Naturopathy is a form of health care that is both old and new to Northern Michigan. Old, in the sense that its tradition of using only natural plants, minerals and noninvasive therapies to heal goes back thousands of years. New, in that there are few certified practitioners in the region, and the field is little-known to most residents.
But that scenario is changing as more Americans seek holistic answers to their health problems.
I try to see my patients spiritually, mentally and physically, Dr. Chamberlain says of her holistic viewpoint. I see a lot of people who are suffering so deeply inside from emotional issues that it has manifested into a deep-rooted disease.
Born and raised in St. Johns in the Lansing area, Chamberlain had a successful daycare and preschool for some 20 years. Her experience as a parent led to an interest in holistic health.
I was a single mom raising three children and I thought there had to be an alternative to helping kids other than through drug therapy, she recalls.
She enrolled in a course in aromatherapy at the Naturopathic Institute in Mt. Pleasant and found her calling. She went on to complete five years of classes and 2,600 hours of education in iridology, herbology, essential oils, nutrition, sclerology, massage therapy, nutrition and many other forms of holistic therapy.
I was very successful at my business, but I knew I was going to get daycare burnout, she says. I wanted to become a doctor of naturopathy so I could continue to give to the community. I feel that Im a chosen healer and that I have an exciting life ahead of me.
She moved from the Lansing area to the small Manistee County village of Arcadia last year and opened her Great Lakes Naturopathy practice on 620 Second St.. in Traverse City, sharing the building with chiropractors Mark Zimmer, Stephanie Crubaugh and Jeral Dennis. She also maintains a practice in Lansing.
PATIENTS & TREATMENT
So, what kind of patients does she see?
Its kind of all over the place -- anywhere from people who have digestive disorders to those who cant sleep or have weight problems, skin conditions or pain. There are also people with lifestyle problems, such as patients with Hepatitis C, or smokers trying to kick the habit. And baby boomers who are paying the price for living large.
Dr. Chamberlain conducts an hour-and-a-half consultation with each new patient to discuss whats going on in their life and any emotional factors which may be contributing to health problems. She follows up with a muscle test to determine weak areas of the body and conducts an iridology exam, which is based on the belief that health problems can be detected by anomalies in the eye. She also measures the pH acid/alkalinity levels of the patients urine and saliva, completes a urine sugar analysis, and attempts to make a well-rounded assessment of where the patient is at, health-wise, and some possible therapies.
Therapies span the range of holistic health, including aromatherapy, herbology, detoxification of heavy metals in the body, and many others.
She is also a specialist in therapeutic body work, which involves advanced forms of massage therapy. As a certified body work practitioner, I do a lot of energy healing, she says. This means working with the ethereal body, or the spiritual body.
If that sounds a bit out there, please note, energy therapies such as meridian touch and reflexology are balanced by naturopathys call to get back to basics with health, including common-sense approaches to diet. Fresh fruits, veggies, clean water and exercise are also part of a naturopaths approach to health. A lot of problems can be solved through diet alone, she notes.
Cost-wise, the initial 90-minute consultation runs $85, with massage/body work sessions at $60 per hour and infrared sauna treatments to remove toxins at $15 per session or 10 for $100. Chamberlain also works with the Chiropractic Care clinic upstairs from her office on insurance issues and a well-rounded approach to health.
Beyond that, just talking to Dr.. Chamberlain feels therapeutic -- she is both warm and inspiring in her approach to life. I have a huge passion for what I do, she says. My goal is to get out there and educate the public and help mankind.
So far, business has been slow, but word is still getting out on the benefits of naturopathy.
There is also, perhaps, a touch of confusion in the field at large, since many states, including Michigan, do not license naturopaths. Unfortunately, there are individuals with far less training from correspondence schools who purport to be naturopaths and have bogus, mail order certificates to prove it, according to an investigative report in the *Seattle Times.* Thus, there seems to be a need for government regulation to sort the dabblers and dilettantes from those who have received serious training.
A month ago, Chamberlain passed the American Naturopathic Medical Boards and is now certified nationally as a naturopathic doctor. That certification differs from naturopaths who attend medical school and can perform minor surgery and prescribe drugs. These naturopaths are certified physicians.
I am what is called an orthodox naturopath, which is much more humble, she notes. My practice is non-invasive and I dont prescribe drugs. Im trained in iridology (the study of the eye) in order to make health assessments. But if I ever cut off my arm, please take me to a vascular surgeon and not a naturopath, she says with a laugh.
Chamberlain sees a strong educational component to her role in helping people take charge of their own health.
To be a doctor means to teach, she says. I feel Im teaching patients how they can improve their health. And folks need to realize that once they take that path, its definitely a lifestyle change.
The theme of taking charge of your own health is central to naturopathy. When you go to a naturopath, you go to the root of whats going on with yourself, how you live your life, and the changes you need to make. We dont deal with symptoms -- its not a quick fix.