Dmytro Synelnychenko | Dreamstime.com
With the recent establishment of Naturopathic Medicine Week by the U.S. Senate and their recognition of naturopathic physicians’ ability to provide “safe, effective, and affordable health care,” many are wondering just what naturopathic medicine is, when to seek naturopathy treatment, and how to find a naturopathic doctor. Anyone interested in holistic health and wellness deserves to know more about naturopathic medicine.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine (sometimes called “naturopathy”) is a system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (NDs), sometimes called “naturopathic physicians,” blend centuries-old knowledge and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health. The practice of naturopathic medicine is based on the following principles:
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- The Healing Power of Nature: recognize that the body has an inherent and intelligent self-healing process which can be facilitated and augmented by identifying and removing obstacles to healing and recovery.
- Identify and Treat the Causes: identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
- First Do No Harm: avoid harming the patient by utilizing methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat, and avoiding when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms.
- Doctor as Teacher: educate patients and encourage self-responsibility for health.
- Treat the Whole Person: take into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors.
- Prevention: assess risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease and make appropriate interventions to prevent illness.
How are NDs trained?
Approximately 4,375 doctors in the US are licensed to practice naturopathic medicine, having graduated from accredited 4-year naturopathic medical schools. Qualified naturopathic physicians undergo rigorous training in the art and science of natural health care at accredited medical colleges before they become licensed health-care practitioners. To learn more about naturopathic education you can visit the Professional Education page of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
How are NDs licensed?
Currently, 17 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing or regulation laws for naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (called the NPLEX) in order to receive a license.
Licensed naturopathic physicians must also fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually. In most states, this includes about 20 hours of continuing education per year.
Key Conditions Treated by Naturopathic Physicians
As primary care providers, NDs diagnose and treat most 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.
“From weight management and diabetes to allergies, digestion and bone health, patients of naturopathic physicians are able to realize improved health and optimal wellness through the principles and practices of naturopathic medicine,” says Jud Richland, CEO of the American Association for Naturopathic Physicians.
Key Therapies Used by Naturopathic Physicians
Licensed NDs will have a specific scope of practice defined by their state’s law. NDs are trained to utilize the following therapies: nutritional medicine, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine (including naturopathic manipulative therapy), counseling, minor surgery, homeopathy, prescription medication, intravenous and injection therapy. Naturopathy treatment may involve prescription drugs, as NDs are trained in prescription medications and are licensed to prescribe drugs in some states. However, the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents. Some NDs choose to undergo additional training in natural childbirth and in some states may become licensed midwives who deliver babies at home. In the U.S., NDs may also choose to do training inacupuncture and to become licensed acupuncturists in addition to being an ND. However, like with midwifery, acupuncture is not automatically a part of ND training.
Key Advantages of Naturopathic Medicine over Conventional Medicine
Naturopathic medicine meets the very popular demand for safe, effective and cost-effective natural health care. Drugs and surgery have their place, but more and more people are realizing that these conventional modalities are not always the best treatment options because they are expensive, have many side effects, and typically treat only the symptoms rather that the underlying cause of the illness. Naturopathic physicians take time with you; a first visit may last one to two hours and follow-up visits range from 30 to 60 minutes. Conventional physicians often don’t have the time to carefully and fully assess your root problem, while NDs do. Plus, NDs speak and understand the language of conventional medicine which means they can diagnose the way MDs do but can offer a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Another advantage is in the NDs’ focus on heading off disease before it before it happens instead of waiting for it to emerge.