Dr. Ginger Nash graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She was a clinical supervisor at the University of Bridgeport’s College of Naturopathic Medicine for six years and has taught seminars for other healthcare professionals throughout the U.S. and Canada for over fifteen. Ginger is a sought after speaker and has recently launched an online movement for women called “feminology: the art and science of female hormones” with her colleague Dr. Tara Nayak. The two doctors interweave the scientific knowledge behind natural medicine and the art of helping women heal. In her 20 years of clinical practice, Ginger has worked with thousands of women on hormonal balance without the use of hormone replacement. As an expert in natural medicine, she addresses the most complex cases with an effective order of applied therapeutics.
What Is a naturopath and why did you become one?
First thing, some terminology. There’s a difference between a “naturopath” and a naturopathic doctor, or physician. Very simply, a naturopathic doctor must graduate from a naturopathic medical school accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. CNME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the Doctor of Naturopathy (ND) degree. Currently, there are only 7 accredited schools in North America and unfortunately not every state in the U.S. licenses NDs. Our scope of practice varies from state to state. For example, in a number of states we are licensed as primary care physicians and can even perform minor surgery (no thanks), whereas here in Connecticut, NDs don’t even have prescriptive rights. (Although that may change this year!) In an unlicensed state, many practitioners refer to themselves as “naturopaths” which makes the job of educating the public about naturopathic medicine quite challenging!
Naturopathic doctors distinguish themselves from medical doctors in a number of ways and in my opinion one of the most important differences is our respect for the self-healing capacity of the body. Where mainstream medicine often fights against pathology in the body, and rightly so in many situations, naturopathic medicine aims to prevent true pathology from developing. When patients do become ill, we try and harness the thousands of self-healing mechanisms that can restore good health. We address a patient with a variety of therapeutics including clinical nutrition, herbal and physical medicine and homeopathy. It isn’t always easy, or possible, but we have a profound respect for the body’s abilities to course-correct, given the right diet, nutrients, sometimes more aggressive interventions like i.v. therapy and the use of pharmaceuticals when indicated and legally permitted of course. Almost all naturopathic doctors refer to specialists for different types of evaluation. A good naturopathic doctor knows what they don’t know and we aren’t looking to take the place of medical doctors, we just have a different approach.
The story of my becoming a naturopathic doctor relates to this and is kind of crazy-synchronistic. I was 24 years old working toward a masters degree in the history of medicine. I was a research assistant for professor Susan Cayleff who was writing a book about naturopathic medicine in the U.S., especially with regards to women’s health. During that time I had a profound health crisis myself, landing me in the hospital for a week after having surgery to remove a massive cyst that had destroyed one of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. It was really large–like volleyball size! The night I was released from the hospital I had the only epiphany I’ve ever had in my life: I was certain I should become a naturopathic doctor. I called naturopathic medical schools the next day and never looked back. I’ve dedicated myself to helping women understand their bodies and take control of their health.
How do I find a good one?
Finding a good naturopath can be tricky because there’s not that many of us! There’s only about 6,000 licensed naturopathic physicians in the whole country. You can search the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website here or take to Google and search for licensed NDs in your area. Most of us grow our practices through word-of-mouth, and social media can provide the kind of community support and recommendations that many women are looking for. I think you know a thing or two about that!
How much of your practice is steeped in homeopathic medicine and why? Can you explain a bit about what that is?
Homeopathy is one tool in the tool kit of naturopathic doctors and some naturopaths don’t use homeopathic medicines at all. In my world, it plays a big role. This is because it is the safest, most effective way to bring those self-healing mechanisms I mentioned earlier into play. I can’t give a whole history here of the way homeopathy has developed, but suffice it to say that I don’t practice like many other homeopaths. Many homeopaths use a “classical” or “constitutional” method that I find somewhat archaic. My training is in the French school of homeopathy–it’s more of an organ-system approach and about encouraging proper eliminations than it is about finding a single substance that is going to balance everything in the person’s body, mind and spirit. Homeopathic preparations are an amazingly gentle, yet powerful, way to address a person’s chronic illnesses. I’m not going to recommend homeopathy when a person has a full-blown infection or needs some stitches. That should be obvious.
Some people think it’s all placebo because the remedies contain very little medicine, but once you’ve successfully treated migraines, allergies, autoimmune issues and hormone imbalances in thousands of patients you tend not to give a crap about the skeptics who know nothing about the non-mechanistic ways the body functions. Allopathic doctors (MDs) only get trained in one way to look at the body. My studies in the history of medicine showed me very quickly how every culture has a unique way of understanding health and disease. From acupuncture to Ayurvedic panchakarma, to European biological medicine, addressing the energetic aspect of healing has a place in helping people heal. It’s not all about what can be measured in a double-blind placebo-controlled test. Many medicines don’t fit into that model of research.
It irks me when people say they “believe in Science.” Science is many things and should not be invoked as a way to infer some monolithic truth. Every time I’ve ever had a conversation with a top medical specialist they have acknowledged the very same thing. It’s very hard to prove anything absolutely and when it comes to medicine, the practice is as much an art as it is a science. I’ll never forget a top researcher in urinary tract infections telling me that women should probably refrain from using antibiotics most of the time they’ve been diagnosed with a UTI. “Whoever said that urine should be sterile?” he told me. He said ibuprofen works better to eliminate the pain and almost all of the time the infection will go away on its own. Ha! Self-healing urinary tracts! We spent another 15 minutes with him asking me what I recommend for women when they have a UTI. I promised I would never quote him by name, but I want to.
Do all of your patients take a ton of supplements?
Great question! The short answer is no. Many of my patients come in taking way too many supplements because they read a lot of general articles about health and end up convinced they need to take every single thing they read about! Most importantly, when treating patients you have to consider the order of therapeutics. It’s the intelligent application of various natural medicines that will really help a person get, or stay, well!
In other words, you can’t just throw everything but the kitchen sink in your body and expect it to know what to do with all that information. You must have some understanding of human physiology and the way the body can get back to balance. Some women come in taking 20 pills a day and then wonder why they are constipated or have digestive troubles. It’s understandable because our diets have become so depleted and our bodies exposed to a multitude of chemicals, so most of us need some regular support to stay healthy.
Natural supplements are definitely a part of my work and depending on how sick a person is will determine how much you need to do to get back to good health. I am always judicious about my supplement recommendations and in addition, dietary and nutritional advice should always part of a naturopathic approach. Lastly, most of the supplements I do recommend are liquids thereby limiting the amount of capsules a person is swallowing each day.
What is Feminology?
Ok, one question with a short answer! Feminology is a movement looking at the intersection of women’s health and culture. I started feminology just last year with my friend and colleague Dr. Tara Nayak. The best way to see what we’re all about is to join our Facebook group here or check out our website where we have a number of resources, articles and free guides about various aspects of women’s health. Soon we’ll be launching our podcast and we are also developing some new online programs around particular health challenges. The first program I created is for peri-menopausal women since this is such a huge life transition and also, I’m going through it myself!
Tell us about your customized program/course?
The Natural Menopause Map is a comprehensive program for peri-menopausal women. It can be completed over 12 weeks, or 6, depending on your preference and includes 3 one-on-one sessions with me, an on-boarding session, a mid-program session and an outgoing one too! Here’s a link to learn more.
Here’s a video series I did for the program: