What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is based on 6 principles:
- First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
- The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
- Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect -tolle causam
- Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
- The Physician is a Teacher – docere
- Prevention is the best “cure” – praevenire
We believe that the human body has an innate ability to heal itself and it’s a matter of finding the underlying cause to support this healing process. There are many ways in which we can help support the process such as with counseling, nutrition, herbal medicine, and physical manipulations.
A simple example I like to give to help people understand what naturopathic medicine is to have them imagine a patient coming in with chronic headaches. Almost everyone has experienced a headache at one time or another, but how they respond to the headache varies widely. The common allopathic (aka. conventional medicine) solution to the problem would be to take an Ibuprofen or aspirin. There is nothing wrong with this approach, it takes away the headache usually, and sometimes in that particular moment, that’s what people need. However, if someone using this solution EVERY time they have a headache, they are not looking at the root cause of the problem which may continue to grow to the point where it’s significantly damaging to your health and the Ibuprofen doesn’t help anymore.
The naturopathic approach would be to look deeper at what is causing the headaches, and work on removing those obstacle to cure. It may take longer, but in the end, the patient will no longer suffer from headaches and will not need to use the Ibuprofen as often. The Ibuprofen is simply masking the symptom of the headache, not curing it. What is causing the headache? Perhaps the patient has significant muscle tension in their neck and they need regular bodywork to relieve the tension. Or perhaps the only beverage they drink is coffee and alcohol and they need to add water into the equation. Or perhaps they are majorly stressed at work and need to find better ways to cope with stress. The last one is particularly common. Everyone has some sort of stressor in their life and the added effect of all this stress can manifest itself physically as a wide array of symptoms and/or diseases (some far worse than just headaches). Naturopathic medicine looks to find and treat the cause of these symptoms.
What is a naturopathic doctor? (ND)
Naturopathic doctors (sometimes called naturopaths) are trained as primary care physicians and are currently licensed in 24 states. In licensed states, they can diagnose and treat many medical conditions (see Conditions Treated). They can draw blood, run labs, request medical records, and perform physical and screening exams. After completing their pre-med requirements and receiving a bachelor’s degree, they go through a vigorous 4 to 6 year graduate program through an accredited school with over 1200 hours of training. The first 2 years are similar to allopathic or conventional medical schools in that it focuses on the basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and pathology). The next 2 years focus more on the clinical training aspect and treatment modalities, where we typically differ from allopathic medicine. Our treatment plans integrate both modern-day science and research with more traditional natural medical approaches.
Naturopathic doctors work in private practices, hospitals, clinics and community health centers. NDs practice throughout the United States and Canada. Qualified naturopathic physicians undergo a rigorous training before they become licensed healthcare practitioners.
In unlicensed states, where naturopathic medicine isn’t regulated by the state, anyone can claim to be a naturopathic doctor (and some might even be in the licensed state who aren’t obeying the state laws). They might have received an online degree or gone to an unaccredited school. However, to have a fully qualified naturopathic physician in North America, you should check if they have gone to one of the 7 accredited schools in North America, as listed by the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC).