“I beat stress with naturopathy.”

Tracy Visser was running her life on high-speed’and an empty tank. A naturopath helped her reassess her priorities and gain an overall sense of health

Source: Best Health Magazine, September 2008; Photo by Steve Munday

Naturopathy came into my life by chance about five years ago when I ran into a colleague whom I hadn’t seen for a while. I’d always known her to be a little pale and slightly overweight, but when I saw her I couldn’t believe the change: She had colour in her face and had dropped 20 pounds! She looked fantastic, vibrant. “What did you do?” I asked her. She told me she had seen a naturopath.

I was 35 at the time, with an active social life and a high-stress job. I had never put much thought into whether I was running on full power. But now I took a closer look at my life. Was I energized and positive? Not really. I felt rundown and jittery, was having trouble sleeping and was irritable. I decided to try a naturopathic doctor (ND), and made an appointment with one in my Toronto neighbourhood.

It was not the doctor’s office experience I had been used to, where I would jot down notes before my appointment, speed talk my way through my symptoms, feel rushed out in a few minutes and…oh no, I forgot to tell her about my headaches…maybe it was important. This appointment was an hour long. It started with a lengthy questionnaire about how I was feeling physically and mentally, right down to every detail: Do you have a hard time falling asleep? Perspire a lot, feel cold at normal room temperatures, feel irritable? Yes, yes and yes!! Then, the naturopath and I talked about my diet and lifestyle, and how I dealt with stress. She took urine, blood and hair samples, which she told me she’d have analyzed and would report back to me at a second appointment. It got interesting when she tapped my knee to check my reflexes. My leg shot up, catching her by surprise. She paused, then said the words I didn’t realize I had longed to hear: “We’re going to calm you down.” I breathed a little slower with relief.

At my follow-up appointment, she told me I was low on many vitamins and minerals. “Your body is using them up to deal with stress,” and has been relying on adrenalin to keep it going, she explained. The sweating, the sleeping problems, the irritability, the crazy reflexes, she said, all pointed to a body that had been running on its backup system for too long. I was way off balance. I needed to blast my body with vitamin and mineral supplements, and make nutrition and lifestyle changes to bring it back to cruising speed. My naturopath recommended a multivitamin, a calcium-magnesium-vitamin D combination, and fish oil. I was reluctant to take so many pills, but decided to give it a try for one month.

Stress lurked in my daily routine, too, especially in my morning race to get to work, which caused me to skip a healthy breakfast. I came up with an easy solution: Get up 20 minutes earlier, allowing myself just one tap of the snooze bar. I also decided that I’d make my lunch and lay out my work clothes the night before. To celebrate my new regimen, I bought a fabulous-smelling bar of soap to shower with. After all, this was about feeling good.

After just two weeks, I felt calmer. For an excitable person, this was huge. My sleep improved. I sweated less. And my oily, acne-prone skin looked healthier. I was on my way to feeling great. This experience also forced me to finally begin thinking about the sources of my stress. I had been struggling through a bad relationship for some time, thinking that somehow I could turn it around. But I now realized the physical damage I was doing to myself. I owed it to myself to get out of the relationship, and I did.

It’s been a few years since that first appointment, and I feel so much better in general. I go to my naturopath for a tune-up once or twice a year. She changes the supplements around a bit and recommends certain foods. With the input of my medical doctor, together we have worked through a few problems such as hair loss, stomach upset and chronic yeast infections. But the most impressive thing about seeing a naturopath was how it made me take a close look at my complete self. It made me more self-aware, and I haven’t looked back since.

Tracy Visser, 40, is a project manager for a financial printing company in Toronto.

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