“Treat the Cause” (Naturopathic Principle No. 3)

Following the “Healing Power of Nature“, the 3rd Naturopathic Principle is one I deeply resonate with:

“Tolle causam”
(Treat the Cause)

This is because I was once very ill with an autoimmune disorder and all the doctors and specialists I saw never once addressed the Cause of it.

They knew which medications to give to make the pains go away. But not what foods to avoid to stop them from coming back. In fact, every specialist I questioned made this baffling statement:

“Oh you can eat anything! Diet doesn’t affect your disease.”

I was appalled because by then it was very clear to me that certain foods like spicy-chilli ones exacerbated my joint pains.

Additionally, they could not give me a satisfactory answer when I questioned them on what is causing my inflammation and pain and how I could stop it from coming back without relying on these drugs for the rest of my life.

In other words, they were trained in symptom-treatment but not in finding out or treating the root causes of disease/illness.


Once again it is the Corpus Hippocraticum (400BC) that first highlighted the importance of this principle:

“The causes of diseases are:
1. inner dispositions,
2. wrong way of life,
3. climate and habitat.” [1]

This principle is very straightforward – Tolle causam stresses the importance of identifying and treating the cause of disease. This follows a logical assumption that there is always a reason for ill health happening.

Identifying and treating the root cause of disease and the aggravating factors is an essential aspect of naturopathic care.

This involves looking beneath and beyond the symptoms, into the origins and reasons for susceptibility to illness and to manage individuals using methods that enable these susceptibilities to be addressed.

In contrast, “conventional medicine” does not have this principle to guide it and so many times the root cause of disease is not identified and only the symptoms are treated such as NSAIDs for inflammation/pain and antidepressants for depression.

As part of the therapeutic encounter, a naturopathic physician explores a range of factors that impact health and disease such as genetics, lifestyle, emotional, social, environmental, dietary factors and medical interventions.

The naturopathic understanding is that health is improved by reducing the number of factors that strain the body and interfere with its normal functioning and ability to heal.

Naturopathic treatment involves teaching patients that a return to a more simple and health promoting lifestyle is the best medicine.

However, sometimes identifying the causes of disease is not as straightforward as it sounds.

This is due to the complex, dynamic, contextual and individual nature of human beings.

This is a simple yet effective method of determining the root cause developed by Sakichi Toyoda (1867-1930) [2]

Often, a specific event may be the primary trigger however, there is usually a background of accumulated factors and events that may have amplified the body’s response and led to an individual’s present state of ill-health.

In order to treat the causes of symptoms, it is important to understand not only the physiology and pathology for each person, but to understand the emotional states and how a person thinks about health and disease.

The aim of a naturopathic assessment is to determine and address the specific triggers, situations, environment factors or behaviours that initiated the disruption. This will often involve standard conventional & non-conventional methods of diagnosis based on training and scope of practice within each region:

  • Detailed case history of information relating to diet, emotional state, exercise and other lifestyle factors; environmental exposure, living environment; past accidents, trauma, hospitalization and medical interventions
  • Physical examination performed using standard conventional diagnostic methods that doctors use
  • Conventional and non-conventional diagnostic techniques such as tongue and pulse diagnosis
  • Laboratory tests depending on jurisdictional latitude which can include blood tests, functional testing, urine analysis, testing of hair, stool and other secretions. Some naturopaths are trained to utilize X-ray reports and scans as part of their assessment
  • Referral to a medical doctor or specialist may be required for aspects of the assessment depending on the scope of practice of the Naturopathic physician in each jurisdiction. [2]


Symptoms can be easily managed with drugs or even herbal medicine.

However, without addressing the cause of illness, these symptoms will just keep coming back, or worse, lead to more serious symptoms/disorders.

Therefore a major component of Naturopathy is Tolle Causam – Treating the Cause.

Only then can true health be restored and healing occur.

In the next part of this series, I look forward to sharing more on the 4th Naturopathic Principle:

“Tolle Totum”
(Treat the Whole Person)

I hope this has been of benefit to you.
Leave a comment below for questions or personal experiences that could benefit others.
Please share if you found it useful.
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Peace, Love & Health always


  1. Dr. K. Lutheritz. (1911). Systeme der Ärzte von Hippokrates bis Brown, Aphorism of the Corpus Hippocraticum Sect. I.14. epidem. Krankheit. VI Buch, § 2-&26
  2. World Naturopathic Federation. (2017). WNF White Paper: Naturopathic Philosophies, Principles and Theories. Retrieved from http://worldnaturopathicfederation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/WNF_White_Paper_June-2017.pdf

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