By Dr. Jill Corey, ND (they/them)
What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is an approach to healthcare that utilizes natural methods in tandem with modern scientific methods of healing. Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care doctors. In addition, they study herbal medicine, counseling, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and nutrition to facilitate healing. The concept of naturopathic medicine has five principles:
- Do no harm – use treatments with the least amount of harmful side effects.
- Prevention – work with the patient to decrease the risk of future disease.
- Support the body’s own ability to heal – facilitate healing and remove obstacles to healing.
- Treat the whole person – understand that the patient is more complex than just a diagnosis and include a treatment plan that supports the patient’s physical, emotional, environmental, and spiritual components.
- Teaching (docere) – provide the patient with knowledge to empower an active role in their healing.
Naturopathic medicine also follows a therapeutic order to healing. However, we must work with the patient to find a treatment plan that fits within their lifestyle and commitment to healing. The naturopathic approach centers the body and patient in healing before modern pharmaceuticals or other interventions:
- Remove obstacles to healing
- Stimulate the body’s ability to heal
- Restore and regenerate damaged or weakened systems
- Correct the body’s structural integrity
- Use “natural” therapies to treat pathology
- Use “paramedical” therapies such as physical therapy to treat pathology
- Use interventions to suppress pathologies
How can naturopathic medicine help with gender affirming healthcare?
Gender affirming healthcare often starts with the doctor and patient relationship. As stated above naturopathic medicine seeks to treat the whole person. Therefore, the naturopathic approach to gender affirming care is more than using hormone therapy to address feelings of dysphoria. There are many spiritual, emotional and physical aspects that may need to be addressed when treating gender diverse patients. We must look at the patient’s medical, family, and social history, as well as their goals for treatment. We work together to meet those goals. The healing process must be a collaborative process for it to be meaningful and sustainable.
If gender affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) is used in gender affirming care, naturopathic medicine offers tools to help with side effects of HRT. Despite the whole-person benefits of GAHT, it can put stress on individual body systems. For example, GAHT can put stress on the liver, where hormones are processed. A naturopathic doctor can help by providing herbs, supplements and hydrotherapy exercises to help the liver function optimally. For example, I often recommend milk thistle as a safe and effective herb for liver support.
GAHT can also have profound effects on mood. Remember how fun puberty was and how moody teenagers can get? With GAHT, the body essentially goes through puberty again. Luckily naturopathic doctors are trained in counseling and can help you sort out your feelings as these changes occur. Another naturopathic approach to managing mood changes and swings is nutritional support and knowledge. Have you ever felt “hangry”? When blood sugar dips too low, it can cause mood swings, including “hanger.” Protein can help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent “hanger” and other mood swings. Therefore, I often recommend patients eat enough protein in their diet. Exercise is often recommended by naturopathic doctors for mood and liver support as well.
Lastly, skin issues like acne can often arise with GAHT. Thankfully, we have numerous lifestyle changes and supplements that can help with acne. One key aspect to skin support is exfoliation. It is important to promote skin cell turnover 2-3 times a week.
Dr. Jill Corey earned their Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine in 2014 and a Masters of Nutrition degree in 2009 from Bastyr University. Dr. Corey provides a collaborative and individualized approach to healthcare. They are dedicated to providing a welcoming environment to all individuals that are seeking to improve their health.