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Naturopathic Medicine


Last Updated: 08/13/2013 4:09 pm

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Weaning Off Pharmaceuticals
Naturopathic doctors refer to “the therapeutic order” when considering interventions; it is a ranking of potential for harm. Dietary changes and stress reduction, for instance, are at the bottom because they are extremely safe. Pharmaceuticals are near the top of the ranking; chemotherapy and radiation are highest in the order. Whenever possible, NDs choose the least harmful approaches first (which is why their profession enjoys very low malpractice insurance costs).

Schikowitz gives an example of how this strategy plays out, for the problem of poor cholesterol/LDL levels. “Lipid imbalances are easy to deal with, in my experience, because there are so many ways to address them. It’s a matter of choosing what works best for each person to get them back into balance. Some people with a highly inflammatory physiology respond fabulously to a vegan diet, while others respond terribly and need to eat meat. So we have to figure that out. When you are heavy-handed and use a drug to force a biochemical pathway, like statin drugs inhibiting cholesterol, it reliably forces a certain effect, but it doesn’t put a system back into balance like other therapies can. Red yeast rice, a natural herb from Chinese medicine that has been used for thousands of years, has a small amount of the substance that is in the patented statin drug, and it has many other compounds as well. A study comparing red yeast rice to a statin drug found similar effectiveness, but for the drug, side effects were prevalent.”

Glenn Finley, an ND in Kingston, often sees patients who are already on many drugs, including elder patients who get a lot of pressure, sometimes condescendingly, from the conventional medical world to take medication. “I see them on statins, hypertensive meds, insulin—it’s wild,” he says. “Insulin is a treatment, not a cure, which pushes the system even more. In naturopathic medicine, we don’t want to give the liver more things to do by adding foreign chemicals. We already live in a toxic environment.” Speaking from his nutrition training, he points out that just being sure elders get proper nutrition and hydration can resolve some of their digestive ailments.

Care for Chronic Conditions

Chronic digestive illnesses, like colitis or Crohn’s disease, are one of Finley’s areas of expertise. “Conventional medicine may be able to maintain you symptom-wise, but there is no good long-term plan, and the opinion is to take out a portion of the bowel. But each section has its own purpose, so if you remove a portion, it’s going to have some ramifications. As naturopaths, we want to look and see where the inflammation is coming from. The disease is not the inflammation, but some lack of balance in the immune system.” He worked with a patient who was in a support group for inflammatory bowel disease. “Everyone else was scheduling their surgeries for bowel resection, while my patient was seeking alternative therapies,” Finley says. “We were looking at food allergies, changing diet, doing some detoxification, addressing her high stress—nice, simple things. A year later, she was healed, without surgery. That’s a plus.”

Finley illustrates the beneficial combination of conventional and complementary approaches this way. “In Vermont, where we can use conventional imaging and diagnostics, we can order blood work for a patient and see the herbs and homeopathy affecting physiology. Someone will come in with a trainwreck of a case, and we can see that physiology really shift, whether it’s a lipid panel, or inflammatory markers, or the acidity or alkalinity of the blood—it’s really nice.”

Having access to that kind of health care approach would be nice as well. To support licensure of NDs in New York State, write or call Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, head of the Higher Education Committee, LOB 717, Albany, NY 12248; phone: (518) 455-4811; e-mail via online form at Also, write your state legislators; you can send an online letter via this webpage:


Janet Draves
Rhinebeck; (845) 876-3993

Glenn Finley and Ileana Tecchio
Kingston; (845) 331-2235

Rise Finkle
Stone Ridge; (845) 389-2547

Tom Francescott
Rhinebeck; (845) 876-5556

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