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Diet and lifestyle recommendations

Let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food. This is a famous quote by Hippocrates, but what exactly does this mean in naturopathic medicine?
Eating the full scope of the rainbow through dietary approach such as through fruits and vegetables is important in reducing the risk of nutrient deficiencies.
© Courtesy of Pixabay 2023.

The quote by Hippocrates is an important concept highly relevant to today’s world, but the component of having a healthy lifestyle is equally important in ensuring individual health and well being. Using Doctor as teacher Docere naturopaths employs a holistic approach to care to patient’s health by educating them on the importance of eating and having a healthy lifestyle for optimal health.

Dietary recommendations

Dietary recommendations in naturopathic medicine refers to the modification of food choices and dietary patterns that could be improved to optimise nutritional status while also reducing the risk of dietary-associated diseases and nutritional deficiencies Aucoin, 2021. Naturopaths use a few different approaches when it comes to dietary recommendations which includes using a specific evidence-based diet, an individualised diet, and fasting strategies, where clinically relevant. In order to effectively advise patients in making dietary modifications, naturopaths often undertake a comprehensive analysis of patient’s diets through the use of diet diaries and tracking methods. Naturopaths will work with patients to gradually make changes to their diet to improve their health and well being, and will do so from a holistic and individualised perspective. This means that two patients with the same disease will unlikely receive the same dietary recommendations.

Based on naturopathic training, scope of practice, and available evidence, naturopaths will recommend changes to a patient’s diet in order to improve their health and reduce the risk of dietary-associated diseases such as diabetes or heart diseases. For example, there is clear evidence associated with a high intake of salt and the risk and impact on high blood pressure He et al., 2020. In this example, naturopaths will provide strategies in how to identify salt intake in foods, recommend whole foods over processed foods, and clinical monitoring of blood pressure. Naturopaths may also provide guidance on the role of lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of high blood pressure in this case.

Lifestyle recommendations

The use of lifestyle recommendations has a long history in naturopathic medicine, which can be traced back to the work of Hippocrates and the Nature cure movement where promotion of fresh air, sunlight, and being in nature were a common recommendation for improving a range of disease states and improving quality of life. As naturopathic medicine has progressed, this principle is still at the heart of clinical practice. Assessing a patient’s lifestyle through lifestyle counselling is a core discipline in naturopathic medicine where naturopaths aim to improve and educate patients on the impact of lifestyle choices on their health and disease status Sarris & Metri, 2021.

Role of lifestyle recommendations in patient care

Lifestyle habits can equally have an impact on patient’s health and well-being in addition to the role of dietary choices. The approach of applying positive lifestyle choices in patient’s lives relates to clinical assessment of how and where a patient interacts with their environment with a focus on their behaviour and psychological health. These are important concepts as they can not only improve patient’s quality of life and disease states, but can act as a preventative measure to further diseases or the worsening of a specific disease or symptom. Lifestyle recommendations can be applied outside of specific disease states and can also focus on patient well-being and quality of life. A common example observed in clinical practice for a lot of naturopaths is the impact on sleep on health. We all know that good quality sleep can have a healthy impact on mood, rest and digest, but negative sleep patterns can contribute to the develop of different disorders and diseases including mood disorders such has depression, and the development of high blood pressure National Heart, Lung, and Blood Instituie, 2022. In this example, providing appropriate sleep hygiene practises such as a dark room, limited screen time before bed, and positive bedtime routines can improve the quality of sleep patients experience, including how long it takes them to fall asleep and how long they stay asleep. Other lifestyle recommendations that naturopaths may suggest for patients can include exercise, avoiding smoking and alcohol consumption, work-rest balance, social engagement, avoid drug use, exposure to nature, fresh air and sunlight, clean and safe drinking water, and reducing air and noise pollution Sarris & Metri, 2021.

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Fundamentals of Naturopathic Medicine

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