How does naturopathic medicine treat acne? Well, it’s quite simple, really. We turn our focus to the root cause of disease. Is there a hormonal component? Is lack of hygiene an issue? Are food sensitivities at play? Is an increased toxic load on the body resulting in an elevated burden on the skin to detoxify? Is there a mental-emotional cause or result of this acne?
After identifying one or more of these issues as the culprit, we treat the cause of disease, using non-invasive therapies. We might recommend a change in diet, perhaps supplements, or maybe journalling and stress relief. As treatment is highly individualized, it really depends on the patient. Pharmaceutical studies may be done on hundreds to thousands of people but, if you want your health issues resolved, the only person who should be “studied” is yourself.
The Toronto Star on Monday, December 16, 2013 posted this op-ed piece by lawyer Tim Caulfield criticizing the rise of naturopathic medicine in Canada. He paid some lip service to the reason behind this rise, mainly the dissatisfaction with mainstream medicine to treat chronic, non-emergent diseases, but mostly threw a flaming blanket of statements over the entire profession, grouping us in with ionic foot baths and Albertan mothers who choose to ignore the standard of care for streptococcal infections (and who never consulted a naturopathic doctor, which makes that point moot). The worst part of the opinion piece, however, is the fear-mongering. Caulfield implies that patients who seek treatment from a naturopathic doctor are putting their health at risk.
Caulfield’s stance is ridiculous, of course. Firstly, he starts his article with the statement, “Ontario naturopaths are pushing hard to become a self-regulating profession…” Well, pushing hard may be right, especially when you consider the fact that the Naturopathy Act was passed in 2007, making us a regulated profession. So, Caulfield’s opinion comes a little late.
Secondly, regulating a profession means that professionals become accountable. There is a standard of care, and the public is protected knowing that, if they decide to get treatment from a naturopathic doctor, they are seeing a professional with 8 years of post-secondary education, 4 of those years being from an accredited, rigorous 4-year program at a naturopathic college, like CCNM. Regulations make people accountable; and accountability increases the public’s safety.
Juxtapose Monday’s opinion piece with Tuesday, December 17th’s front page story in the same paper, about a family whose daughter died from a complication of the birth control pill, prescribed as an off-label acne drug, Diane-35. Along with the rare, but fatal risk of pulmonary embolism are the following side effects: headaches, tender breasts, menstrual pain, swelling and a lowered sex drive. All this from an acne drug that has not undergone the rigorous testing needed to prove that it is safe and effective for the treatment of acne.
Getting to the root cause of symptoms and complying with natural therapies may be hard and time-consuming, but it certainly doesn’t come with side effects and health risks like that.
Despite these risks, Diane-35 continues to be prescribed. A November 9, 2013 article by The Star stated that, if a drug manufacturer doesn’t decide to recall a drug, then Health Canada has no power to do so either, even if the drug is shown to be unsafe. And yet, Mr. Caulfield chooses to warn the public about naturopathic doctors. I know that many people will swear, “It’s the quiet ones you gotta watch.” But, in the words of my hero, the late George Carlin, “I will bet you anything that while you’re watching the quiet one, the noisy one will F-ing kill you!” This appears to be accurate when it comes to healthcare.
Naturopathic medicine has an impeccable safety profile. We are taught to recognize and act quickly when faced with red flag medical emergencies (a pulmonary embolism, for instance), and we are taught the standard of care for these emergencies. We are taught to be aware of safety risks with more potent therapies, such as potentially toxic botanical remedies. We are taught caution in acupuncture and other physical modalities and know how to perform them safely. We know when to refer and re-evaluate a case if a patient is not responding to treatment. We look up drug-herb interactions. And, if we fail to do all of this and more, we are held accountable by our regulatory board and the law. Apparently, that is more than can be said for the drug companies.
My cystic acne was treated successfully with naturopathic medicine. The only “side effects” I experienced were healthy weight loss, increased energy and mood and improved sleep. I didn’t use an off-label drug that had the potential to kill me, and neither should you. My experience, after all, is just “anecdotal” evidence; however, as any good conversationalist will assert: there really is nothing like a good anecdote to get the party started.