Below is a list of definitions of medical terms commonly used on this site. Highlighted terms are links to articles or more information about the terms.
acupuncture: A form of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine that involves the use of sharp, thin needles that are inserted in the body at very specific points. This process is believed to adjust and alter the body’s energy flow into healthier patterns, and is used to treat a wide variety of illnesses and health conditions.
adrenal fatigue: A collection of signs and symptoms, primarily characterized by chronic fatigue, that results when the adrenal glands function below their proper capacity to produce necessary hormones.
allopathic medicine: Another term for what has come to be known as “conventional” or “mainstream” medicine as distinguished from naturopathic or other alternative medical practices.
antioxidant: A substance such as vitamin E, vitamin C, or beta carotene that protects body cells from the damaging effects of oxidation. Antioxidants work by counteracting or neutralizing the effects of free radicals in the body—incomplete particles that attach to cells and cause deterioration of those cells.
bioidentical hormones: Hormones that are derived from plants and converted in a laboratory to have the same molecular structure as the hormones the human body produces.
chronic condition: A condition or disease that lasts for a long period of time. Unlike acute conditions that are of abrupt onset and short durations, chronic conditions usually develop more gradually.
complementary medicine: The use of alternative therapies or treatments together with conventional medical treatments in an effort to improve desired outcomes. An example of this might be taking the nutritional supplement CoQ10 to help decrease the muscle pain associated with statin treatments for high cholesterol. Another example would be the use of acupuncture in conjunction with medications to control pain.
detoxification: The process of eliminating toxic substances from the body. The body has natural methods for detoxification, primarily through the function of the liver, kidneys, and intestines. Detoxification therapies used by health care providers attempt to activate and assist the body’s own detoxification processes.
endocrine system: A system of glands and cells that make hormones that are released directly into the blood and travel to tissues and organs all over the body. The endocrine system controls growth, sexual development, sleep, hunger, and the way the body uses food.
enzymes: Proteins or protein-based molecules that act as catalysts to promote chemical reactions in the body. Digestive enzymes, for example, are produced in the stomach and intestines and help break down the foods we eat.
estrogen dominance: A condition in which there is too much estrogen hormone in the body in relation to the amount of progesterone hormone. This imbalance of hormones can manifest in a variety of troublesome symptoms in women.
gland: A cell, a group of cells, or an organ that produces a secretion for use elsewhere in the body or in a body cavity or for elimination from the body.
gluten: A protein found in wheat and other grains. A person with gluten sensitivity may experience a wide range of adverse effects from eating products containing glutens, including mild to severe digestive problems and a variety of other symptoms including headaches, migraines, and lethargy. Glutens can cause severe reactions in people with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine
herbal (botanical) medicines: Medicinal substances derived from plants or plant extracts.
holistic medicine: A term used to describe therapies that attempt to treat the patient as a whole person. That is, instead of treating an illness, as in orthodox allopathy (conventional Western medicine), holistic medicine looks at an individual’s overall physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well being before recommending treatment. A practitioner with a holistic approach treats the symptoms of illness as well as looking for the underlying cause of the illness.
homeopathy: A therapeutic system that holistically treats illness and inherent constitutional problems by applying the “like cures like” principle and using minute quantities of specially prepared plant, animal, or mineral substances.
homeostasis: The process by which the body attempts to naturally maintain a state of stable physiological balance. A basic principle of naturopathic medicine is to use therapies that aid the self-healing and self-correcting mechanisms of the body to achieve that balance.
hormones: Chemical substances that are released by various glands in the body to target organ systems and specific cells to help them function normally.
insulin: A hormone secreted by the pancreas gland that plays a vital role in carbohydrate metabolism. When blood sugar rises, insulin acts to cause certain cells of the body to take in glucose, primarily liver and fat cells.
integrative medicine: Healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.
libido: the conscious or unconscious sex drive in a person
metabolic syndrome: A set of conditions that include increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levels. These conditions occurring together increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
menopause: The permanent end of menstruation and fertility, medically defined as occurring twelve months after the last menstrual period. While technically it refers to the final period, it is not an abrupt event, but a gradual process.
neurotransmitters: Naturally occurring chemicals within the brain that relay signals between the nerve cells and are required for proper brain and body function. They play a large part in our mental, emotional, and physical states and can affect our moods, behavior, sleep, digestion, weight, focus, and learning ability.
nutritional supplements: Preparations intended to supplement the body with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that may not be consumed in sufficient quantities through diet alone.
optimal health: The health goal of feeling your personal best physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
osteoporosis: Thinning of the bones, with reduction in bone mass, due to depletion of calcium and bone protein.
perimenopause: The interval in which a woman’s body makes a natural shift from more-or-less regular cycles of ovulation and menstruation toward permanent infertility, or menopause.
phytoestrogens: Estrogen-like chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants and plant products.
refined carbohydrates: Foods such as grains or sugars that have been processed by machinery and stripped of most of their nutritional value. The process gives foods a finer texture and prolongs shelf life, but it also removes important nutrients and fiber. This has the effect of concentrating the carbohydrate and breaking it down so the body processes it very quickly, generally causing a high rise in blood sugar.
root cause: The underlying condition—whether physical, emotional, or spiritual—that is the cause of a problematic medical symptom.
statin: A class of drug used to treat high cholesterol levels. The most common side effects from statin use is muscle pain, but there may be other side effects, as well. While statins can have their place in the treatment of high cholesterol, they should not be used as a substitute for proper diet and exercise.
symptomology: The combined symptoms of a disease or condition.
xenoestrogens: By-products of industrial and chemical processing that have estrogen-like effects.