Tolle causam (Find the underlying cause)

In naturopathic medicine, the identification of the underlying cause of a physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual imbalance in order to effect a cure is called tolle causam, (meaning "discover and treat the cause" in Latin). In the context of tolle causam, symptoms are considered to be a language -- the code that your body, mind, emotions, and spirit use to talk to you. They are welcomed as messages from within about what is going wrong in the system as a whole. They point you and your doctor to the source of your discomfort.

Conventional Tests

Modern evidence-based medicine relies on a diverse array of tests to evaluate physiological function and tissue abnormalities. They include, but are not limited to: radiographs (X-ray), X-ray computed tomography (CAT scan), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, biochemical analysis of body fluids and stool, colonoscopy, endoscopy, mammograms, and biopsy (tissue sampling and analysis).

Specialized Diagnostics

Naturopaths use specialized tests to assess aspects of physiological function that are not evaluated with conventional laboratory tests. Some are performed in the office; others are done by special laboratories. For example, Ayurvedic pulse and tongue diagnosis allow your doctor to detect imbalances at deep energetic and/or metabolic levels, sometimes before you begin to experience symptoms.

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Medical Interview

Doctors collect information in personal interviews to help determine the cause of symptoms that you describe to them. Doctors may ask questions and interpret answers differently depending upon their philosophy of health and healing. The personal interview is also a time for you to decide whether or not your doctor is approaching your health care in a way that makes sense to you.

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Self-Assessment Tools

Self-assessment tools are questionnaires that allow you to record information concerning a particular area of your physiological or mental function in an organized fashion. Your doctor will invite you to complete assessment tool(s) as a way to refine the process of uncovering the root cause of your discomfort.

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Therapeutic Trials

A therapeutic trial is a form of subjective diagnostic testing and may be suggested to you when objective testing is unable to unequivocally discern the cause of your symptoms. For example, you may have a sensitivity to a substance which does not show up in allergy tests. In this case, the only way to determine whether the item is causing your symptoms is to do a trial of treatment. In this case, the trial would be a period of time where you avoid the item completely to see if your symptoms improve.


Self-awareness refers your understanding of your personal traits, behaviors, and beliefs and your experience of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual sensations and feelings at any given moment in time. The more open you can be about what you know about yourself, the more accurately imbalances can be diagnosed and the more personalized your treatment plan can be.

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One of the most important sources of information for determining the underlying cause(s) of your discomfort is your own awareness of your state of health.

Your perceptions of

  • your symptoms,
  • what soothes them,
  • what makes them worse,
  • their significance for you,
  • your feelings about them,

are all vital for your physician to understand what will help restore health.

Come to your appointment with as much information as possible about what you are noticing about all dimensions of your health -- mental, emotional, physical, spiritual.


Hear what someone has to say about specialized in-house diagnostics:

I love the biopedance testing that HeartSong uses to analyze body composition because it shows me so much more than just my weight. I can tell if I'm gaining muscle mass, and losing fat mass, and how my hydration levels are as well as many other things. The testing is very fast.

Anna Mefferd
Putney, VT