What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic Medicine is a unique and distinct system of health care that emphasizes the use of prevention and natural therapeutics. The doctors who practice naturopathic medicine, called naturopathic doctors (NDs), are trained to serve as primary care general practitioners who are experts in the prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of both acute and chronic health conditions.
Naturopathic doctors are trained at accredited, four-year, post-graduate, residential naturopathic medical programs. The training consists of comprehensive study of the conventional medical sciences, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, etc, as well as detailed study of a wide variety of natural therapies.
The Princliples of Naturopathic Medicine
- Do No Harm (Primum No Nocere)
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
- Find the Cause (Tolle Causam)
- Treat the Whole Person (In Perturbato Animo Sicut In Corpore Sanitas Esse Non Potest)
- Preventive Medicine (Sero Medicina Curatur)
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
This set of principles, emphasized throughout a naturopathic doctor’s training, outlines the philosophy guiding the naturopathic approach to health and healing, and forms the foundation of this distinct health care practice.
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of natural and non-invasive therapies, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. Many naturopathic doctors have additional training and certification in acupuncture and natural child birth. Naturopathic treatments are effective in treating a wide variety of conditions without the need for additional intervention. Naturopathic doctors are also able to function within an integrated framework, and naturopathic therapies can be used to complement treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a patient-centered approach that strives to provide the most appropriate treatment for an individual’s needs. In the United States, the naturopathic medical profession’s infrastructure includes accredited educational institutions, professional licensing, national standards of practice, peer review, and a commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research.
Naturopathic Therapeutic Order
(1) Remove Obstacles to Health
Health, the “natural state” of one’s body, is disturbed by obstacles that lead to disease. The first step in returning to health is to remove those entities that disturb health, most commonly: poor diet, digestive disturbances, inappropriate stress levels, spiritual disharmony, among others. Naturopathic Doctors construct a healthy regimen based on each individual’s “obstacles to health” in an attempt to change and improve the terrain in which the disease developed. This allows additional therapeutics to have the most beneficial effects possible.
(2) Stimulate the Vis
The Vis is one’s vital force, akin to Qi in Chinese Medicine, the body’s innate self-healing ability. NDs use therapies, such as constitutional hydrotherapy, homeopathy, to facilitate the stimulation and strengthening of this powerful, curative force.
(3) Strengthen Weakened Systems
Those systems that need repair, and not simply stimulation, are addressed at this level of healing. Naturopathic Doctors have an arsenal of therapeutics available to enhance specific tissues, organs or systems, including: botanical medicine, glandulars, nutraceuticals (professional grade vitamins/minerals), homeopathy, among others.
(4) Correct Structural Integrity
Physical modalities such as spinal manipulation, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, are utilized to improve and maintain skeletal and musculature integrity.
(5) Use Natural Substances to Restore and Regenerate
Naturopathic Medicine’s primary objective is to restore health, not to treat pathology. However, when a specific pathology must be addressed NDs employ safe, effective, natural substances that do not add toxicity, nor burden, to the already diseased body.
(6) Use Pharmacologic Substances to Halt Progressive Pathology
When necessary pharmaceutical drugs are used to suppress symptoms. This, however, does not allow for the removal of the fundamental disturbing factors, nor the improvement of the underlying terrain. Some NDs prescribe these drugs and some refer.
(7) Use High Force, Invasive Modalities: Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy
When life, limb or function must be preserved NDs refer to Medical Doctors who are expertly trained in these arenas. However, there are complementary, or supportive, therapies that Naturopathy can provide to decrease side effects and often increase the effectiveness of these invasive procedures.
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
Naturopathic physicians combine the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Steeped in traditional healing methods, principles and practices, naturopathic medicine focuses on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to identify and remove barriers to good health by helping to create a healing internal and external environment.
Naturopathic physicians work in private practices, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. NDs practice throughout the United States and Canada. Qualified naturopathic physicians undergo rigorous training before they become licensed health-care practitioners. NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs can perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they do not practice major surgery. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.
What are Office Visits Like?
A naturopathic physician will take time with you. During your first appointment, your doctor will take your health history, find out about your diet, stress levels, use of tobacco and alcohol, and discuss why you’re there. He or she may perform an examination and order diagnostic tests. Naturopathic physicians keep themselves up-to-date on the latest scientific research and incorporate this evidence into their treatments. The naturopathic physician will work with you to set up a customized health management strategy. If necessary, your doctor will refer you to other health-care practitioners.
A first visit with a patient may last one to two hours and follow-up visits range from 30 to 60 minutes, although this varies depending on the ND. Naturopathic physicians need sufficient time to ask questions and understand the patient’s health goals. NDs also do an appropriate examination and teach his or her patients about managing their condition and improving their health. NDs may also use diagnostic tests to fully understand their patient’s health status. Besides taking the time to carefully and fully assess a patient’s root problem, NDs speak and understand the language of conventional medicine. They can diagnose the way MDs do—yet, they bring to the patient a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Instead of waiting for a disease to emerge, NDs work to head it off before it happens.