** The following article appeared in the July 2006 Niaraga Life Magazine and features information given by Michael A Prytula in an interview by the author.**
Imagine easing chronic pain without a weekly trip to the pharmacist, or reversing the effects of life-threatening allergic reactions.
Naturopathic medicine has seen the above results and more, says Dr. Michael Prytula, naturopathic doctor (ND).
Dr. Prytula sees an increasing number of patients visit his St. Catharines clinic who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Many are elderly, and others have ongoing health problems “mainstream” medicine can’t cure.
Naturopaths have been successful in providing relief from side-effects of crippling diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis and Lou Gehrig’s Disease (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS), a progressive and ultimately fatal neuromuscular disease. Even with documented, proven results patients ask themselves, “What do I have to lose?”
That was the view with which Mary approached Dr. Prytula.
In September 2004, Mary was diagnosed with cancer and was given two years to live, after chemotherapy treatment. The disease spread from her right lung to her liver, and she believed she was “living on borrowed time.” The chemotherapy drained Mary’s energy. She was bed-ridden for days on end. “I understand why, when some people go through chemo, they say they want to die,” she said. “It’s awful.”
Mary’s nephew couldn’t bear to see her suffer, and encouraged her to call Dr. Prytula. She took ascorbates with vitamins B and C and minerals, and within days, she felt so good she started renovating her home.
The combination of chemotherapy and naturopathic treatment helped, Mary says, but the naturopathy “gave me a more positive attitude.”
A common misconception about naturopathic medicine is treatment relies exclusively on herbs. Not true, said Dr. Prytula. Naturopathic doctors have a plethora of remedies, in addition to herbs. They examine, diagnose and treat each patient differently. Treatment programs may include a combination of herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine (treating a disease by using natural substances that produce symptoms similar to the condition for which they are being treated), lifestyle counselling, and clinical nutrition. Treatment focuses on the source of the illness, rather than just the symptoms, says Dr. Prytula. Treating the root of the problem often eliminates the need for prescription drugs, but like a weight-loss program which requires lifestyle changes, patients have to be prepared to make a long-term commitment to their health.
During the first visit to a naturopath, you will be asked for your medical history, and to describe your daily health habits. You may be asked to document everything you eat, hours you sleep, and record your temperature several times daily. Based on your profile, your ND will access your general health in an effort to find the cause of your specific problem. For example, if you experience frequent headaches, Dr. Prytula may ask questions about your stress level and, if need be, your personal life.
“Say a month and a half ago you had an argument with your spouse. It was really heated, and you didn’t speak for a week afterwards. That could be the cause of your headaches.”
It may sound like common sense, but Dr. Prytula maintains there’s more to it. In this case, he would apply what he calls a “mental reprogramming technique.”
“Physical pain can be brought on by emotions,” he says. “It’s possible to reprogram your mind so you can recall a stressful event without having an emotional reaction to it.”
Emotions trigger physiological responses, which travel on acupuncture meridians, he says. A combination of emotional counselling and acupuncture treatments are a long-term solution to headaches, instead of prescription medication. “You can’t give people chemicals to get rid of chemicals.”
Dr. Prytula offers a simple analogy.
“Imagine your body is a cup. Different factors fill the cup. When it overflows, you get a headache. We try to find the factors filling the cup and dump some of them out. Pharmaceuticals just give you a bigger cup.”
Dr. Carrie Rongitis, a naturopath in Fonthill, agrees.
“We believe food should be your medicine, and we put an emphasis on diet and nutrition. We all have to eat. Eating well, and properly, is essential to healthy bodies, healthy lives.”
For some patients, however, treatment isn’t as simple as eating the right foods.
Last year, diabetic Gabe went to see his doctor for a foot infection. He was told poor circulation led to a potentially irreversible condition. His foot might have to be amputated if prescription antibiotics couldn’t rid the infection.
After four months of antibiotics, his condition didn’t change. In sheer desperation, he visited Dr. Prytula after reading about ozone treatments at his clinic, NaturoMedic.com.
To Gabe and his MD’s surprise, after three IV ozone treatments, his foot began to heal. In Gabe’s case, naturopathic medicine and prescription drugs worked together to save his foot, his leg, and his career. “What happened to me is a miracle. Without the ozone treatment, my mobility would have been restricted, and I wouldn’t have been able to run my business.”
Gabe continues to visit his MD and ND regularly, and the combination of treatments from the doctors have proven to be effective in treating his condition.
Similarly to medical doctors, naturopathic medicine is governed in Canada under provincal law. Registered naturopathic is governed in Canada under provincial law. Registered naturopathic doctors must complete three years of pre-medical studies in university, followed by four years of full-time naturopathic medical education at an accredited college. After graduation, they must pass North American standardized exams.
Dr. Prytula chose his career path at age 18, when he fell ill to a paralyzing disease his doctors couldn’t diagnose. He was hospitalized for two weeks, and lost 70 pounds. He sought help from a naturopath, who administered homeopathic medicine and acupuncture. Dr. Prytula recovered, and was determined to help people in similar situations.
“I wanted to bring healing to other people,” he said.
Not everyone is as easily convinced as Dr. Prytula was, but he has a message for skeptics. “I’d say, what do you have to lose?, especially if pharmaceuticals aren’t doing anything for you.”
Prytula says he prefers patients who start with a negative attitude, because they give him the most satisfaction when they are healed.
Dr Rongitis encourages skeptics to visit her only when they are ready to believe they can be healed using natural remedies.
“People don’t realize we have a strong science and medical background,” she said, “but we are trained to know when to refer patients to their medical doctors.”
Similarly to most of Niagara’s MDs, NDs are overbooked, so don’t expect an appointment right away. Most extended health care programs cover some of the expense of visiting a ND, but check with your insurance provider. Most important, be prepared to change your life.