Interview with Peter Bongiorno, licensed naturopathic doctor (ND)

Interview with Peter Bongiorno, licensed naturopathic doctor (ND)

Bongiorno recalls a patient who came to him with a knee problem she developed from recreational dancing. She initially took non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) which, Bongiorno says, kill 37,00-40,000 people a year. This helped, but then she was forced to stop after experiencing gastro-intestinal side effects. Then chronic pain set in. When she came to him, he prescribed following a protocol called the "German Water Cure," alternating hot and cold packs for 5 minutes each a few times a day. This simple non-invasive treatment encouraged the body’s natural healing ability: the heat brought blood and nutrients to the area, while the cold cleaned up the damage and rid the body of the painful inflammation.

“Would an allopathic physician (MD) prescribe this protocol? Unlikely,” says Bongiorno. He shares office space with MDs and says that they work quite well together, labeling their relationship as a “collaborative approach to patient care.”

He spends a lot of time with his patients. An initial visit is usually 1.5 hours, with follow ups of 1 hour. He explains, “The word doctor comes from the Latin, ‘to teach,’ and I see my job as really about explaining the condition to my patient. If a patient comes in to see me, at some level they want to change.

“I was not interested in natural medicine until I saw the changes in my friend with MS. Many have tried everything else and found no help. It’s not that they necessarily come in to my office believing in natural medicine, but they’re often desperate. For some people who are addicted to processed foods all their life, I might introduce one small change such as getting him to eat one stalk of celery and drink one glass of water in a day. If he feels better, then I change something else. Everybody can make one change!”

I asked him what the biggest obstacles are to helping patients make the transition from seeing an MD to seeing an ND. He responds, “People have been trained to take a pill to heal them. Many patients still want something to take, like an herb. But, it’s ultimately bringing about a full change in lifestyle, how to change their sleep schedule, their spirit, working out and sweating, changing your foods. Our bodies are made of very natural structures and we need to eat natural food to feed them.”

We spoke about the future of health care in this country and what he thinks we need to bring about the best care for patients. “If the government were to nationally legislate NDs to work alongside MDs in this country, together we can prevent more disease, save more lives!”

For more information:

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

2011 British Journal of Cancer Study