What is naturopathic medicine?
Simply put naturopathic medicine is a field of medicine that utilizes natural and holistic methods to address a wide array of health conditions and diseases. Naturopathic medicine is different than traditional Western medicine in that its emphasis is on prevention and it acknowledges that the human body has an innate ability to heal itself. What does it mean, that the body has an innate ability to heal itself? Here is an example, you fall off your bike and scrap up your knee to were it is bleeding. Within the next few minutes your knee might become red, swollen and painful and the blood will stop. The next day your wound is now a scab and the swelling has gone down. A few days later there is no swelling the pain is gone and the scab is peeling off around the edges. A week or two later the scab falls off and now there is a faint scar where you fell on your knee. You could have not done anything to the wound, not have cleaned it, not have applied pressure, not have put a band-aid on, not have taken any medicine or applied ice and this process would still have occurred similarly as described. This is because your body is an amazing self-healing machine. Your body naturally wants to remain as healthy as possible to keep you alive so it employs self-healing mechanisms without you even thinking about it.
The Principles of Naturopthic Medicine
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
- Identify and Treat the Causes (ToIle Causam): The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
- First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere): Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:
- Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat;
- Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and
- Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere): Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
- Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.
- Prevention: Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.
This information is directlty from The Association of Naturopathic Physicians
What is an ND vs an NMD or Naturopath?
This can be a bit confusing. Naturopathic doctors use different title abbreviations sometimes. ND stands for naturopathic doctor and NMD stands for naturopathic medical doctor. In general these two title abbreviations are interchangeable. The abbreviation ND also represents that the practitioner is medically trained. Be warned though that ND is often misused by people who call themselves naturopathic doctors or "naturopaths" but these individuals are not medically trained and have not received a medical degree from an accredited naturopathic college. People who often called themselves NDs or "naturopaths" but are not medically trained usually are practicing in states that naturopathic medicine is unlicenseded, therefore are not regulated. To add to the confusion, licensed naturopathic doctors might call themselves a "naturopath", naturopathic doctor or naturopathic physician or even a naturopathic primary care provider (PCP).
More confused and now worried? Don't sweat it, just do a bit of investigation or ask these questions:
1. What is your title and what does it mean?
2. Where did you go to school and is it an accredited naturopathic college?
3. Are you licensed and if so in what state and is your license current?
4. What additional medical training have you received/ completed?
Where is naturopathic medicine LICENSED?
These are the states in which naturopathic medicine is licensed:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- North Dakota
- United States Territories: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands
What if the state i live in does not licence or recognize naturopathic medicine?
If you live in a state that does not recognize or license naturopathic medicine, it does not mean you do not have access to naturopathic care. But it does mean you might have to do some searching to find a naturopathic doctor near you and some investigation to ensure they are qualified. It is important to note that naturopathic doctors in unlicensed states are not allowed to diagnose, or treat unless they are practicing under another licensed or qualified degree such as an MD, DO, NP, OMD or LAc.
So now you are wondering, what is the point of seeing a naturopathic doctor if you live in Texas or Florida for example? I will answer this next below.
Why see a naturopathic doctor?
- Naturopathic doctors spend on average 30 to 90 minutes face to face with patients instead of the average 8 minutes other doctors spend with patients. This allows you to be heard and share your whole medical story so that the pieces of the puzzle can be laid out for a professional to assess.
- Naturopathic medicine believes in uncovering the root cause of disease instead of covering up symptoms with unnecessary treatments and medication that do not address the issue.
- Naturopathic treatments and modalities are indeed "natural" meaning they do in fact come from nature. Some treatments may include herbal medicine, nutritional medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy and others that the origin of can easily be traced to their organic nature and explained simply.
- Naturopathic doctors not only have professional medical degrees obtained from 4 years or more degree programs but also have undergraduate degrees in a range of fields. Naturopathic doctors in general are well-rounded physicians due to their diverse educational and preofesssional backgrounds.
- Naturopathic medicine is affordable, works well and is non-invasive! Naturopathic doctors work with you to help improve your diet and lifestyle in affordable ways with low risk for side-effects.
- Naturopathic medicine is global medicine that has been used for hundreds of years by healers all over throughout time. It isn't new pharmaceutical medicine that has only existed within 100 years in which we are now understanding the damages of prescription medicine on our bodies and environment.
- Naturopathic medicine is a growing field of innovation, research and technology that honors old medicine and new science. This means you get the best of both worlds and a doctor who can utilize many tools to aid in your healing journey.
- Naturopathic medicine believes in educating the patient and involving them in their own healthcare. Naturopathic doctors are trained in explaining even the most complicated medical information to you in language you can understand. This means you can understand what is going on, what your options are and how you can be empowered to get better,
- Naturopathic doctors are highly trained in several types of medicine therefore they can interpret your medical charts, blood work results and communicate with other healthcare practitioners about your medical care. This means one professional understands the whole picture and your story does not get lost in the shuffle of the big medical world.