is a breakdown of the cost of each following appointment:
- Initial Assessment (75 minutes): $215-230
- Follow-up Visit (60 minutes): $150
- Follow-up Visit (45 minutes): $130-145
- Follow-up Visit (30 minutes): $95-100
- Follow-up Visit (15 minutes): $75
Currently, naturopathic doctors are not covered by OHIP. However, some insurance plans do offer coverage for naturopathic services. At HealthOne, our team is passionate about being fully transparent with our patients so they always know how much coverage they have. You can speak with a member of our team to learn if your insurance coverage will cover some, or all, of your appointment.
We also recognize that paying out-of-pocket can feel like a large financial commitment. Every patient’s journey is unique to them, and our naturopathic doctors will always strive to meet you where you’re at.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play when I see a patient including their time, schedule, social support, and motivation level,” Dr. Louie says. “You have to go at their pace, otherwise they’ll become discouraged and you won’t make any progress.”
If you’re interested in losing weight but want to do so slowly and sustainably, Dr. Louie will create a plan that helps you take baby steps towards that goal. If you’re highly motivated and ready to implement bigger changes more quickly, her recommendations might look a little bit different.
A good naturopathic doctor will also be there to support you no matter what. There are so many variables in life – you might change jobs, move somewhere new, or deal with an unforeseen life event. An ND like Dr. Kassam or Dr. Louie will be ready whenever you are. Your journey doesn’t end if you don’t schedule a follow-up right away.
“I like to see my relationship with patients as ongoing,” Dr. Kassam shares. “If something comes up in their life or they fall off the wagon, I’m always here. We can always get your health back on track.”
Think about it: the value of having a family doctor is that you can visit them whenever you need them. From immunizations when you’re an infant to physical exams when you’re an adult, they’re always available to support your health throughout your life.
Visiting a naturopathic doctor is no different here at HealthOne. The goal is to get you living an optimally balanced life! Whether you have an ongoing struggle with PCOS, issues with your weight, or want to prevent disease, we’re here to help guide you in the right direction.
Need a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto?
If you’ve made it to the end of this blog post, first of all: thank you for reading! We also hope you’ve learned a lot about naturopathic doctors and care.
In today’s world, it can feel overwhelming to understand the differences between various types of practitioners. But when you visit a clinic like HealthOne, you gain access to all your healthcare needs under one roof for your convenience.
Dr. Kassam and Dr. Louie are passionate about helping patients along their health journeys. By taking the time to sit down with you and learn more about your life, they can uncover the reason behind the health problems you’re facing. You also don’t need a persistent issue in order to visit them. If you simply want professional guidance on how to live a healthier life, you might also find a lot of value in working with an ND.
“It’s a great feeling to help people recover when nothing else has worked for them,” Dr. Louie concludes. “Often my patients have visited their family doctor, or been on medications, but nothing seems to work. Naturopathic medicine can really help change peoples’ lives for the better, and that’s one of the most rewarding parts of my job.”
“One of the main reasons I have people coming in my office is that they’ve tried conventional medicine or they’re not getting the answers they want,” Dr. Saira agrees. “If you’re really looking for a whole-body approach to your health concerns and you’re looking for long term solutions, that’s where naturopathic medicine fits in. I’m here to support your goals and be part of your health team forever, in whatever way you need me.”
We look forward to helping you begin your journey to better health at HealthOne! Both our naturopathic doctors offer in-person and virtual appointments including free 15-minute consultations. You can learn more about their treatment approaches and ask any questions you have before booking an initial appointment.
We look forward to helping you take charge of your health and live a happy, inspired life!
One Life. Live Inspired.