We are excited to present an interview with Victoria Ward, a naturopath whose lifelong connection with plants and nature has shaped her approach to health and wellness. Victoria comes from a family of horticulturists and grew up immersed in the world of plants, developing a deep understanding and appreciation for both cultivated gardens and wild flora.
In our conversation, Victoria shares how her childhood spent in the countryside, surrounded by plants, seamlessly translated into a profound knowledge of botany and a passion for natural remedies. Her interest in health and nutrition, combined with her love for cooking and creating remedies from home-grown or foraged plants, led her to pursue a degree in herbal medicine, seamlessly merging her love for plants with her dedication to natural healing.
Join us as we delve into Victoria Ward’s journey from a garden-centered upbringing to becoming a naturopath, exploring her unique perspective on the healing power of plants and her commitment to harnessing this power in the pursuit of health and wellness.
1. Could you share a bit about your journey into naturopathy/nutrition? What inspired you to pursue this field?
I come from a family of horticulturists and grew up at a large garden centre, plants were all around me and I spent many hours in the surrounding countryside. Knowledge of plants, both in the garden and those growing wild, seemed to seep effortlessly into my memory and became part of who I was. As I became older I also became very interested in health and nutrition and enjoyed cooking nutritious foods and making natural remedies from what I could grow or forage in the hedgerows. When I learnt I could study for a degree in herbal medicine It seemed the perfect combination of my love for plants and passion for natural medicines.
2. How do you approach treatment plans for your patients? What role do you believe natural supplements play in these plans?
I always treat patients holistically, taking a full case history that covers all aspects of their lives including emotional, social and physical factors. It is Important to me to get a strong sense of their energetic constitution and how this led to the development of their particular concern.
Herbs are of course the mainstay of my therapeutic strategy, but I also know how Important correct nutrition Is to well-being and will advise on dietary changes If they seem relevant. I may suggest supplements Including vitamins, minerals and oils. Increasingly I have become very Interested In gut health and believe that the enhanced functioning of the microbiome underpins all other physiological processes and that to optimize this process compliments my herbal therapeutics beautifully.
3. In your view, how important is a holistic approach to health and wellness, and how do you integrate this into your practice?
It Is absolutely key, Illness Is always meaningful and Is rarely straightforward In Its development or In the way It effects many aspects of a person’s life. The Interplay of physical, mental and emotional well-being cannot be overlooked and therefore It Is an Important part of my Initial case taking and treatment strategy to have considered all these aspects of a person.
An holistic approach results In a treatment plan that Is multi factorial and not just based on a herbal formulation. It could Include diet and lifestyle suggestions but also Is a flexible plan that will adapt with the Individual as they move through their healing journey.
4. What are some common health issues you encounter in your practice? How do you address these with natural therapies?
I have seen many Issues but most commonly I have treated hormonal Issues, particularly premenstrual Issues and menopausal symptoms. Mood disorders Including depression, anxiety and sleep Issues are very common In our modern, stress filled lives. Fatigue, skin problems and digestive Issues are also conditions I would regularly treat. As I said earlier, choosing the appropriate herbs In the appropriate form would be the main part of my treatment plan, that maybe a herb tea blend, herbal liquids or capsules. I love to prescribe creams, ointments and bath products too where Indicated. I would almost always give dietary and lifestyle advise and where appropriate may refer to another healthcare professional.
5. How do you perceive the connection between gut health and overall wellness? Could you share your insights on this?
This Is such a hot topic for me, I am really excited about the therapeutic potential of optimizing gut health to reduce Inflammation In the body, to maximize the absorption of nutrients and to aid the production of secondary metabolites or ‘postbiotics’. I see the microbiome as an In house pharmacy where we can target health conditions by feeding the microbiota the most gut friendly foods and supplement with probiotics selectively according to what an Individual needs.
Clearly the role of the gut has been underestimated by the medical profession as has the effect of processed food on our health, this Is Intrinsically linked to the health of our microbiome and It would seem we haven’t been nurturing this with the right foods.
6. What general dietary and nutrition advice do you often find yourself giving to your patients?
Usually I will advise to keep well hydrated and avoid too much coffee, tea and alcohol. To choose water and to avoid fizzy, processed drinks. Processed foods have received so much attention lately In the light of the emerging research surrounding gut health, I would advise avoiding them as much as possible but realistically this Is a challenge with such busy lives. I believe that eating food In as close to Its natural state Is wise and that fruit and vegetables should make a large part of any diet. Fibre Is very Important, particularly to gut health and I would encourage patients to think about eating soluble fibre that travels to the gut providing food for the microbiota. Prebiotic foods are very Important to sustain and promote the growth of healthy bacteria In the gut.
7. When introducing supplements into a patient’s regimen, what key factors do you consider?
I would firstly consider what they actually need and prioritize what I consider will be effective for them In terms of bioavailability, when the best time for taking them would be, whether they should be taken before or after food and In what amount they would need to be effective. Quality of the supplements would be very Important and I would look to choose ones from reliable suppliers. Synergy Is also an Important factor to consider when forming a treatment plan, what herbs or supplements will work well together to maximize any benefits. I like to look at research as It Is Important to me that whatever I prescribe has demonstrated Its effectiveness
8. Without disclosing personal details, could you share a memorable success story from your practice involving natural treatments?
A young woman came to see me with pre-menstrual tension and chronic skin problems, both were causing her much distress and affecting her confidence. We worked together on Improving her diet and gut health, I suggested dietary Improvements Including reducing the amount of processed foods she was consuming and sugary drinks. Another change to her diet was to choose foods that release energy more slowly to help balance her blood sugar levels such as porridge oats for breakfast rather than sugary cereals. We discussed ways of dealing with her stress more effectively, Increasing her exercise and fresh air. The herbs I gave her were to support her liver function, generally cleanse her system and Improve digestion. I Included adaptogenic herbs to boost mood and energy alongside helping her cope with stress. The supplements I recommended were skin specific probiotics and Vitex agnus castus for hormone balance. As one of her major concerns was skin eruptions we also looked at her skincare routine, considered the skin microbiome and how we could balance that with natural Ingredients.
The results were astonishing, within a month all symptoms were greatly Improved, the PMT was more manageable, the eruptions were less severe and she reported feeling calmer and more balanced. By the third follow-up, six weeks In, she felt like a new person with the PMT hardly Impacting on her life and the eruptions had stopped completely.
9. What are some challenges you face in the field of naturopathy/nutrition, and how do you overcome them?
You have to face doubt sometimes about ‘alternative’ medicines, people can see different approaches to healthcare as ‘wacky’ or feel that Its not for them. The Investment In health can also be considerable as supplements can be expensive.
Conventional healthcare providers may not take you seriously or want to work with you, they emphasize the Importance of evidence-based medicine but sadly research Is lacking In herbal medicine due to the cost.
10. Where do you see the future of naturopathy and functional medicine heading?
I can only see them becoming more popular and this does not surprise me at all. We are In the grips of an antibiotic crisis and know that we need to approach health In a different way. We have overprescribed these drugs and created drug resistant microbes whilst destroying our own microbiota. Conventional medicine has been amazing but has clearly has taken a blanket approach to some Illnesses and not looked holistically at people, focusing on symptom relief rather than considering the whole picture.
Many drugs have harmful side effects and I believe people are becoming more aware of this and question medical professionals. There Is so much more Information available about health and the trend Is towards more natural remedies with less side effects.
11. What personal wellness practices or routines do you follow to maintain your own health?
I try and eat really well and now think about my gut health with every meal. I do supplement with probiotics and use herbs daily. Exercise Is really Important to me and I love yoga but also value time out In the fresh air walking or running. Being outside amongst nature Is my number one mental health boosting activity and I love to garden.
12. Finally, what advice would you give to individuals aspiring to enter the field of naturopathy or nutrition?
Keep up to date with the latest research, network with like-minded people, read and learn as much as you can, never be daunted by science, believe In yourself and what you are doing and finally, enjoy!
Connect with Victoria Ward
To learn more about Victoria Ward’s work and to stay updated with her latest insights and offerings, we invite you to visit her website and follow her on social media:
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CanXida. The content provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Readers are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider for any health-related questions or concerns.