What is naturopathy and how can it assist athletes?

What is naturopathy and how can it assist athletes?

Naturopathy is a comprehensive healthcare approach that considers the interrelationship between all systems in the body. Several factors (rather than one factor) often contribute to poor health status or sports performance in an athlete. Naturopathy places an emphasis on identifying the underlying cause/s of ill health or poor performance by drawing on physical examinations, pathology tests and other investigations and aims to resolve issues in a similar way to working through a puzzle.


Sports focussed naturopathy considers the combination of contributing factors such as unique genetic make-up (family medical history, gene mutation identification and gene expression); sporting demands (volume, intensity, duration and form of training and competition); lifestyle factors (sleep quality and quantity, family, other stressors, work); environmental factors (chemical exposure, allergens, toxins and pathogens) and the health history of an athlete.

Naturopathy aims to reduce the risk of future issues through preventative medicine and educates and empowers athletes, so they feel in control of their health and long-term outcomes. A naturopathic consultation may provide effective symptom relief as well as treating underlying issues and a personalised treatment plan may incorporate a range of exercise and sports focussed dietary suggestions along with the prescription of natural based medicines as required. A clinical Naturopath works collaboratively with other medical specialists and sports practitioners to facilitate balanced and comprehensive healthcare.

Holistic sports nutrition is a central pillar in naturopathy.

The importance of sports nutrition cannot be understated.  Good nutrition lays the foundation for long term success, injury prevention, and optimal health status. Athletes of all levels have special nutritional needs due to the increased nutrient demands of training and performance.  Without sound nutrition, the physical benefits of training may be reduced, additional wear and tear on the body may occur and recurrent injuries and illness may impact on the progression and career longevity of an athlete.   Incorrect and inadequate nutrition may directly affect training performance and recovery and leave an athlete susceptible to other complications such as anaemia, insomnia, chronic fatigue, reduced stress tolerance, insulin resistance, recurrent infections, kidney issues, cardiovascular complications, hormonal dysregulation and gastrointestinal complications which impact on performance and life well beyond sport.

Holistic sports nutrition takes into consideration gastrointestinal, liver, pancreatic and adrenal health; structural integrity; immunity and hormonal influences. Nutrient absorption capacity, gut microbiome health, and efficiency of biochemical processes (for example the Krebs cycle that produces energy) are all integral to sports performance.


Holistic sports nutrition focuses on balanced nutritional intake of the right macro and micro nutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients) in the most bioavailable forms. This broad approach aims to reduce inflammation, maintain anti-oxidant status, enhance nutrient uptake and optimise energy production, endurance, lean muscle mass, bone and soft tissue health, waste clearance and nervous system function.

Some of the common issues sports focussed naturopathy assists with include:

  • Holistic nutritional guidance
  • Fatigue or changes in energy
  • Anaemia
  • Chronic injuries (e.g. stress fractures, Achilles issues) and poor recovery post injury
  • Issues with sports performance, competition preparation and recovery (including post performance blues)
  • Insomnia and sleep pattern changes
  • Digestive complaints (e.g. IBS, reflux, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, Colitis, Crohn’s, food intolerances and allergies)
  • Obtaining balance and perspective in life in general
  • Stress, anxiety, grief and changes in mood
  • Reduced immunity and recurrent infections
  • Female athlete triad (light weight athlete, hormone issues, stress fractures)
  • Women’s health issues (e.g. PMS, oedema, bloating, low libido, thrush, irregular menstrual cycles, menopause)
  • Men’s health issues (such as low libido and prostate issues)
  • Fertility and preconception care
  • Weight management (overweight and underweight)
  • Musculoskeletal disorders – (e.g. arthritis, gout, osteoporosis)
  • Blood sugar irregularities (food cravings, energy dips, irregular energy supply, fat storage)
  • Auto-immune disorders (e.g. Coeliacs, Scleroderma, Lupus, thyroid conditions)

Kate Smyth is a Ballarat based sports naturopath who regularly runs educational seminars for athletes.

She will be providing a free seminar on gut issues in athletes on 7th December at 7pm at The Running Company Ballarat.



About Kate Smyth

Kate represented Australia in the 2008 Olympics and 2006 Commonwealth Games in the women’s marathon and is one of fastest all time Australian women over 42.2kms with a P.B of 2.28. Kate is also an accredited athletics coach and involved in national school’s programs run through the IAAF and Athletics Australia and mentors aspiring athletes. Kate is also a health educator involved in corporate, sporting club and school programs and events.


Kate Smyth holds three degrees including a Masters and Australia’s highest level of qualification in naturopathy (Bachelor of Health Science- Naturopathy) and is registered with the National Herbalists Association of Australia. Kate recently opened a sports focused naturopathy clinic on Dawson Street, Ballarat – the Athlete Sanctuary. To find out more information visit www.athletesanctuary.com.au