Why Did You Become a Naturopathic Doctor?

January 25, 2022

Why Did You Become a Naturopathic Doctor?

Why did you become a Naturopathic Doctor? Who will be successful with Naturopathic Medicine and who will not be successful with Naturopathic Medicine?


"Naturopathic Doctor" was a term I had never heard of growing up. I always wanted to be a doctor as a child and was working to get a Pre-Med degree so I could become an OBgyn. As I started a Pre-Med program in college, I experienced a cluster of symptoms that all started up at once. I was having terrible headaches, stomach aches, and acne. I constantly went to the Campus Doctor who eventually sent me to an Internist who then sent me to a variety of specialists: Dermatologist, Pain Management Doctor, Migraine Specialist, Psychiatrist, Gastroenterologist, Neurologist, and many more. It went on for a year and I continued to get worse. I gained weight from the side effects of the different medications and I became depressed and began to lose hope. On top of my symptoms that did not improve, the antidepressants caused my weight to balloon to 200 pounds! I was suddenly trapped in a fat suit, on a bunch of medications that were not working, and did not feel like myself. I was not getting any benefits from the anti-depressants and just getting the side effects of weight gain.


Each doctor I was sent to gave me a different medicine and then referred me to a different specialist for my other symptoms. I continued to down spiral with my health and depression until a friend recommended I visit her Naturopathic Doctor. Within a few weeks, I gradually began to feel better with herbal medicine. When my “Food Sensitivity Test” came in I rapidly became better as I was now able to exactly pinpoint the foods causing my stomach aches, headaches, and acne.

My spirits lifted and I was no longer depressed as I began to feel better and regained hope I did not have to live like that anymore. The ND also took the time to get to know me and acknowledge my stress levels from moving 90 minutes away from my family and sudden reliance on flavorless unhealthy dorm food that we often avoided and instead went out for even worse Fast Food. My Naturopathic Doctor encouraged me to return to my normal healthy diet, stop the Fast Food, exercise for my anxiety and depression and my depressed mood returned to normal. He kept track of the big picture and pointed out how my change in diet was the Root Cause of my sudden issues.


As I returned to a perfect state of health thanks to Naturopathy, the experience made me stop and think about what I was planning on doing with my life as a doctor. I was struggling with severe disappointment in the medical system and realized how ineffective it could be for chronic disease management. I realized my own personal hero in this challenge was the Naturopathic Doctor and not all of the MD's that spent no more than 5 minutes with me and just gave me ineffective prescriptions that caused side effects. I then decided if I really wanted to be an effective doctor with the time to get to know my patients, I was going to have to become a Naturopathic Doctor and study Functional Medicine, Naturopathy, Nutrition, and Herbal Medicine.

I wanted to be a doctor that took the time to listen and put the whole story together and not just treat each symptom with medication. Part of what my Naturopathic Doctor did that was so helpful was to take the time to understand what had changed with my dietary habits, dorm food, lack of sleep from studying all the time, and increased stress being away from my parents for the first time.  The dorm cafeteria food was unhealthy, high in calories, and full of triggers from my Food Sensitivity Test.


At the same time in 1994, a lady in my Microbiology class changed my life forever when she recruited me to work at her Health Food Store. She was impressed with my quick ability to memorize everything and wanted me to help run her health food store. As a Biochemistry major, I was in absolute heaven getting to learn about all of the vitamins, herbs, and supplements! I couldn't believe it was actually my job to read about the products in the health food store when I was not cleaning, stocking, or helping customers! Amidst all the books in the health food store, I found several books by Naturopathic Doctors that went to Bastyr University, and the light bulb went off! I then felt inspired to attend Bastyr University for my medical degree instead of the University of Washington as I had first planned. 

After I graduated from college in 1999 I began working for a Hormone Doctor, which is when my love of Women's Health and Hormones began which you can read more about in my Hormone Doctor blog. Which is why I love answering your Women's Health and Hormone questions on my blog! Please drop me a postcard with your questions. Remember if it can't fit on a postcard then you need to SCHEDULE an appointment with me.

Here are a few more Naturopathic questions I received this week from patients. Everyone always should know how Naturopathy works so they don't invest their time or money in something they cannot follow through on. I want every patient I see to be a success story. The following is more information on how Naturopathic Medicine works, the type of timeline to expect, as well as what kind of patients should not sign up for Naturopathic Medicine that I cannot help as well as the patients that I can most easily help.

Remember that Naturopathy is a process you go through, and I don't actually have a magic wand to wave. I know it appears that way at times when you see a patient of mine. But I can promise they did some level or work. Instead, I am teaching you about what diet and lifestyle your particular body needs and using herbs and vitamins to heal your system and provide temporary relief of symptoms while we are working to address the symptoms at their Root Cause.

#1 Question I receive as Naturopathic Doctor: Can you help me?

The #1 question I constantly receive every day blowing up my phone is "Can Naturopathic Medicine help me?" I can never answer that question until I can review with the patient what Naturopathic Medicine entails they do as I list below. In my mind as someone that has served patients for 15 years as a Naturopathic Doctor is not if what I do will be effective. I know it works. My concern is whether or not the patient is going to do it. Patients that do not follow the instructions as I have listed below simply don't get better. So please know I would not waste my time practicing ineffective herbal medicine as an Integrated Doctor that also knows how to prescribe medications. When it comes down to the decision I want to do what is the most effective, with the least side effects. So really when patients want me to prescribe their medications it is pretty boring for me. I feel like anyone can sit and write you a book of prescriptions and that my talents are being wasted. This is why I prefer patients read the information listed below carefully to ensure they will be successful with Naturopathy. Practicing prescription Family Medicine is truly boring to me and their are millions of other places you can go for that. I want to help women transform into their ultimate healthy best most beautiful anti-aging version of themself and that is what truly brings joy to my heart as a doctor!


Who are the most successful Naturopathic Patients?

My most successful Naturopathic patients understand that healing is a process and not a prescription. They trust me, my methods, and my expertise. They don't Google everything I prescribe and call to argue about potential side effects...instead they just follow their treatment plan and let me know when they have an adverse reaction to something I have prescribed so I can provide a substitute. They let go of any pre-conceived notions as to what diet they should be on and trust their body will tell them through the Naturopathic process of testing their Food Sensitivities, hormones, vitamins, cholesterol, and blood sugar what diet they should be on.

They are committed and highly capable of following my instructions and are eager to learn about what helps their bodies function the best. They love to use metrics such as hormone and nutrition labs to understand their body and thrive from the detailed information. They know we will need to work closely together monthly until their symptoms have improved and budget this in accordingly so they can be successful with the Naturopathic process they start. They understand they are investing in a new system of living that is a learning process in order to find long-term solutions to avoid the use of medications. They know all of that will require more than one appointment. 


Who can you not help with Naturopathic Medicine? 

  1. Women that cannot make any dietary changes. If you struggle to make them I understand completely, and am the same way. However, I will need more visits with you to help you make these transitions. Or you will need to concomitantly enroll in counseling to determine why you don't want to take care of yourself or address any food issues.
  2. Women that cannot take herbs, vitamins, or supplements. Herbal medicine is taken via tea, tincture, or capsule.
  3. Women that cannot afford to follow up monthly until improved ie: 3-4 months
  4. Women without insurance to pay for their labs and cannot afford cash labs ($400-500) for hormone testing to be done every 3-6 months depending on symptoms. I cannot order Medicaid/AHCCS labs.
  5. Women without time to concentrate on improving their health, that cannot trust me to follow their directions, or that refuse to follow my instructions and instead spend their time Googling the potential side effects of every herb I prescribe them and call me to argue about taking it before they have even tried it. Even natural medicines may have side effects, therefore my primary goal as your Naturopathic Doctor is to implement diet and lifestyle changes so that you only need herbs temporarily to restore your health. However, herbs generally have fewer side effects than medications and the side effects are not as harmful or long-lasting as medications. I have seen many patients damaged by anti-depressant withdrawal and never have I once seen anyone have permanent side effects from natural anti-depressants!
  6. I do not treat women with cancer, I am happy to support any side effects from the cancer treatment. I can also treat your hot flashes with only herbal medicine if you have breast cancer. However, I do not treat actual cancer. I would want you to have the best person to help you with that and instead send you to one of my trusted colleagues that has an Oncology specialty. My goal is to always prevent cancer in my Women's Health practice. If it is a Women's Health problem such as Hormone Imbalance, Dermatology, Mental Health, Gastroenterology, Autoimmune, Chronic Pain, Weight Loss, Menopause, Bladder Problems, Gynecology or PMS type of thing I am always happy to help!

What is the #1 factor that determines if a patient will be successful with Naturopathic Medicine?


Trust is the #1 factor that determines if my patient will be successful with Naturopathic Medicine. I always have better outcomes with patients who trust Naturopathy and trust me as their Naturopathic Doctor. I always find it easier to help patients that are referred by another patient. Especially for weight loss. They have seen with their own eyes how my hormone fine-tuning and herbs work and they are eager to do everything I say to do. They have already seen the magic of Naturopathy with their own eyes! They know it works.

I will be honest and admit that I have trust issues myself, and sometimes want to be skeptical. But my skeptical patients rarely improve. They are too busy researching everything I say to do to determine if it is "right" and figuring out why it is wrong and then go to another doctor to see if they have a different plan and cannot commit to any one particular doctor's plan. The issue with this is that when we have 10 Naturopaths in the room we have 12 different ideas is the joke in my profession because we all do things differently. There is a huge abundance of effective herbal medicines to potentially try.

Every doctor has their "style" of practicing medicine and you will never go to two Naturopathic Doctors that are exactly the same. I offer a completely different skill set with my background in Women's Health and Family Medicine. I know how to prescribe many medications from working 8 years in regular Family Medicine, and therefore practice very complex Women's Health care. This can save women from going from many doctors as I explain was my experience before I found a Naturopathic Doctor of my own to see.

I understand it is scary for women with trust issues to trust me or any doctor, but I also completely cannot help you if you cannot decide upfront that you can trust me and my 15 years as a Naturopathic Doctor and 23 years of experience in Women's Health and Family Medicine 28 years of experience as an Herbalist. Keep in mind I have been essentially prescribing herbs for people since 1994! That is what I have done every day with my life as an adult is to try to help people with their health issues.

But I cannot help everyone and most commonly it is because the patient is too busy being a skeptic and not actually rolling up their sleeves and doing the work. Health is technically a four-letter word and it is called WORK. I need patients committed to doing the work with me. It doesn't work if you don't help me do the things I need you to do things on your end. Successful patients show up with a pen and paper and take notes.

Naturopathy is a process and you have to be able to trust the process. People that know me well, know my personality is "No Nonsense. " I not going to waste your time when I personally know how it feels to be sick and scared, so I will always tell you the truth if I cannot help you. If we are working together regularly that means I expect you can get better, and I have seen other patients with similar symptoms improve. If I cannot help you I will refer you to a doctor that can help you. Otherwise, I always need patients following their exact plan as prescribed and following up monthly for adjustments to their Chronic Disease plan until improved. That is how we become successful together as a team. That is how I work my way of out a job after 2-3 months the majority of my patient cases are solved and they don't need to return. We may need to continue doing Hormone Checkups every 6-12 months but their problems are resolved and managed with natural medicine. I have many doctors and nurses as my patients who trust me wholeheartedly and they know that avoiding medications is our mutual goal and trust my Naturopathic healing process and expertise. They also know it is a process to even find the right drug for a patient which is the same in Naturopathic Medicine.

My Naturopathic patients that simply follow my exact instructions almost always improve by taking herbs, supplements, and a proper nutrition plan! How can I say that? Because my assistant is always calling to remind people to follow up and she tells me they are better and don't need to follow up again. Or even better I get a text message from you that says "Hey, my XYZ problem is totally fixed and I just wanted to say thank you for how much better I am feeling!"

My favorite though is when women text me to tell me they are pregnant after finally getting their hormones balanced. While I don't specialize in fertility my process of treating PCOS, endometriosis and complex hormone issues has resulted in a lot of surprise babies that nobody was planning on, and did not think they could have. So I do get to see the magic of Naturopathy happen before my eyes every day and that is my favorite part of my job. But that magic does not happen unless you are willing to make dietary changes, take herbs in the form of capsules, teas, or tinctures and take some vitamin supplements. So is it actually magic or is it just what happens when we listen to the body and give it what it needs?

Please plan to budget in monthly appointments if you decide to give Naturopathic Medicine a try so that you can be my next success story! There is an element of trust involved on the patient's end and it is imperative you choose a Naturopathic Doctor with a proven track record of success. A good Naturopathic Doctor will not require you to follow up constantly for the rest of your life. You should get better and only need to come in 1-2 times per year once your issues are resolved for an annual check-up. Once your plan is in place and you have learned your new system you will generally not need to constantly be returning to your Naturopathic Doctor.

If you think you will be a good fit for Naturopathy, please book your visit on my SCHEDULE page.


Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD

(480) 837-0900

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