In the wellness world, terms like ‘homeopathy’, ‘alternative medicine’ and ‘naturopathy’ make a regular appearance in the information we read. Yet, it’s often tricky to understand the difference between these ‘similar but different’ terms. We sat down with naturopathic nutritionist Cliona Dillon to talk about her wellness journey and exactly what the difference is between naturopathy vs homeopathy.April 27, 2022 4:19 pm February 02, 2022 9:06 am
Empowering through naturopathy
If you’ve ever dreamed of escaping the city for a life in touch with nature and wellbeing, Cliona Dillon may just be your new inspiration.
A naturopathic nutritionist with the College of Naturopathic Medicine, Cliona lives in county Galway, Ireland, with her fiancé Aidan and their adorable dog, Teddy.
And, when she’s not out walking Teddy through the rolling hills and along the dramatic clifftops of county Galway, she’s helping others discover their own path to wellbeing.
“As a naturopathic nutritionist, I empower and educate people to achieve their best physical, mental and emotional state,” she explains. “It’s a really rewarding career, when you see the difference people can make to their own lives when they take charge of their health and wellbeing.”
A transformative experience
Growing up beside bookshelves lined with works by nutritionist such as Dr Patrick Holford and the herbalist Alfred Vogel sparked an interest in nutrition and naturopathy for Cliona. However, as is so often the case, it was personal experience that really fanned the flames!
After suffering with skin rashes, deteriorating eyesight and eye pain, Cliona had tried the traditional route of treatment – steroid creams and eyeglasses – without much improvement. So, she decided to see if a naturopathic nutritionist could help.
“I learned so much about how the body functions as a whole, and how an imbalance in one system can affect multiple others,” she explains. “For example, my protocol focused a lot on my liver. As the primary organ of detoxification, any weakness there can cause an imbalance in other areas, such as the skin.
“However, my therapist also explained the idea of the liver meridian, in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It has a strong correlation with the eyes, so focusing there might also lead to improvements with my eyesight. I found it all very interesting.”
And the results spoke for themselves. After six weeks on the plan, Cliona was noticing a big difference. “My skin rashes completely cleared up, my eye pain had resolved and I no longer needed my prescription glasses. I thought, I’ve got to know more about this! The experience inspired me to train as a naturopathic nutritionist, one of the best decisions I have ever made.”
Naturopathy vs homeopathy
So, what exactly is naturopathy, and is it the same as homeopathy? Not quite, as Cliona explains.
“Naturopathy is a system of healthcare which encourages and promotes the body’s own self-healing mechanisms,” she tells us. “It can incorporate various different therapies such as nutrition, fasting, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulations, herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, and others.
“On the other hand, while homeopathy is also based on the principle that the body has the ability to heal itself, it follows a specific set of principles.
“Mainly, these revolve around the “law of similars” or curing “like with like”. This is the belief that a substance that causes a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person will have a curative effect when given to a sick person who is displaying similar symptoms.”
For example, we all know that chopping a raw onion makes our eyes sting and water. From this, the homeopathic remedy Allium cepa came into being. Derived from the common onion, the theory goes that because of its effects on the healthy, it could be used to treat people suffering from hay fever.
So, homeopathy can be a part of naturopathy, but naturopathy also encompasses other areas of holistic wellbeing.
Suppression, and finding the root cause
Many traditional medical systems, including Ayurveda, place more focus on treating the patient as a unique, individual person, rather than treating a recognisable set of symptoms.
For many followers of holistic medicine, the idea of balancing concern for mental and physical wellbeing is part of the appeal.
Cliona subscribes to the idea that our bodies are systems which operate harmoniously, until an imbalance arises. When that happens, it’s important to treat the whole person.
“One of the theories of homeopathy that I do follow as a naturopath is the theory of suppression,” Cliona tells us.
This theory states that if you try and suppress symptoms of malaise or imbalance, your body will find another way to express itself. “The continual suppression of symptoms can result in deeper-seated problems. These are more detrimental to body functions and longevity.
“In naturopathy, we always strive to get to the root cause of a person’s physical or emotional issue. I think this is an area that conventional medicine sometimes falls down on. Medication is prescribed to cure symptoms but is it really addressing the root cause?”
If not, Cliona believes, the body will find another way to let you know that there is an imbalance which you need to address. Luckily, our bodies have an impressive ability to self-heal, given the right circumstances.
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"If you try and suppress symptoms of malaise or imbalance, your body will find another way to express itself."
Giving ourselves the best chance to self-heal
“I’ve seen many cases where the body, when given the right support, has a remarkable capacity heal itself,” says Cliona.
“The liver is particularly incredible in that it can completely regenerate itself even after up to 90% of it has been removed. Even days after stopping smoking, the lungs will begin to repair and heal.”
What about less quantifiable imbalances – for example if we don’t have a specific disease or lifestyle to target?
“Acute symptoms can also be manifestations of the body’s self-healing mechanisms,” says Cliona. “When trying to fight off disease, your body may raise its temperature to let the immune system work more effectively. Or, it may trigger diarrhoea and vomiting to eliminate toxins.
“I have witnessed first-hand how skin reactions can also be a sign of the body trying to detoxify and self-heal. In naturopathy, this is called the ‘inside-out’ concept. It’s the idea that, when the main organs responsible for detoxification are sluggish, toxins can appear elsewhere. For example, symptoms on the skin may be a sign of an internal imbalance.
“As a naturopath, it’s important to support the body’s self-healing mechanisms. We also want to give the body what it needs to repair and regenerate more effectively. Self-healing can take time, but trust in your body’s natural processes.”
Natural foods to support your wellbeing
Like many holistic practitioners, Cliona believes that you shouldn’t wait until an illness presents itself to start worrying about your wellbeing. Rather, looking after ourselves should be a regular and consistent part of our lives. This is important even when we feel well.
To that end, Cliona enjoys using a variety of natural foods which she adds to her daily routine specifically to support her overall wellbeing.
“One of my favourite natural products to use is the micro algae, chlorella,” Cliona says. “It’s a rich source of bioavailable protein, essential fatty acids, magnesium and B vitamins, including B12.
“This is especially important if you’re vegan or vegetarian. It’s also involved in making dopamine and serotonin. These influence your mood, motivation and feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
Cliona also regularly uses the Ayurvedic adaptogen ashwagandha. “Therapeutically it is anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and has memory-enhancing properties. I like to add it to a moon milk before bed. It’s a lovely way to unwind in the evening.”
Another simple and inexpensive product Cliona loves is Epsom salts. These are great for drawing out toxins from the body, reducing inflammation and pain and helping you relax.
“Try adding them to a warm bath with a tablespoon or ginger root to relieve aches and pains. Or, add a couple of drops of lavender essential oil for stress and anxiety.”
Mushrooms and mycotherapy
Many traditional medical systems make use of medicinal mushrooms and fungi as part of their therapies. It’s an area that Cliona is especially interested in because of the immunomodulatory effects of many mushrooms.
“They contain a host of therapeutic compounds, such as beta-glucans, lectins, sterols and triterpenes,” she explains. “They all affect your immune system, helping to strengthen the defence provided by immune cells like neutrophils and microphages, which are essential in helping to protect us from pathogenic bacteria and viruses.”
With such a plethora of medicinal mushrooms now available, we quizzed Cliona on her favourites.
For respiratory health, she highly rates cordyceps: “it has shown particular promise in reducing inflammation and improving respiratory function. It has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic for the lung. I like to take it in the morning in a warm tea.”
For hormonal health and stress, she turns to reishi. “Stress increases the levels of a hormone called cortisol in the body. Over the long term, it can increase your risk of chronic diseases. However, reishi helps balance your levels of cortisol and adrenaline.
“The beauty of medicinal mushrooms is that they work with your body, enhancing your own innate defence mechanisms. Like most natural products, it’s important to buy from a reputable source that puts an emphasis on quality and sustainability.”
Other ways to look after your wellbeing
Beyond the food we eat, what else can we do to look after our wellbeing? Cliona suggests trying out a few of these tips in your daily routine to help yourself feel calm, content and ready for what life throws at you.
- Forest bathing: Based on the Japanese practice of Shirinn-yoku, forest bathing encourages you to take a walk in nature to immerse yourself in the smells, textures, tastes and sights of the forest. Even 20 minutes in a forested space is enough to make a difference to our bodies. “Forest bathing has been proved to strengthen our immune system due to chemicals produced by forest plants, which we breathe in. They increase our white blood cells, and the effects on our immune system have been shown to last up to 30 days,”
- Keeping a gratitude journal: Writing down a couple of things a day for which you are grateful helps to reset the balance between positive and negative thoughts. “We can have anywhere between 12,000-50,000 thoughts a day, and over 80% of them can be negative,” says Cliona. “I find keeping a gratitude journal retrains the brain to focus on all the positive things we have in our life, and improves mood instantly.”
- Deep diaphragmatic breathing: This breathing practice supplies more oxygen to all parts of the body, including the digestive system. As such, it’s perfect to try before eating. “It’s a simple process of inhaling through your nose for four seconds, feeling your abdomen expand. Then, holding your breath for two seconds and then exhaling slowly and steadily through your nose for about six seconds. For such a simple practice, the benefits are fantastic.”
Where to hear more from Cliona
If you like the sound of Cliona’s approach and would like to find out more, make sure to look out for her in the new year as she is working on a number of exciting projects.
“I’ll be working with my sister in London with her company Leading Minds, which helps develop stress management and wellbeing strategies for employees. I’ll also be working on my own project, Intuition Nutrition, which focuses on the link between our digestive health and central nervous system.”
We’d like to thank Cliona for chatting with us, and wish her all the best for all her exciting projects in 2022!
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