What is Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic Medicine combines the greatest elements of medicine: the strong foundations of conventional western diagnosis; the traditional and natural approaches to healing through nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); and alternative modalities such as IV nutritional therapy, injection therapy, energetic and physical medicine.
From the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP):
Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic physicians (NDs or NMDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease. NDs view the patient as a complex, interrelated system (a whole person), not as a single specific symptom. Naturopathic physicians craft comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health.
Naturopathic physicians base their practice on six timeless principles founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence:
- Let nature heal (vis medicatrix naturae) Our bodies have a powerful, innate instinct for self-healing. By finding and removing the barriers to this self-healing—such as poor diet or unhealthy habits—naturopathic physicians can nurture this process.
- Identify and treat causes (tolle causam) Naturopathic physicians understand that symptoms will only return unless the root illness is addressed. Rather than cover up symptoms, they seek to find and treat the cause of these symptoms.
- First, do no harm (primum non nocere) Naturopathic physicians follow precepts to ensure their patients’ safety
- Educate patients (docere) Naturopathic medicine believes that doctors must be educators, as well as physicians. That’s why naturopathic physicians teach their patients how to eat, exercise, relax and nurture themselves physically and emotionally. They also encourage self-responsibility and work closely with each patient.
- Treat the whole person (tolle totum) We each have a unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, sexual and spiritual makeup. The naturopathic physician knows that all these factors affect our health. That’s why he or she includes them in a carefully tailored treatment strategy.
- Prevent illness (praevenire) “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” has never been truer. Proactive medicine saves money, pain, misery and lives. That’s why naturopathic physicians evaluate risk factors, heredity and vulnerability to disease. By getting treatment for greater wellness, we’re less likely to need treatment for future illness.
The concept, “Let your food be your medicine and medicine your food” has been the foundation of naturopathic medicine. A growing body of scientific knowledge in this area is reflected in numerous professional journals of nutrition and dietary sciences, validating the naturopathic approach to diet and nutrition. Many medical conditions can be treated as effectively with foods and nutritional supplements as they can by any other means, but with fewer complications and side effects.
The use of plant medicine is core to naturopathic practice and is therefore central to the curriculum. Botanical medicines are used in both traditional herbal formulations and as phytomedicines, which are scientifically researched and formulated. A resurgence of scientific research in Europe and Asia is demonstrating that some plant substances are superior to synthetic drugs in clinical situations.
This natural health system, developed by Samuel Hahnemann in the 1840s, continues to evolve. Some conditions that conventional medicine has no treatment for respond well to homeopathy.
The art of touch, massage, physical therapy, and spinal manipulation are the basic tools of Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy (NMT) for chronic disease, and neck, back, sports, and motor vehicle injuries. The “tone” of a physician’s touch is a key non-verbal ingredient in establishing a successful, trusting relationship with patients. Note: in the state of California, high velocity, low amplitude manipulations are not within the scope of practice, however soft tissue manipulation can be provided.
Naturopathic physicians are trained in the fundamentals of oriental medicine and diagnosis, and may use acupuncture, acupressure and oriental botanical medicine in their practices. Note: In the state of California NDs are not allowed to perform acupuncture without a separate acupuncture license.
Children and adults are being exposed to greater quantities of chemicals in the environment and food supply. These chemicals interact synergistically to increase their negative effects. Naturopathic detoxification and immune restoration therapies are an important aspect of the practice.
Counseling & Stress Management
Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing and disease. Naturopathic physicians are trained in various psychological techniques, including counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback and other methods.
This includes repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies, cysts and other superficial masses with local anesthesia as needed. Note: in the state of California minor surgery is not included in the scope of practice as it is in other states.
Many people want to know if a Naturopathic Doctor can prescribe conventional medication. The answer is yes, however, they are trained to seek out and eliminate the root cause of disease using the least toxic methods whenever possible. Being trained in pharmaceutical therapy actually allows NDs to help patients get off their medication safely.
Alternative medicine is essentially a catch-all phrase for anything and everything designed to boost or improve your health that doesn’t take advantage of traditional or modern medical approaches. Sometimes alternative medicines involve herbal supplements, and other times they are based around physical movement like yoga. The best thing is that they do not carry a significant amount of side effects and potential dangers.