How Naturopathic Medicine Connects Human and Planetary Health


Climate change is contributing to more extreme weather events and rising temperatures across the globe. Due to widespread media coverage of climate change-related health impacts—respiratory illness from raging wildfires and exhaustion from extreme heatwaves—we’re finally waking up to one simple fact: our health is intricately linked with the health of our planet, planetary health. 

The Planetary Health concept acknowledges that human health depends on the environment. And as naturopathic doctors know, planetary health is also about our everyday choices. The food we eat, the water we drink, and the products we use all impact our health. This article covers how naturopathic doctors can help patients understand and navigate planetary health and how naturopathic medicine focuses on whole-person health.

Planetary Health is Nothing New to Naturopathic Doctors

According to the Planetary Health Alliance (PHA) based at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Planetary Health is “a solutions-oriented, transdisciplinary field and social movement focused on analyzing and addressing the impacts of human disruptions to Earth’s natural systems on human health and all life on Earth.”

But as Dr. Iva Lloyd, ND, President of the World Naturopathic Federation (WNF), notes, this approach is far from new to naturopathic doctors. “You can’t be healthy as an individual without a healthy planet,” explains Lloyd. “Whether it’s the sustainability of food or the chemicals in personal care products, it really is about including the environment in health. And that’s not new in the naturopathic world.”

Dr. Tabatha Parker, ND, Executive Director of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine (AIHM), agrees. “The naturopathic perspective inherently includes planetary health. The original writings on naturopathic medicine didn’t necessarily use that term, but they were talking about the same philosophy,” Parker explains. “We’re all part of our actual community. But we’re also part of the natural environment that we live in. It really is inseparable.”

Naturopathic Doctors Help Patients Understand Climate-Health Connections 

When it comes to understanding how climate change impacts non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or chronic diseases, naturopathic doctors have a strong role to play. The AIHM is the only member of the Medical Society Consortium on Climate & Health representing integrative health professionals. Parker was involved in research which revealed that extreme heat and air pollution are the top two issues impacting human health. “Asthma and other NCD-related lung issues can often be tied back to issues impacting their climate,” notes Parker. “And that is the root cause of their illness.”

Parker was recently on Capitol Hill, advocating for policies that will bring much-needed funds and resources to tackle climate issues head-on. She met a high school student who had lost her California home to a climate-related disaster and spoke about the strong impacts on her mental health. She has experienced many years of health issues as a result and still struggles with anxiety. 

“Naturopathic medicine is about getting to the root cause of a person’s illness. If you don’t change the root cause, you often don’t get better,” Parker explains. “Climate change is causing increases in temperature, drought, and other extreme weather conditions, and impacting the nutrition of our food. NDs are like investigative journalists, helping patients connect the root causes of illness and climate health.”

Media coverage of the impacts of climate change helps raise awareness. But it can also lead to eco-anxiety and eco-grief—especially for children and youth. “Kids today are exposed to so much about climate change on the internet and social media at a young age. They may not have a space to talk about that, which can impact kids’ anxiety,” Parker explains. 

Some NDs include climate health impact questions on the intake form they use at the first patient visit. Parker suggests including questions such as

  • Have you been affected by extreme heat? 
  • Do you experience eco-anxiety? 
  • Are you worried about what’s happening to our planet?

“Many people are disconnected from nature because we live in such an industrialized world. But there are also many people who are very connected. And they physically feel the anxiety and effects of what is happening to our planet,” says Parker. “NDs can encourage patients to think about these things and create safe spaces for these discussions.”

Naturopathic Doctors Help Patients Make Healthier Choices

When it comes to making lifestyle changes that are good for both people and the planet, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. What diet is best? Which products are the least toxic? What ingredients are best to be avoided?

Naturopathic doctors effectively reduce patient overwhelm with education. “Our World Naturopathic Federation research shows that 98% of NDs do community education,” notes Lloyd. “It boils down to people becoming aware in a way that motivates but doesn’t paralyze. There’s so much information out there! People need to know that health is a journey, not a race. You don’t have to put everything in place tomorrow.”

Naturopathic doctors use this philosophy to help patients understand the health impacts of their everyday choices, including what fabric is used in their clothing and what chemicals are in the pesticides and weed killers used in their gardens.

 “In a lot of food issues, the problem is what’s added to the food. It is not the food itself,” explains Lloyd. “The more local and sustainable the food is, the fewer chemicals are added.” 

When it comes to personal care and household products, it can be particularly confusing for people to know which products contain toxins that could negatively impact health. Greenwashing (when companies make false claims about a product being ‘natural’ or ‘environmentally friendly’) is rampant in these industries, making it even more difficult for people to make healthier choices. 

Sometimes it’s about choosing the right form of a product. Let’s say you use a natural brand of laundry detergent, free of chemicals such as phosphates. While all the brand’s detergent products may be toxin-free, choosing laundry strips over liquid detergent is a planet-friendly choice. They use less water to produce, no plastic jugs are needed, and their light weight means less fossil fuel use and toxic emissions during transport. 

Parker encourages people to remember that they don’t have to do everything. “It’s not all or nothing. It’s each individual making one or two significant changes that are right for them.” Parker’s family of four consciously decided to have only one car and added e-bikes as a healthier, less polluting transport option. Parker knows colleagues who refuse to fly to conferences to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Everyone’s situation is different. Parker encourages people to choose realistic, empowering actions that won’t make life more stressful. This is where NDs can really help narrow down the options. “A lot of it comes back to how we buy, what we buy, and how we create our lives. NDs can ask questions such as, how much do you travel? Is it necessary? How many cars do you need? Do you turn out your lights every night? There are so many ways for NDs to get patients thinking about positive ways they could contribute to their climate and community.

The Future of Planetary Health: The Naturopathic Perspective

When it comes to the future of planetary health, naturopathic doctors have a great deal to offer. Lloyd is pleased to see the naturopathic focus on diet, lifestyle, clean personal care, and household and garden products gaining wider recognition.

And if her recent visit to the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) Tradeshow is any indication, other industries increasingly recognize the importance of planetary health. “It was great to see a focus on decreasing single-use containers and moving shampoo to bars. It’s becoming a much bigger focus on personal care products, food, and supplements.”

Her conversations with several makers of clean, personal care products point to a continued patient education role for NDs. “All of them said that their best referrals come from NDs,” Lloyd recalls. “I don’t know a single naturopathic doctor who isn’t aware of these things. The naturopathic workforce is probably one of the best trained in knowing what the options are.”

How might this growing interest in planetary health impact the future of the naturopathic profession?  Lloyd predicts that naturopathic care and principles will become the frontline of healthcare. “Globally, the primary health issue is lifestyle. In NCDs, there’s a much larger awareness of the impact of the planet on a person’s health. But for health care to improve, we must recognize that the planet can’t be healthy unless individuals are healthy – and vice versa,” notes Lloyd. 

One current barrier to increasing public awareness of planetary health is that information tends to be kept in silos. People focused on plastics may not speak to those researching wildfires, who may not be in touch with pesticide researchers. And Lloyd sees a growing role for NDs in helping patients navigate complex health choices. “This separation into silos needs to change. When people do that, there will be no choice but to simplify their lives and choices. It’s about making decisions with different intentions. You make a decision based on health, and then you expand what that means: health for me, the planet, and the workforce.”

But individual planetary health choices can only go so far without larger, systemic changes. Climate events have greater impact on the lives and health of historically underserved communities that are already affected by colonialism and racism. For many people, it is not a ‘choice’ to be unable to afford whole foods or live near toxic sites like mines, paper mills, and nuclear power plants. 

Parker envisions a radical redesign of the healthcare system, with more sectors of society contributing their support. She is encouraged by early signs of positive change. She recently attended a White House conference on nutrition and ending hunger. “They haven’t had a conference on nutrition and health in 50 years in this country! All sorts of organizations have committed over a billion dollars to address these issues,” notes Parker. “If we reverse how we approach health and begin with creating health and wellness in every person, we will shift NCDs. But we can’t do that until we shift the whole approach.”

Ultimately, naturopathic doctors are the ideal healthcare providers to lead this societal shift. “NDs could easily step into planetary health leadership roles because we have so much education in environmental medicine, food systems, nutrition, and more. We bring tremendous value to those conversations that are vital for future generations.”

Interested in getting involved in the planetary health movement? Members of the public can join one of the PHA’s Regional Hubs, and naturopathic doctors can join the PHA’s Clinicians for Planetary Health.

What the Naturopathic Approach to Planetary Health Looks Like Worldwide

As President of the World Naturopathic Federation and a member of their Environmental Health Committee, Lloyd sees how naturopathic doctors across the globe implement planetary health principles into their practices. “When we look at the uniqueness and strength of naturopathic care, it varies by country because the environmental, climate, and food factors are different,” Lloyd notes.

Lloyd points to a few examples of how these regional differences can play out. Compared to North America, NDs in India may integrate more yoga into their patient recommendations. Latin American NDs may recommend foods and medicinal herbs that grow in their climate. Health conditions also vary by geographic region. Unlike in North America, personal care products in some countries are mainly made with natural ingredients and by natural processes.

Regional differences can even impact what forms of supplements are culturally acceptable. “Nutraceuticals are common predominantly to the Western Pacific and to North America. If you’re in Asia and want a zinc supplement, you take an herb containing zinc. You don’t take zinc,” notes Lloyd. “The whole basis of planetary health isn’t about consistency. It’s about congruency with where you live. And the naturopathic profession has an amazing ability to be in sync with the environment, and know what is natural for us.”

One planetary health issue that Lloyd feels doesn’t get enough attention is cell phones and wireless technologies. “Every time a new technology is introduced, the goal is for people to acclimatize to it. But, depending on the health issue, not everybody can acclimatize, ” says Lloyd. “We’re getting to the point where the load of wireless technology is surpassing people’s ability to acclimatize to it.”


Global Alliance for Chronic Diseases Mid-Year Workshop Summary: Planetary Health, NCDs, and Implementation. 2022.

World Naturopathic Federation. White Paper: Naturopathic Workforce and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs). 2022.

More Planetary Health Reading from Naturopathic Doctors

Prescott SL, Logan AC. Planetary Health: From the Wellspring of Holistic Medicine to Personal and Public Health Imperative. Explore (NY). 2019;15(2):98-106. doi:10.1016/j.explore.2018.09.002

Prescott SL, Logan AC, Albrecht G, Campbell DE, Crane J, Cunsolo A, Holloway JW, Kozyrskyj AL, Lowry CA, Penders J, Redvers N, Renz H, Stokholm J, Svanes C, Wegienka G, OBoiPHotWUN. The Canmore Declaration: Statement of Principles for Planetary Health. Challenges. 2018; 9(2):31.

Redvers N, Celidwen Y, Schultz C, et al. The determinants of planetary health: an Indigenous consensus perspective. Lancet Planet Health. 2022;6(2):e156-e163. doi:10.1016/S2542-5196(21)00354-5

Redvers N. Patient-Planetary Health Co-benefit Prescribing: Emerging Considerations for Health Policy and Health Professional Practice. Front Public Health. 2021;9:678545. Published 2021 Apr 30. doi:10.3389/fpubh.2021.678545

Redvers N, Poelina A, Schultz C, Kobei DM, Githaiga C, Perdrisat M, Prince D, Blondin B. Indigenous Natural and First Law in Planetary Health. Challenges. 2020; 11(2):29.

Redvers N. The Value of Global Indigenous Knowledge in Planetary Health. Challenges. 2018; 9(2):30.

Solomonian, L. Promoting Planetary Health: A Necessary Part of Caring for Children. NDNR. August 4, 2021.

Planetary Health Resources from the Institute for Natural Medicine

Contact with Nature is Good for Your Health

What do Naturopathic Doctors Mean by First, Do No Harm?

Why and How Do Naturopathic Doctors Focus on Prevention?

Prescribing Time in Nature Improves Health

Anna-Liza Badaloo is a writer and program consultant, working at the intersection of health, environment, and social justice. With over 10 years of experience at non-profit organizations, she brings a combination of content writing, copywriting, and journalism to her work. Using her strong storytelling ethic, Anna-Liza strives to amplify traditionally silenced voices such as BIPOC, youth, and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities.

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

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Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.