Naturopathic Medicine: A Key Component to Recovery & Complete Wellness

Maureen Schwehr, NMD
Naturopathic Physician

A motto in naturopathic medicine is: We are doctors who listen. Marketing research concludes that patients often feel misunderstood, and therefore have difficulty trusting their health care providers. People desire the reassurance that their medical providers are really listening to them. Generally speaking, it takes 15 minutes for an individual to communicate his/her story and to feel he/she has had adequate time to be heard.

For over 30 years, Sierra Tucson has helped to navigate the path of hope and healing. As a key element of our comprehensive and integrative treatment plan, our naturopathic physicians schedule an hour with each patient to devote the time and attention necessary to listen to the individual’s story with a trained detectives’ ear.  We are compassionate to the struggles the individual is enduring. The naturopathic physicians at Sierra Tucson are specifically tuning in to the symptoms and root causes from the onset of the patient’s illness, such as extra stressors or a change in diet or digestion. Therefore, the role of the naturopathic physician is to listen with a trained ear for the signs and symptoms, and then piece together the specific components that have derailed the individual.

In the body’s natural state of wellbeing, people are meant to be happy and healthy. Yet, sometimes genetics will create obstacles, making this natural ability more difficult to achieve. Testing is often done to assess nutritional deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, and inflammatory markers. Additional stressors such as lifestyle changes, illness, trauma, anxiety, and fatigue, are also major contributing factors that impact health. Once the assessment has been completed, the naturopathic physician will discuss the patient’s core issues with his/her primary psychiatrist and assigned medical provider team to formulate a tailored, comprehensive treatment plan for the individual.

In an effort to provide patients with resources and tools for ongoing success in their healing and recovery, Sierra Tucson conducts weekly presentations entitled the Healthy You series. Topics include: The Gut Brain Connection; The Role of Hormones in Mental Health; and Stress, Anxiety, and Adrenal Fatigue.

In The Gut Brain Connection, we discuss the relationship of our digestive system to mental health and wellness. Every neurotransmitter and hormone that our body produces is derived from the food that we digest. If we are not digesting foods properly or take medications that are interfering with our digestion, we are not able to absorb the beneficial nutrients that are critical in our ability to feel good. Today there is evidence linking the digestive flora to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

A key component of our patients’ comprehensive treatment plan is an understanding of the connection between hormones and their mental health. A substantial percentage of our population is affected by hormonal imbalances. Stress, medications, and nutrition affect our hormone levels. Hormones are important messengers to our bodies. Thyroid hormones, vitamin D, cortisol, estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone are all critical mood influencers. Therefore, testing is important in determining levels.

Adrenal health is another focal point of naturopathic medicine at Sierra Tucson. When one is under chronic stress, it affects the body’s natural ability to create stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. This can contribute to fatigue, anxiety, inappropriate sleep patterns, and insomnia. Patients can feel tired in the morning and awake at night. Our naturopathic physicians address the biochemistry of stress and anxiety, and provide guidance on how to reverse that cycle.

The Sierra Tucson Model provides naturopathic medicine as an essential element of the integrative and comprehensive treatment plan and exceptional patient care. Communication is a key factor for every patient’s team of medical providers. The primary physician refers the patient directly to our naturopathic physician. In more complex cases of patients who are experiencing core issues – including anxiety, trauma, and depression – the naturopathic physician will coordinate patient care with the patient’s psychiatrist and entire team of medical providers, as part of the comprehensive treatment plan.

In providing naturopathic patient care as part of the integrative team at Sierra Tucson, we are providing individualized care that meets the specific needs of each person. Digestion, hormones, stressors, and nutritional status are all evaluated. Our goal is to remove the obstacles to allow each person to experience success in his or her recovery and the healing process. As a naturopathic physician, it is gratifying to know that at Sierra Tucson, we are able to help empower our patients with the tools and resources that are necessary for living a healthier, more fulfilling life.