I was a little too busy writing about hydrotherapy last week to
comment on the election we just had. I hope that those of you who
can vote, did so!
I heard that only 1/3 of eligible Americans voted. I understand
that political showmanship isn't cool and that the attack ads we
hear and see are sickening, but I'm still not quite convinced that
the proper response to this political climate is to abstain from
I am not politically inclined, I haven't studied the subject,
and I don't know enough about the people I vote for. I do listen to
public radio news a lot, and I read news headlines, but I do not
own a TV, so my information-gathering tactics may differ from most.
I find it strange that 2/3 of the people from a country that fights
fiercely to initiate democracy in other places around the world,
would not show up to the polls. I am especially puzzled because
these mid-term elections for local government seem to be the truer
way to impact our greater (seemingly untouchable) national
government. OK, that's all I'll get into on this last election, but
I mention it because it's relevant to our naturopathic profession
to be somewhat politically active and versed in how local
Map from http://www.naturopathic.org
(click to see larger version)
It's no secret that naturopathic medicine is not licensed in
Illinois, or in the majority of the United States. Currently, 17
states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands license
or regulate naturopathic medicine. Our under-the-radar practice
of healing impacts our education because we have to tread lightly
when advertising our work at the NUHS clinic. Yes, we are trained
to diagnose and treat disease, but we are not allowed to officially
exercise this training as naturopaths here in Illinois. Our
training encompasses many things that we are not yet licensed to do
in many states, but we learn these things so that we are prepared
to safely and effectively treat patients when the time comes that
our scope of practice does include these skills. I have confidence
do many others) that this time will come; our national state of
health is ripe for our medicine.
As far as I understand, all the clinicians who oversee our ND
clinic here at NUHS are also licensed chiropractors, and we
practice under their license while we work to gain licensure here
in Illinois. For those of you looking to attend NUHS to study
naturopathic medicine, please do not let licensure get in the way
of your decision-making. I personally chose NUHS because of the
realistic environment it would provide for practicing my medicine.
I do not know where I will land and I want to feel prepared to
offer my services to my community, no matter the political state of
naturopathic medicine in that place.
If you're curious about the process and progress toward
licensure in Illinois, I encourage you to explore the Illinois Association
of Naturopathic Physicians website. Also, contact your local
legislator and share with them your passion that naturopathic
medicine be a licensed profession. Legislators care about what
their constituents care about. They want to hear from the people
they represent. Your senator wants to represent your opinion and
address your concerns more so than they want to hear from a group
of naturopathic doctors about how much our medicine is needed by
you, the people they represent.
If you are a student at NUHS, you should be a student
member of ILANP. The cost is minimal and makes a big impact.
When the ILANP lobbies for licensure, greater numbers help their
cause, and their work in lobbying for licensure directly affects us
as students. If you plan to return to another state after
graduation, I highly suggest you join that state's naturopathic
association, too. And, of course we should all join and support our American Association of
Naturopathic Physicians. Again, greater numbers show
involvement and promise when these associations work for our future
practices and safe access to our medicine for our future patients.
Plus, there are perks with every membership! (I get a free access
to diverse naturopathic resources through my AANP membership, and I
received a welcome discount to the
ILANP conference this year!
I may not fancy supporting the current caustic political
environment, but as an ND student, I understand that local politics
are wholly relevant to my future. If I don't keep informed, I run
the risk of envisioning for myself an unrealistic future. "OK, OK,
now," some of you are saying, "but what IS reality, really? Isn't
it what WE make it to be?" I'm not getting philosophical here. I'm
being present and encouraging my peers to do the same. Let's show
our support for our profession and those who are working (some
unpaid!) to elevate our medicine and make it known, safely
accessible, and properly understood.
A few weeks ago I introduced the topic of hydrotherapy in this
post. To learn about the basics and some of the history on
modern naturopathic constitutional hydrotherapy, please refer to my
last post. Once you're caught up, let's continue! How and why do
naturopathic doctors use water as a therapy?
Water is known as the universal solvent, and it stores and
transmits heat better than any other substance, by weight. The
physiological effects of water on the body fall into three
categories: thermal, mechanical and chemical. Thermal application
involves changing the temperature of the body based on using water
that is either hotter or colder than our normal body temperature.
The mechanical effect of water on the body involves physical impact
on the body in the form of frictions, immersions, whirlpools,
showers, sprays, etc. Water's chemical effect on the body involves
ingesting water and receiving water internally by irrigation (such
as colonics.) The category we use most frequently in naturopathic
practice to elicit physiological change is the thermal application
The temperature ranges used in hydrotherapy are in relation to
the body temperature of the patient (healthy body temp is around
98.6º F). When we use cold applications (32-65º F depending on
intensity of treatment and/or patient tolerance), we are depressing
function via vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels), which
slows blood flow. Decreased blood flow means that fewer immune
cells are activated in local tissues and metabolic activity
decreases, leading to a decrease in sensation (cold nerves do not
transmit signals as readily) and a slower motor response of muscles
due to slight contraction (tightening.) In this way, we can control
inflammation, a technique that is used to treat pain as well as
ligament sprains and muscle strains. These are injuries that cause
the body to react with excess inflammation.
It is important to note that our body creates inflammation for a
reason; increasing blood to an injured area brings more immune
cells and repair ingredients to the area. We always want some
degree of inflammation present if we want the body to heal, but our
body can respond in excess and we may want to control it for our
comfort and to elicit the smoothest healing process.
If we apply cold therapies in a general fashion (such as a cold
sheet wrap or soak), we cause blood to move to the core as the
whole body cools. We rarely use such applications, but might apply
this in treating an exceedingly high fever to bring down the body
If we apply cold for a short amount of time, we can elicit a
"reaction" effect, which causes a reflexive increase in blood flow
and heat production in the area when the cold is removed. This
makes the patient to feel greater "vigor and well-being." We use
this application of cold more often in practice.
Alternately, hot water applications elicit responses from the
body as it tries to clear the heat. This includes vasodilation
(opening up of blood vessels), increased blood pressure and
respiratory rate, and increased local metabolic activity. It also
causes immune cells to become more active, muscles to relax, and
sweating to occur. The reflexive response of removing a short use
hot application causes the body to relax.
Hot application used alone can also be cleansing and
detoxifying, but care is always taken to monitor the patient and
make sure they do not over-heat. An example of this is the peat
bath I experienced in hydrotherapy lab last week, pictured below! I
sat in this bath of about 106º F for 20 minutes and gotreallyhot.
Afterwards, I was given water and wrapped in a dry sheet to
continue to sweat as I slowly cooled after the treatment. The
experience was extremely detoxifying, intense, and relaxing. While
I had a headache later that night following treatment, I felt
fabulous the next day!
Sweating and smiling in a peat
When used in therapeutic application (not for too long or for
too short and in appropriate alternations - this is why we require
a course in this therapy!), cold is stimulating, invigorating and
tonifying, while hot is relaxing and sedative. Naturopathic
hydrotherapy often uses hot therapy in combination with cold
therapy. We can use alternating hot and cold treatments (contrast)
to increase or decrease blood flow to an area to promote healing. I
practiced administering a contrast bath recently in class for my
classmate Brad, whose feet had been hurting from long-distance
running. Affecting blood flow is one of the major goals of
hydrotherapy. The purpose of directing or moving blood flow is to
increase oxygenation, deliver nutrients and immune factors, and
clear toxins from tissues. This process is best elicited when
combined with proper nutrition and detoxification, two important
components of naturopathic practice.
Brad receiving a hot and cold
contrast bath treatment
A naturopath always monitors the temperature, pulse and
respiration rates of the patient before, during and after treatment
to ensure that we are eliciting the proper effects, and that the
patient is safe. Additionally, we always consider the age, severity
of illness/vitality, emotional state, and circulatory condition of
the patient. A patient with heart failure is not a good candidate
for a therapy that heavily influences blood flow. Young patients or
very old patients require special consideration, for example,
decreasing the variation range between cold and hot applications so
as to make for gentler treatments.
Fellow students monitoring blood
pressure during treatment
One important aspect to practicing hydrotherapy is to never cool
a chilled patient. In any situation, a patient should never get
chilled, and following treatment the patient should not get too
hot, too cold, or exercise vigorously, as the treatment may not
have its full effect.
Not only is hydrotherapy effective and relatively cheap to
administer, but also water is non-toxic, so we can use this therapy
on very sensitive patients. There are many other ways to use water
therapeutically and I cannot do every method justice here! One
major application I left out is the use of neutral temperatures
such as dry sheets wraps and neutral baths. Know that there is a
lot more to explore and to study when you take the class offered
here at NUHS! I hope this post helps to clarify hydrotherapy, and
gives my fellow students some words to use in explaining this
modality to their curious friends and family.
Sources: Pizzorno and Murray. Textbook of Natural
Medicine. 4th edition. and Conner K. Hydrotherapy Lecture
Happy belated Halloween! I think once Halloween has come and
gone, fall has really shown itself and we're officially getting
closer to winter. Winter's impending presence is evident around
here; it has been in the 30s at night. Brrrr! We even had our first
snow last week!
First snow! Early morning on campus before classes began on
To celebrate Halloween this year, Hanzi and I went out to
support the arts in Chicago. We saw a creepy opera put on by the Third Eye Theatre
Ensemble called "The Medium." The show is about a woman named
Madame Flora who scams customers by putting on fake séances with
the help of her daughter and a "deaf and dumb" boy she has taken
under her wing. When Madame Flora feels icy cold hands grab her
around the neck at one of her séances, she gets terribly scared,
admits her dishonesty and tries to give the people their money
back. But the couple and the mother who have been coming to her
séances to speak with their deceased children are convinced that
Madame Flora has truly helped them to connect with their lost loved
ones, and they fight her on her claims. Her customers say they know
the voice and the laugh of their dead children and she must
continue to help them connect with their dead!
The story is lots of fun and this particular show was put on in
a black box theater, with two rows of seats along two of the walls.
It was incredibly cool to feel that we were participants in the
events taking place in Madame Flora's parlor.
I left this little rhyme outside our door incase we had any
trick-or-treaters come by while we were out.
It is really very easy to forget our creative side when we are
so busy with school, but taking the time to either make art or
appreciate it brings me so much more alive! This is something I
speak with my other student friends about often; when we're really
dragging we encourage each other to go create something or find
something artistic to enjoy. The experience of using the other half
of our brains seems to really help put everything back in
On the set of "The Medium"
After the Halloween show, as Hanzi and I hustled through the
freezing rain back to our car, we had to make a stop at a bookstore
called Myopic Books. It was 10:15 p.m. and the glowing
red 'OPEN' sign in the window was intriguing. The place was packed
with books from floor to ceiling, some narrow shelves constructed
from raw 2x4s made for several narrow halls and fantastic browsing.
The whole place was 3 stories, and packed with used books! I
bee-lined to the third floor and parked myself in front of the
alternative health section. Our spur-of-the-moment stop at this
shop was totally worth it; I found a copy of "Women's Encyclopedia
of Natural Health" by Tori Hudson, ND, know as THE women's health
doc in naturopathic circles. And it cost me less than 10 bucks!
There were signs inside the store asking us to not take
photographs, so I had Hanzi snap this shot of me outside on our way
out. The blustery, seriously chilly night combined with the red
light in the window made for an appropriately spooky setting!
My fab bookstore find! On Halloween night at Myopic Books in
(Photo credit: hanzi d. - www.hanzid.com)
After our artsy and interesting Halloween night, I am inspired
to seek out artistic endeavors in the midst of my studying. Maybe
I'll doodle when I'm losing focus in class, or maybe I'll take more
creative pictures on my short walks between buildings on campus. I
do really love to patronize the arts; this is perhaps the best use
of my time (and money), as I don't really trust myself to find time
to follow through on my own creative projects in the midst of med
school. Now that I think about it, I have been getting more
exposure to the arts... Just last week Hanzi and I went to a show
at Cole's Bar in Logan Square where several hard-rocking local
Chicago punk bands covered other awesome bands like Led Zeppelin
(my absolute favorite!), Bikini Kill, and LCD Soundsystem. It was
such a treat to lose myself in the music, all the while surrounded
by people who sought out this show to do the same exact thing.
If I can't enjoy and create art on a regular basis right now
because I am too busy studying medicine, I can at the very least
let the little exposure that I do get to the arts fuel my studying.
I'm writing this on Sunday, and am feeling totally ready to sit
down and dig in to my Phys Dx lectures in preparation for this
week's exam. I realize that I've had a good fill of art lately, and
it would serve me well to remember, over the next year or so of
school, how it truly helps to balance my brain.
Ah, sigh. This weekend I finally got away into the outside world
where the air is significantly different from here in Chicagoland.
I took in gulps of fresh air and smiled. I experienced my first
corn maze in the flat, flat Midwest and sat under a tree whose red
leaves came drifting down into my lap as I chewed my apple brat. I
ate a candy apple, but we didn't get to pick our own apples because
we were a little too late in the season for that.
These past two weeks, for some reason, I've found myself
answering questions about my life before medical school. People
have been asking about the places I've lived and the cultures
there. I'm quick to tell a story about places outside of the
Midwest, so this weekend's little adventures served as a good
tether to pull me back, and to examine my current place.
When I was studying non-fiction writing in undergrad, we often
examined the concept of Place and wrote on the topic: what does it
mean to be in a place, what makes a place yours, not yours,
different, the same, why sit and become enveloped in this place
now? It's a damn hard task, to sit patiently in place and observe
it for what it is. This is especially difficult when your world
moves so quickly and you are expected to work hard at attaining,
achieving, getting there, making progress towards becoming a
Despite the rapid clip at which I am working to become a doctor,
I try, try, try to slow down and observe this place, to take it in
and notice the unique things. This weekend helped me to settle and
gaze, to take in the flat farmland, to hug my boyfriend, to laugh
with new friends, and to read through old physiology notes in order
to refresh my memory and help me be more present in my current
When you talk about the Midwest with anyone, they inevitably say
something about how nice people are here. My initial experience
with this Midwestern friendliness involved some confusion, seeing
as I come from Boston, a place where nobody acknowledges anybody
unless they definitely want to talk. When I arrived in Chicago, a
stranger would smile and ask me, "How are you?" I inaccurately
perceived this as an open invitation for a full conversation. Over
the past two years of living here, I've learned that friendliness
does not necessarily equate to a desire to have a conversation,
they're just being kind, I guess. I'm still a little weirded out by
this; if you ask me how I'm doing, I still look at you sideways to
figure out if you actually want me to answer that question, or not.
On the other hand, my rather immediate assumption to jump into
conversation has served me well, and I've made friends with shop
clerks at nearly every place I buy goods and services.
Right now, the Midwest is my home, though perhaps not my truest
Place. Here in Chicago, I've had to stumble along trying to
navigate the culture, and I finally feel that maybe I'm able to
catch these Midwesterners in stride and keep up. I have learned so
much about life in the heart of classic America by living here. My
greatest adventures so far have been getting to know a place by
living in it, participating in the community, and feeling out the
social habits of the people there. From this perspective, it's no
wonder I feel so slammed with new information; it's not just the
study of medicine I've been trying to assimilate, but the
Midwestern way of life as well.
So being in medical school is more than just your peers, your
books, your lectures, and the other trappings of studying medicine.
Many of us move to a new place to start this journey into medicine,
and the culture of that new place also provides us with struggles
and triumphs. If we can find the time to sit with our new place, in
addition to our books, we'll learn more about the world, which will
certainly make us better doctors, right?
When someone asks me about naturopathic medicine, I invariably
list off several of our modalities in an effort to explain my
training, and hydrotherapy usually comes up. Their next question is
usually, "And what is hydrotherapy?"
I'll admit, until this trimester I wasn't very good at
explaining hydrotherapy. I would more or less answer with, "Well,
I'm not really sure because I haven't had that class yet." This is
the first post I will write as part of an attempt to accurately
answer the question, "What is Hydrotherapy?" In the process, I'll
examine why I am so drawn to this particular tool in the ND's
Here I am administering a constitutional hydrotherapy
for fellow ND student Lisa in our Friday afternoon Hydro
In naturopathic medicine, we recognize the body's ability and
tendency toward self-healing. We call this the vis medicatrix
naturae. The vis is the built-in guide we all have
that allows our bodies to move "toward the healthiest expression of
function," aka a healthy state of being (Pizzorno and Murray).
Assuming that we provide our bodies the proper environment, we
should be able to achieve a healthy state because theviscan work
free of encumbrances (like fast food, unhappiness, too much beer,
not enough sleep, or not enough love, to name a few.)
Hydrotherapy, specifically constitutional hydrotherapy, works by
stimulating this self-healing mechanism, the vis.
This photo and the rest below are from a display in the
the history of medicine. I love these old images depicting
So what is constitutional hydrotherapy? The quick definition, as
supplied by Pizzorno and Murray in the Textbook of Natural
Medicine, states that it is a simple procedure "involving the
placement of hot and then cold towels on the trunk and back in
specific sequence (depending on the patient), usually accompanied
by a sine wave stimulation of the digestive tract." The treatment
"recovers digestive function, stimulates toxin elimination, 'cleans
the blood', and enhances immune function." All of these actions
serve to move "the system along to a healthier state."
Hydrotherapy in general is defined as "the use of water, in any
of its forms, for the maintenance of health or the treatment of
disease." This can include application of water to the body via
"sprays, douches, frictions, immersions, whirlpools, steams," etc.
Modern research on hydrotherapy techniques for the treatment of
disease is lacking because, I suspect, water exists already and no
one can make a buck on redesigning it; it's pretty good as it is.
Maybe someday when we truly encounter its scarcity, someone will
study it. Or, maybe when Big Pharma dies. Or, when pigs
Anyways, before I get too much further into the what,
let's examine where our modern naturopathic hydrotherapy came from.
Much of the information we use for the basis of today's
naturopathic application of hydrotherapy comes from centuries of
clinical evidence, recorded and compiled by various healers over
hundreds of years. Dr. O.G. Carroll, an ND who practiced in
Spokane, Washington, may be considered the grandfather of modern
naturopathic Constitutional Hydrotherapy in the United States,
having been the one to add the sine wave stimulation. He studied
with several storied and experienced hydrotherapy practitioners
including Dr. Henry Lindlahr. Dr. Lindlahr practiced hydrotherapy
at his Nature Cure (a name for the medicine that preceded the word
naturopathy) sanitarium in Elmhurst, Illinois from 1914-1928. I should
note, of course, that Lindlahr's School of Natural Therapeutics
(again, a forerunner to naturopathy) was
absorbed by the National College of Chiropractic (present day
NUHS!) in 1926.
There is so much more I could share about the rich history of
hydrotherapy, but I would be hard pressed to do it justice. One
book I have explored is Nature Doctors by Kirchfeld and
Boyle. Though the book is rather dense and doesn't really read like
a story, it definitely is a good source for learning about the
history of our profession. I have also sought out books written by
Henry Lindlahr and those by his son, Victor Lindlahr, on Nature
Cure and Natural Therapeutics. The Textbook of Natural
Medicine by Pizzorno and Murray that I referenced several
times in this post has a whole chapter on hydrotherapy that I have
yet to finish reading. I know there are so many more books out
there, too, just waiting patiently for me to finish school and find
the time to devour them...feel free to point me in the right
direction if you have any suggestions!
I guarantee I've missed a lot of detail here, and I encourage
you to fill in the gaps as you explore and study our medicine. Next
time I'll focus more on what hydrotherapy actually does to the
body, and why this makes it a useful therapy. Until then, have a
lovely Week 8! I hope everyone's midterms are going
• Leaves, Flowers, Berries, and Bark
• Farmer's Market
• Should I Study Massage Therapy, Too?
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