The fourth principle of naturopathic medicine is the utilization of the “healing power of nature”. Don’t worry, this is not some “woo woo” concept where we believe that nature magically cures everything. “The healing power of nature” refers to the innate healing ability that exists in our organs, tissues, and cells. You can see this innate healing ability every time a wound heals, you sprain an ankle, or run a fever. Our body has built in mechanisms designed to respond, repair, and recover from injury and illness.
Optimal healthcare should not only avoid getting in the way of this innate healing ability but should also take advantage and utilize it. Unfortunately, the conventional medical approach employs far too many tactics that work against the body’s healing mechanisms. A great example of this is with the use of anti-inflammatory medications like the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These are most often prescribed as a treatment for pain due to trauma. They work to reduce pain by inhibiting inflammation. Unfortunately, inflammation is the major mechanism for healing from trauma. Therefore, people who take NSAIDs after injuries actually inhibit their healing and over-time lead to an increased risk of degeneration of the injured tissues.
NSAIDs are only one example of the “Anti” approach in medicine. How many types of medications, supplements, and other medical interventions can you think of that have “Anti” in the title? Here are a few examples, antioxidant, antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, antiemetic, antibiotic, anti-lithic, anti-diuretic, antidepressant, antihistamine, antispasmodic and so on. It seems like all you have to do is name a symptom or disease and put the word “Anti” in front of it and you will sure enough find a medical intervention that matches it.
Healthcare should be more than the administration of therapies that act as the opposite of the symptom. While there are times when the body’s responses can become pathologic and need to be altered there are numerous more examples where we are just simply getting in the way of our body healing itself. Instead of shutting down or inhibiting natural reactions of the body and the immune system we should be looking for the deeper causes of the problem.
The innate healing ability of the body works best when the body is given all the nutrients it requires for healing. Nutrient deficiency acts as a significant inhibitor to healing and recovery. The nutrients I am speaking of include vitamins, minerals, proteins, carbohydrates, and essential fatty acids. They also include nutrients that are often overlooked like proper oxygenation, adequate sleep, and optimal circulation. Deficiencies in any of these nutrients may not only decrease healing but may lead to unwanted healing responses. For example, when ligaments and tendons are damaged after a sprain they need vitamin C and the amino acids lysine and proline in order to repair and regenerate. If those nutrients are not available healing will take longer and the type of collegen tissue that regenerates may be of a lesser composition than would have been in the presence of optimal levels of these nutrients.
One of the best ways to promote the body’s innate healing responses is to remove the factors that inhibit that ability. For example, food allergies cause the immune system to attack protein molecules in the intestines. This not only causes inflammation in the intestines but often increases systemic inflammation and leads to joint pain, eczema, psoriasis, skin rashes, asthma, and decreased immunity. When food allergies are identified and removed the immune system begins to function better and healing from other problems improves.
Optimal healthcare should take advantage of the body’s innate healing mechanisms. There are no man-made materials or nutrients that can compete with what nature has given us. The first and best option is always to work with and promote the body’s healing abilities and utilize man-man solutions when necessary. Unfortunately, far too often the body’s healing responses are suppressed and synthetic solutions take the forefront. However, this is like jumping off a cliff with a pair of wings and believing that you are flying. You may think you are overcoming gravity but eventually you’ll find out there is no such thing. These innate healing responses are too ingrained and deep rooted for us to overcome. Therefore, the best thing to do is work in harmony with and harness them.