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Latest Edit: Iva 2012-08-04 (EDT)

Symptoms tell a story. They display a pattern with specific qualities and attributes. In naturopathic medicine there is the recognition that each individual is unique and there is meaning and purpose for why symptoms and diseases appear. The exploration of symptom patterns brings reason and order back into health and disease, it appreciates and recognizes the complexity and intricacy of the human body, and the interrelationships among people, their lifestyle, environment and other factors.

Symptoms are part of a constructive phenomenon that is the best "choice" an organism can make, given the circumstances at any particular point in time.[1] The body is always working to maintain homeostasis and health. It is common for symptoms to arise as a natural healing reaction of the body or as an indications that a person is no longer adapt and compensate to disrupting factors.[2]

The onset of signs and symptoms themselves can be a positive message; it indicates a need for something to be addressed or changed. An aim of a naturopathic assessment is to understand the story that is being conveyed by the symptoms and to relate that back to the factors that have disrupted health. Some of the specific symptom characteristics that are explored include:

Factors to Consider

How the symptoms manifest, their chronolgy and the symptom modalities, that is what makes them better or worse is key.

  • Initiating factors relate to the root causes of symptoms and diseases. When the onset of symptoms are sudden, the initiating factor is usually an external event or stressful situation that occurred. When the onset of symptoms is more gradual, the initiating factor is more likely to be due to lifestyle, environmental or due to prolonged exposure to a substance.
  • Aggravating factors intensify, minimize or alter signs and symptoms, and they weaken a patient's strength and healing potential. The factors that are considered aggravating depends on a person's constitution. Often aggravating factors are considered 'obstacles to cure' as they maintain or intensify the state of overwhelm, preventing a patient from healing.
  • Ameliorating factors decrease or alleviate the intensity or onset of symptoms. The factors that ameliorate symptoms often provide a guide as to what has caused the aggravation.
  • Associated signs and symptoms might hold a closer connection to the initiating and aggravating factors than the primary symptom that a patient is concerned about.

Causal Factors


  1. Bradley Randall S. Philosophy of naturopathic medicine In Pizzorno Joseph E, Murray Michael (1999) Textbook of Natural Medicine, Second Edition Churchill Livingstone.
  2. Lloyd Iva (2009) The Energetics of Health, a Naturopathic Assessment, Elsevier.