Do Our Bodies Have Self-Healing Abilities?

Dear Doctor,

I have a question about the statement “Our bodies have the ability to heal themselves” – I love this statement, believe it, and intuitively it makes sense to me BUT over the last 6 months, I’ve heard statements to the contrary.

I had a urinary tract infection and was told by doctors, pharmacists, and anyone else I asked about natural remedies that a urinary tract infection had to be treated by antibiotics that it wasn’t going to heal itself.

I had a sinus infection and after 4 weeks of having it, I still had it…

And now a yeast infection, and the same comments… go get medicine, “it’s not going to heal itself, it won’t just go away.” I’ve used some natural remedies and the symptoms got better, but does that mean it’s on its way to healing or did it just mask the issue? And is it on its way back?

So I wonder, what exactly does that statement “The body can naturally heal itself” mean? Does it mean if you take an herbal remedy or acupuncture or energy healing, then YES it can heal itself BUT not necessarily on its own? Meaning the body being left to work on its own to heal without any support.

Please clarify, I’m very interested and trying to find my way… a new way.

Thank you!

A Curious Student


Dear Curious Student,

Thanks for the really great question and the opportunity to talk about something very important in regards to treating and healing holistically – our self-healing abilites.

First, let’s get right to your broader question – Can the body heal on its own with no “treatment”, regardless of whether it is considered a natural therapy or a pharmaceutical substance. Well, yes…and no, it depends on several things. What is the state of health of the body, what was the “cause” of the condition, how quickly were things caught, and what has been tried right from the beginning? For example, take a simple cut. If you have a strong vital force, no underlying immune condition and you keep the cut clean, the body will work magic all on its own and heal the cut right up. No therapy needed at all.

Now let’s make it a little more complicated – let’s say you cannot keep the area clean for some reason. A break in the skin allows an opening for bacteria and if you cannot keep the area clean it becomes a breeding ground, a perfect environment for bacteria to thrive. Without some intervention, it is possible that the bacteria can cause a skin infection. At this point, the body is most likely going to need some help to heal from the infection. Can a natural substance help or do you need an antibiotic? That depends on how healthy your body was to begin with…if it was relatively healthy, there are a number of natural remedies and holistic therapies that can both reduce the bacteria and boost your own immune function and your body will be able to heal from the infection.

However, and now it can get a little more complicated, let’s say you keep it clean but your immune function is very low. There could be some serious issues – and you may have to use a pharmaceutical along with holistic therapies to get the infection cleared up and restore health to the body so it does not happen again (the infection).

While the conditions you have written about are indeed more complex than a simple cut, the principles I am speaking of are the same. What is your current state of health overall (mind, body and spirit)? What is the underlying cause? How quickly were things caught, and what has been tried right from the beginning?

Let’s look at the urinary tract infection – there are many questions to ask.

  1. Do you have a history of antibiotic use without also using probiotics? This disrupts the natural flora balance of the body and lets the bad guys sort of take over the good guys. 
  2. Is there some anatomical situation that is allowing bacteria to collect along your urinary tract? This will mean that there is an ongoing supply of bad guys and without intervention, your body is going to use up its resources and will need ongoing help.
  3. Is your pH imbalanced thereby setting the stage for the pathogenic bacteria to take hold, multiply and out-compete the healthy bacteria? 
  4. What kind of bacteria are there? And what have you used so far? Some therapies can help while others can simply mask the symptoms and actually make the problem worse.
  5. Etc…

A mild infection of the urinary tract, coupled with a very vibrant vital force and a very healthy body, can clear on its own – so no therapy is necessarily needed. But, in your case, it sounds like some intervention is definitely going to be needed. What that might be, natural or pharmaceutical, depends greatly on the answers to many questions, some of which are listed above.

I could go through that same reasoning sequence with both the sinus infection and the yeast infection – but there is no need. It is exactly the same – we have to gather the same information to know what to do.

BUT, from what you have written, it seems very clear to me that while everyone’s body does have an innate healing ability (the ability to heal on its own), your healing mechanisms need some help or you would not continue to develop “infections”. What that help might need to be will depend on numerous factors.

The very exciting thing about Naturopathic Medicine and Naturopathic Doctors is this is exactly what we are trained to do. Here is a summary of our guiding principles:

First Do No Harm – Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective.

The Healing Power of Nature – The human body possesses the inherent ability to restore health. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process with the aid of natural, non-toxic therapies.

Discover and Treat the Cause – Physicians seek and treat the underlying cause of a disease. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal. The origin of disease is removed or treated so the patient can recover.

Treat the Whole Person – The multiple factors in health and disease are considered while treating the whole person. Physicians provide flexible treatment programs to meet individual health care needs.

The Physician is a Teacher – The physician’s major role is to educate, empower, and motivate patients to take responsibility for their own health. Creating a healthy cooperative relationship with the patient has a strong therapeutic value.

Prevention – Naturopathic physicians are preventive medicine specialists. Physicians assess patient risk factors and heredity susceptibility and intervene appropriately to reduce risk and prevent illness. Prevention of disease is best accomplished through education and a lifestyle that supports health.

I hope this answer helps clarify both the statement “The body can heal itself” and provides you some food for thought when deciding how to proceed to restore your health and healing mechanisms. Thanks again for such a great question.

Dr. Michael Knapp



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