Each year, the annual conference for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the foremost educational event in the field of naturopathic medicine. This year’s conference was no exception. The conference was held July 12-14 in San Diego, CA, at Town and Country Resort, its first time at this location. Approximately 600 attendees, vendor representatives, and speakers convened for learning, networking, and reconnecting with friends and colleagues. An optional pre-conference day on July 11th offered attendees additional support in scientific writing and practice development, with a welcome evening reception to kick off the next 3 days of learning. Also new this year was the addition of daily “Lightning Rounds,” quick-fire previews and pitch sessions by the day’s speakers to help guide attendees to the content most relevant to their practices and interests.
The conference theme, Out of Many, One: E Pluribus Unum, was a symbol of the diversity represented within the natural medicine community. A variety of experts across disciplines, modalities, and medical settings converged to present and discuss emerging science and best treatment practices. The theme was also reflected in educational curriculum, with complex, chronic, and progressive disease states representing the lion’s share of content. The echo of the basic, fundamental philosophies of naturopathy helped to unify and remind attendees of the power of natural medicine.
Mitchell Bebel Stargrove, ND, LAc, set the tone and led the formal kickoff Thursday morning with a keynote that addressed the power of the therapeutic relationship between clinician and patient. He outlined the many dynamic levels to consider, from personal, to cultural, to planetary, and discussed strategies to organize these levels as a way to improve and support connection to the Vis Medicatrix Naturae.
Additional content on this day had a special focus in endocrinology and the role of hormones and hormone-modulating therapies in the progression of disease and optimization of health. In her talk, Seasons of a Woman’s Life, Moira Fitzpatrick, PhD, ND discussed the therapeutic role of nutrition, botanicals, genetics, and bio-identical hormones at key hormonal transition points in a woman’s life.
Later in the day, Judith Boice, ND, LAc, FABNO, reminded attendees how intricately entwined the endocrine system is, so that a change in one function often affects not only hormone function as a whole, but other systems as well, including the cardiovascular and immune systems. With a review of recent research, Boice discussed effective thyroid assessment and therapies to treat the root cause of thyroid disorders while simultaneously supporting other body systems.
That afternoon, Paul Anderson, ND, kicked off a 6-part series, Biologics: Pharmacology and Mechanisms of Action. In this series of presentations over 2 days, Anderson outlined the various classes of biologic medicines, appropriate naturopathic interventions to improve safety and efficacy, and processes for tapering, when appropriate, from biologic medications. In Thursday’s sessions, parts 1-3, Anderson focused on the various classes of biologic drugs, the most common diseases associated with their use, and the systemic biochemical impacts to consider when assessing patient health and comanagement.
On Friday, the complex issues surrounding diagnosis, management, and support of brain and mental health were a focus. In his talk, Integrative Approaches to Traumatic and Acquired Brain Injuries, Marco Vespignani, ND, raised awareness of the insidious effects of brain injuries and the rates of such injuries in the general population. With an overview of types of brain injuries to consider, Vespignani outlined naturopathic primary care strategies to improve patient outcomes.
Shifting focus to mental illness, Peter Bongiorno, ND, LAc, provided an overview of research on dietary supplements, including cannabidiol (CBD) oil, curcumin, and berberines, to promote mental health when used as part of a comprehensive naturopathic program.
The Friday afternoon sessions moved back into the world of endocrinology and complex disease, with Martin Kwok, ND, DRTCM, discussing clinical pearls in the treatment of Graves’ disease (one cause of hyperthyroidism) and the use of radioactive iodine treatment. With a combination of naturopathic and Traditional Chinese Medicine tools, Kwok proposed options to promote optimal thyroid function and avoid conventional iodine therapies.
Paul Anderson, ND, continued his series, Biologics: Pharmacology and Mechanisms of Action, with the presentation of Parts 4-6, in which he moved into clinical applications of naturopathic therapies to support patients using biologic drugs and provided strategies to taper and even discontinue these medications with the support of naturopathic tools.
Digestive disease, systemic inflammation, and weight management were all areas of focus on Saturday. In separate talks on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Wajahat Mehal, PhD, MD, and Joshua Zvi Goldenberg, ND, presented primary research on effective assessment and treatment practices. Mehal presented clinical trial data supporting leucocyte activation testing as a more accurate guide to the intolerance assays commonly used to develop elimination diet plans in IBS treatment protocols. As a representative of Bastyr University Research Institute’s IBS Naturally Group, Goldenberg provided an update and overview of 4 studies currently underway to investigate naturopathic dietary approaches to the treatment of IBS.
Kelsey Klausmeyer, ND, spoke to the ever-increasing epidemic of overweight and obesity in the United States and the lack of adequate preparation in medical school curricula to effectively address this issue. Klausmeyer reviewed recent updates to medical literature relating to causes, pathophysiology, and guidelines from professional societies as well as science on novel interventions, recent US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) drug approvals, and ketogenic diets as promising therapeutic tools.
As a nod to the conference theme and the challenges facing the modern naturopathic profession, Louise Edwards, ND, gave a passion-filled argument in the afternoon on the scientific evidence for Nature Cure. Calling on research and theories developed from evolutionary biology through epigenetics, Edwards grounded the profession’s guiding Naturopathic Principles and Therapeutic Order in the context of modern scientific evidence.
In the true spirit of all AANP annual conferences, 2018 was a healthy mix of evidence-based science, clinical best-practices, and social celebration. From the Alumni Reception and All-Schools Dance on Thursday to the Gala Dinner, Awards, and Dance on Saturday, attendees united to celebrate each other and the advancement of natural medicine in sunny San Diego.
The 2019 AANP annual conference will be held at the Portland Convention Center in Portland, OR, August 15-17, 2019.