Leah Hechtman, from The Natural Health & Fertility Centre, talks to Beautiful Because about her role as a naturopath, treating and educating patients to live a healthier life. Leah explains how many of her patients conditions, including infertility, can be aggravated by day-to-day factors such as diet, nutritional deficiencies, fatigue and even exposure to household chemicals.
I was sick as a child and complementary medicine helped me. I always wanted to be a doctor and help people, but conventional medicine hadn't given me the answers.
Fertility and pregnancy are the main areas I specialise in. 90% of my patients see me about pregnancy and fertility. The remaining 10% are a mixture of mental health and general patients.
A lot of people get diagnosed with unexplained infertility. I look at the body holistically and try to work out the variables that could be causing the infertility. I see my role as a detective to try to understand what is out in their bodies so that it can be addressed and remedied. Nutritional deficiencies are common and there are some blatant deficiencies that prevent fertility. I then identify and treat these factors so that in time, they can conceive. Treatment may include changing diet or taking a nutritional supplement, a herbal medicine or other. My job is to identify what else is going on in the body as making a baby is not just about having an egg and having a sperm.
I feel rewarded by every one I see. Occasionally there will be a challenging problem that can't be fixed but the interaction and relationship with my patients is always rewarding. Specialising in fertility, the most rewarding thing I can do is help a couple have a baby. The sense of fulfilment from their conception is unparalleled.
PMS is often caused by a hormonal imbalance but can also be dietary and lifestyle related. A number of different herbs can be indicated once the type of hormonal imbalance has been identified. There are a lot of nutrients that are important to a PMS sufferer, vitamin B6 and zinc are the main ones. For most women, it can usually be fixed within a couple of cycles.
Acne is very multifactorial, however, the types of patients I see who present with acne are usually caused by hormonal disturbances. Eczema can be caused by topical exposures but can also reflect dietary deficiencies such as a lack of essential fatty acids, or it can relate to a food allergy.
A lot of patients suffer with fatigue. It is multi-factorial – the most common factors are burnout or patients who have gone through major times of stress. Blood sugar fluctuations, nutritional deficiencies, anaemia and underlying infections can contribute.
For patients who have long work hours and busy schedules, I suggest small changes where possible encouraging them to eat well, exercise and improve their sleep quality and duration. Helping them support themselves all round leads to a much better outcome.
An individual’s biochemistry will determine the best foods they should eat.
Some important foods to consider include electrolytes – seaweed, sea salt and mineral water. People are too salt phobic and they need to ensure that they maintain optimal electrolyte balance for hydration. Ditch the table salt and focus on Himalayan or Peruvian pink salt.
I also remind people to make sure their fats are really clean and organic, and not to burn them as that makes them carcinogenic. As a general rule, the only oils you can heat are those that are saturated e.g. animal fats (butter, ghee) or coconut products. Saturated fats are more stable to heat due to their chemical structure and absence of double bonds. Unsaturated fats such as mono or poly unsaturated fats contain one or more double bonds in their structure making them unstable with heat. As such, they need to be used at room temperature (or refrigerated). The more double bonds, the more unstable so oils such as flax, hemp or sunflower will never withstand any heat exposure.
Meditation, exercise and sleep.
Sleep at least 8 hours a night
Drink as much water as your body needs: 30mls per kilo bodyweight/day
Rest and recreation: meditation, socialisation, sitting and reading. Anything that de-stresses your body will have more impact on your health than anything else. It could be a run or meditation. I always say to patients if baking a cake is your R&R, then bake a cake.
Many different ones for different reasons. For patients who are burnt-out I recommend The Cortisol Connection and Adrenal Fatigue.
I see the effects all the time. People don't understand the magnitude of the impact of coming into so much contact with these chemicals. The knock-on affects can be endometriosis, fibroids and estrogen dominant conditions. As soon as they get rid of the toxic chemicals in their house, such as cleaning products and plastics, they reduce their symptoms often by 30%.
Yes, I don't use anything that is not natural or organic on my body. I always eat natural and organic foods and ensure my whole family does too. I never use chemical or synthetic cleaning products, self care products or other.
Take care of your skin. Do have a good natural skin care regimen you do twice a day. Never go to bed with makeup on. Get lots of sunlight, sea water and exercise. Aim to sweat daily so your skin has a chance to breathe and release toxins. Never use aluminium based deodorants.
My approach to naturopathy is to understand a person's jigsaw puzzle by identifying and investigating what is going on with them. For example, with someone who wants to have a baby, I will find all sorts of other health variables that will not only influence their chance of conceiving but also help them through pregnancy and prevent various health conditions occurring later in life. It is about understanding your body on a cellular and bio-chemical level and recognising how all parts interact. Naturopathy enables you to learn how to take your health in your own hands.
Yes, in the age of Dr Google, people have access to many resources and are discovering health benefits for themselves. The old medical model of the doctor knows best is certainly starting to dissolve. People want to understand what is going on with their health and bodies and take their family on that journey. I think complementary medicine is a really supportive modality as it is about educating the person to look after themselves long-term. The most rewarding scenario for me is when I meet a couple, help them have a baby and then perhaps the mother continues under my care or I have educated her enough that she can take care of her family.
Leah has been a naturopath for 14 years and is based in Crow's Nest, Sydney. Visit www.naturalhealthfertility.com
By Nina Weston