What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of medicine that skillfully combines natural therapeutic traditions with modern science to restore and optimize health. Licensed Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are trained to provide primary care and to diagnose and treat patients of all ages, genders, and conditions. During a naturopathic medical visit, a comprehensive biological, psychological, and social history is obtained. Physical examination and diagnostic tests may be included in order to reach an accurate medical diagnosis. Therapeutic interventions may include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, physical medicine, behavioral medicine, and lifestyle recommendations.
Areas of Focus
While naturopathic doctors are trained to provide primary care, some NDs choose a special area of focus. Specialty associations currently exist for Endocrinology, Environmental Medicine, Gastroenterology, Parenteral Therapies, Pediatrics, Primary Care Physicians, Psychiatry, Homeopathy, and Oncology.
NDs have extensive training in Behavioral Medicine, which enables them to empower patients to make and sustain lifestyle changes that improve health. Because of their rigorous training, naturopathic doctors go beyond treating physical symptoms; they help patients understand and address the underlying social, emotional, and psychological patterns that influence health. Naturopathic doctors are trained to utilize a broad range of therapies, counsel patients on lifestyle medicine, and incorporate comprehensive approaches to stress reduction.
Source: Institute for Natural Medicine, What is Natural Medicine?
Why Choose An ND?
Naturopathic physicians strive to identify the underlying cause of illness and why a patient is unwell rather than just suppress symptoms. They diagnose, prevent, and treat acute and chronic illness and strive to restore and establish optimal health by supporting the person’s inherent self-healing process.
A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level, residential naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as a MD but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, NDs study clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, hydrotherapy, botanical medicine, psychology and counseling. NDs takes rigorous professional board exams and may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care, general practice physician.
NDs treat many acute and chronic medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. They work as primary care providers and as part of an integrated healthcare team. Some common ailments that may be addressed with naturopathic medicine include hormonal imbalances, digestive issues, allergies, chronic pain, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue.
Naturopathic practice includes the following diagnostic and therapeutic modalities: clinical and laboratory diagnostic testing, nutritional medicine, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine (including naturopathic manipulations), public health measures, hygiene, counseling, minor surgery, homeopathy, acupuncture, prescription medication, intravenous and injection therapy, and naturopathic obstetrics (natural childbirth).
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians – House of Delegates Position Paper, Amended 2011.
These principles are the foundation of naturopathic medicine and guide a naturopathic physician’s approach to caring for patients.
Naturopathic Therapeutic Order
The Therapeutic Order™ is utilized by naturopathic physicians and outlines the natural order in which all therapies should be applied to provide the most benefit with the least potential for harm. The following are the stages and components of the therapeutic order:
- Remove Obstacles to Health
The natural state of health can be disturbed by obstacles that can cause disease such as chronic stress, poor diet, physical inactivity and exposure to environmental toxins, for example. The first step is to remove obstacles that impede the body’s ability to heal and allow additional therapies to provide the most benefit.
- Stimulate the Self-Healing Mechanisms
Therapeutic modalities such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicines, constitutional hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and acupuncture are used by NDs to stimulate and strengthen the body’s innate self-healing ability.
- Strengthen Weakened Systems
NDs have a wide variety of therapeutics available to enhance specific tissues, organs or systems and support repair including lifestyle interventions, dietary modifications, botanical medicine, orthomolecular therapy (use of substances that occur naturally in the body such as vitamins, amino acids, minerals), and homeopathy.
- Correct Structural Integrity
Spinal manipulation, craniosacral therapy and massage therapy can be used to improve and maintain musculature and skeletal integrity.
- Use Natural Substances to Restore and Regenerate
The primary objective of naturopathic medicine is not to treat pathology but restore health. NDs use safe, effective, natural substances that do not add toxicity or add burden to an already distressed body when a specific pathology needs to be addressed.
- Use Pharmacologic Substances to Halt Progressive Pathology
NDs are trained in pharmacology and how to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs when necessary. They can prescribe themselves (where state licensing allows) or if not, refer to a conventional medical doctor.
- Use High Force, Invasive Modalities: Surgery, Radiation, Chemotherapy
When these therapies or interventions are needed, NDs refer patients to MDs who are expertly trained in these areas. Naturopathic medicine can provide complementary or supportive therapies to decrease side effects and increase the effectiveness of conventional therapies and interventions.
What is the Therapeutic Order
of Naturopathic Medicine?
A set of guidelines to help naturopathic physicians completely resolve the patient’s symptoms and address the underlying cause while using the least force necessary.