Dr. Katy Nelson, ND

ENDOCRINOLOGY (from the Greek Endon for ‘within’ and krinein, ‘to separate or secrete’)¹, is the medical specialty dealing with the functions and dysfunctions of hormone secreting glands such as the thyroid, the pancreas, the adrenals, the ovaries and the testes. Hormones are powerful chemical messengers made in these glands and distributed via the blood stream to receptors in other parts of the body. Receptors are lock and key protein configuration gatekeepers that allow or disallow the message delivery.

Endocrinologists treat people diagnosed with dysfunctions such as hypo- or hyperthyroidism including Graves disease or Hashimotos, diabetes Types I and II, Cushings syndrome and Addison’s disease, for example. If symptoms of these diseases are accompanied by symptoms such as a heart arrythmia, spastic colon or allergies, considered separate conditions, the endocrinologist will likely refer out to another specialist such as a cardiologist, gastroenterologist or immunologist.

The beauty of Naturopathic medicine is its large contextual focus on “whole system” analysis where body and the mind are integrated — MindBody — and viewed within a model that includes the effects of lifestyle, the environmental and spirituality. A board certified, licensed Naturopath has been medically trained to see inter-relatedness.

An illustration of inter-relatedness: A few years ago a group coordinator in my rural community developed a great notion — to offer to the community a day and the means of safely getting rid of old computer equipment, cell phones, car batteries and many other household items containing recyclable, environmental contaminates like cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. The project also collected old pharmaceuticals for ‘appropriate disposal.’

When I thanked the leader for the pharmaceutical collection especially he replied, “These drugs are so toxic to our environment. The more we can keep them from being flushed down the toilet, the more we can keep them from getting into our water supply (community water supplies rarely monitor for hormone and drug residues) and the safer we can keep our environment and its wild life.” “Right,” I agreed. “Considering how toxic these drugs are to the environment and our water supply, THINK how toxic they are to consuming humans. We’re largely water!” (50-75%, infants more.)² He looked shocked.

But really! In the US, the pharmaceutical industry is very big business — 4.02 BILLION prescriptions (an average of 13/capita) were written in 2011.³ If this approach were healthy, why does the US own the #1 spot for cost/capita healthcare and the last spot out of six industrialized nations in “health system performance, which included measures on quality, access, efficiency, equity of care and healthy lives?”⁴ Why is life expectancy in the US ranked in 50th place, below France, Canada, the UK and the EU in general, including higher infant mortality?⁴

The dominant US medical model is powerful, big business and unhealthy. Furthermore, its mechanical and linear, and has more to do with the Age of Newton than the Age of Einstein. Naturopathic medicine offers a more fluid, integrated and healthier model.

To illustrate, imagine a line with five points.   1______2______3______4______5

Now suppose function measured at 2 is abnormal, either higher or lower than expected, as an endocrinologist might find measuring thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) in the presence of thyroid dysfunction symptoms.

If hypothyroidism is determined, the dominant medical remedy is a prescription for a synthetic thyroid hormone sufficient to raise the level at 2 “to within normal range.” If follow up testing shows normal levels at 2, health will assumed to be restored.

Consequences of synthetic hormone on points 3 through 5, or 1, if considered at all, are called “side effects”. Consequences may include drug reaction(s) — 51.8% of the 81.1 % of the unintentional drug overdose deaths were prescription drug related.⁵ Consequences to all points may also include less recognizable reactions to drug additives like colorings and binders and very serious effects on hormone receptors.

Compare the naturopathic medical model of an integrated system.

Nelson_figureWhen levels at 2 are found to be abnormal, possible remedies may still include the use of hormone sufficient to raise levels at 2 to within normal limits, although in this case, the prescription will likely be for a compounded “bio-identical” hormone, without synthetics, and as clean of additives as possible. Further function tests to discover the root cause of the reduced output may reveal ways of improving natural glandular output.

Additionally, remedy might include support of the other glands, particularly at 1 and 3, where they may be overworked or underworked as a result of 2’s weakness. These kinds of remedies are known as adaptogenics, helping the body to reestablish balance by tonifying overfunctioning and supporting underfunctioning.

Dr. Candace Pert and others working with this model are adding scientific data and substance to the Mind/Body paradigm.⁶ Not only are points (glands)1 through 5 interconnected, they communicate systemically through neuropeptides that translate into feelings. A dysfunction at 2 might be the chemical consequence of cellular signaling at 4 or 5 of inflammation or injury in the system, perhaps related to feelings of low self esteem or worthlessness. Thus, in addition to lifestyle and environmental changes, remedy may include addressing emotional and spiritual needs.

We still have choice. Rather than administering internally and externally environmentally toxic drugs that may lower life expectancy, Naturopathic medicine offers life supportive, elegant solutions for health in harmony with our deeper nature.

Are you ready for health?


  1. Thomas, Clayton L, MD, MPH, ed. Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary. Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis, Co. 12th ed.
  2. Helmenstine, AM. How Much of Your Body is Water?. Aboutcom. 2014. Available at: http://chemistry.about.com/od/waterchemistry/f/how-much-of-your-body-is-water.htm. Accessed January 14, 2015.
  3. Rappoport, J. SHOCKER: HOW MANY DRUG PRESCRIPTIONS ARE WRITTEN IN THE US EVERY YEAR?. Jon Rappoports Blog. 2012. Available at: https://jonrappoport.wordpress.com/2012/09/15/shocker-how-many-drug-prescriptions-are-written-in-the-us-every-year/. Accessed January 13, 2015.
  4. Robertson, L. 37th in Health Performance?. FactCheckorg. 2009. Available at: http://www.factcheck.org/2009/10/37th-in-health-performance/. Accessed January 14, 2015.
  5. Prescription Drug Overdose in the United States: Fact Sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2015. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/overdose/facts.html. Accessed January 14, 2015.
  6. Pert, C. Molecules of Emotion, The Science Behind Mind-Body Medicine. BooksSimonandSchuster. Available at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/molecules-of-emotion/candace-b-pert/9780684846347. Accessed January 14, 2015.
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