A few years ago I heard Felice Jacka, Associate Professor (Deakin University), speak about her research linking mental health to certain Western dietary patterns and possibly many of you have already heard me rave about her work.  This year I had the pleasure of hearing her again at the recent Science of Nutrition in Medicine Conference and guess what I learned this time?  Felice is actually Alf Jacka’s daughter…I know I’m a bit slow sometimes. For those of you still going, “Huh?” – I am guessing you’re not from Victoria and certainly didn’t study at Southern School of Natural Therapies. Alf Jacka is considered by many, a pioneer of naturopathy in Australia and he established SSNT.  So I was thoroughly delighted when Felice, who is a very highly regarded researcher, made reference to her late father, & naturopaths generally, as being trail blazers: articulating many of the physiological drivers behind mental health decades before they turn up in the mainstream zeitgeist e.g. digestive health & the central importance of microbiota, excess glutamate activity in addiction.  Felice’s key interest lies in how we can prevent depression and mental illness at a population level via diet and she seems keen to essentially bring a more holistic perspective to the often reductionist world of health research.

I also recently attended the annual Biobalance Conference one (yes I truly have nothing else to do with my weekends!) which had Jerome Sarris on the bill.  Many of you will be aware of Jerome who is a Senior Research Fellow at The University of Melbourne, following completion of his doctorate at The University of Queensland in the field of psychiatry.  Again, some of you would have heard me mention his work in previous posts – he’s attracted more than $4 million in grants and has published some very high impact papers on the use of CAM in psychiatry. Personally, I find his review papers demonstrate a deeper understanding of CAM so clearly lacking in those written by non-naturopaths i.e. the others miss the point and he generally gets it and can find a way of putting voice to naturopathic nutrition in the forum of a scientific dialogue.

Anyway, at Biobalance, another speaker on the bill essentially suggested (possibly unintentionally) that naturopaths had less of a grasp of complex nutrition than integrative GPs and much to my delight, Jerome, a keynote speaker, responded by identifying himself first and foremost as a naturopath and then saying on the matter , “Ahem…I don’t agree at all”…or something to that effect.  It was a great moment.

So fellow naturopaths and integrative practitioners, be assured that we are being beautifully represented by these trailblazers & if you’re interested in getting into research yourself – I suspect there’s never been a better time.