We love the complicated and interconnected workings of the body. Our passion lies not only in being physically fit, but in the wellness of the body as a whole. Pilates embraces this philosophy with its focus on the mind body connection.
We are constantly inspired by and learning from other disciplines whose basic principles include this idea of whole body balance. Naturopathic medicine is one such discipline and we count ourselves extremely lucky to be able to share the inspiring and informative thoughts of a certified naturopathic doctor and friend!
Can you describe naturopathic medicine and it's approach to the body?
Naturopathic doctors are board certified, licensed health care professionals specializing in the use of natural, safe and effective therapies to treat and prevent disease. A naturopathic approach to health care combines cutting edge modern medical research along with traditional healing methods in order to provide individualized, holistic patient care. The principals of naturopathic medicine include evaluating the whole person and identifying and removing barriers to health.
"However, it is important to keep in mind that the more we are out of balance, stressed and un-nurtured, the more difficult it is to give the best of ourselves."
With each patient, my goal is to facilitate optimal health and wellness and to restore balance to the body through precise, customized care. I like to think of physical and emotional symptoms as signals or clues sent by our body to bring attention to that which is out of balance. Through a detailed patient history, clinical presentation, physical exam and diagnostic laboratory work, I aim to find the root cause of what is manifesting itself outwardly. For example, the cause of anxiety can differ for each individual. A successful treatment plan for one person may not work for another. Perhaps the etiology is a nutritional deficiency, a neurotransmitter imbalance, situational or musculoskeletal. Each of these must be evaluated in order to successfully treat the outward manifestation of an internal imbalance.
What is the range of complications you treat? Who would you recommend seek out a Naturopath?
Naturopathic doctors treat a variety of medical conditions ranging from the common cold to chronic disease. We offer prenatal care, treat allergies, diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune conditions, obesity, hormonal imbalances, chronic pain, fibromyalgia and the list goes on! Many of our patients come to see us for vague complaints that the western medical model has been unable to treat effectively.
Through the study of genome and epigenetics, we are also able to look at ways that we can influence our genes offering a truly preventive approach for improved health outcomes.
What I love about naturopathic medicine is that there is always something that we can do to improve one’s quality of life. For example, we do not preform major surgeries but can help prepare the body for healing both before and after a surgical procedure. We advise our patients on the best nutritional, supplement and lifestyle plan for their unique needs.
How does health as defined by your field relate to physical health and overall wellness?
Humans are holistic, resilient beings compromised of many different systems that are intricately connected. Overall wellness is closely linked to physical and mental health. It is difficult for the whole body to function optimally when certain parts are out of balance. This is why naturopathic physicians spend a great deal of time evaluating stress, lifestyle, nutrition, physical health, exercise, social and psychological factors with each patient in order to evaluate how each of these areas may be impacting overall health status.
"It is important that we learn the essential and unselfish art of nurturing ourselves."
How did you get in to Naturopathic Medicine?
I got into naturopathic medicine because of my passion and interest in biochemistry, nutrition and interacting with people. I wanted to help bring about change. I chose naturopathic medicine because I wanted to be a part of a medical model that had a unique approach to health, one that focused on optimal wellness and disease prevention.
What are some main misconceptions that people new to naturopathic medicine have?
For those that are unfamiliar with naturopathic medicine or are interested in obtaining more information, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) has a wonderful website at naturopathic.org which includes a directory of licensed naturopathic physicians by city and state.
At the practice that I work, we offer free consultations to answer questions for those that are unsure whether or not naturopathic medicine would be a good fit for them and their specific needs. In this way, we are better able to educate others on what we do and where our specialty lies. We see a broad range of patients, each at a different point on their journey to health. We often coordinate care with other specialists and health care professionals. I have patients that come in to see me that don’t want to take any nutritional supplements. I have worked with numerous people on diet alone to improve energy, blood sugar regulation, blood pressure, cholesterol, sleep and weight. In naturopathic medicine, there is not only one way or one medication to treat a specific condition. This allows us flexibility and the ability to tailor each treatment plan to fit within comfort zone of the individual.
What are your favorite forms of physical activity?
I love anything involving movement including dancing, hiking, jogging, interval training, leisurely walks in the park and kickboxing.
I always tell my patients that physical activity is meant to be fun. It is important to find something you enjoy and indulge in it. Living in a fast-paced society where we often find ourselves stretched thin, it is important that we learn the essential and unselfish art of nurturing ourselves. Part of taking care of ourselves is making sure that we remain active, challenging ourselves both physically and mentally. Over time, we have increasingly become a more sedentary society. There is a growing body of research illustrating the deleterious health effects from too much sitting at too large of intervals. People that are more sedentary have a greater risk for mood dysregulation, cardiovascular problems, endocrine abnormalities and cancer.
"What I love about naturopathic medicine is that there is always something that we can do to improve one’s quality of life."
I often hear women saying that they don’t have enough time to participate in self-healing activities because they are too busy with work, being a wife, mother, and friend. However, it is important to keep in mind that the more we are out of balance, stressed and un-nurtured, the more difficult it is to give the best of ourselves. It’s not an all or nothing approach. One of the beauties of life is that small modifications to our current routine can make a big difference and set the stage for larger transformations. These changes could include standing up and taking a walk around the office every hour, taking a mindful moment to focus on your breathing, allowing a positive thought or intention. As our mind and body are connected, we cannot fully take care of one while neglecting the other.
In a recent essential oils class at The Swan Brooklyn we learned how quickly substances get absorbed into your system through your skin (for example by putting oils on the bottoms of your feet). What's your take on how we look into products we use on ourselves topically?
Topical applications can absolutely be absorbed into the blood stream via the skin. Some substances, however, are more absorbable than others depending on molecule size and structure. The skin is well supplied by my many blood vessels permitting a direct route of entry from the external environment internally. It is just as important to look at the ingredient list of the products you use on your skin as it is the ones you ingest orally. With hot, summer days among us, use caution with sunscreens as many are laden with harsh chemicals that get absorbed into your body and can cause many harmful side effects including disruption of normal hormone functioning. Look for natural sunscreens made with micronized zinc oxide that go on clear and will offer protection from the sun without the negative side effects from most commercial brands. My new favorite is Grahams Natural SunClear!
Dr. Angela Karvounides is a licensed and board-certified Naturophatic Physician. She graduated, with honors, from The University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. Dr. Angela Karvounides has received additional training in homeopathy from The New England School of Homeopathy with world-renowned homeopaths, Dr. Paul Herscu and Dr. Amy Rothenberg and craniosacral training from The Upledger Institute. She currently practices at Whole Health Associates in Avon, Connecticut.