Naturopathic medicine is hardly new. It grew out of medical traditions from throughout the world. It became more formally recognized as a distinct American medical profession around 1900. The majority of states have licensed naturopathic doctors at different times since then. After the 1930's, advancements in modern drugs combined with political pressure led to the profession fading in popularity. In the last 30 years however, the limitations of long term prescription drug use have become obvious. As a result interest in and demand for natural, holistic medicine has increased dramatically. Today Naturopathic medicine continues to grow and evolve, incorporating medical advancements from around the world.
Naturopathic Doctors (N.D.s) are primary care health practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. They attend 4 year graduate-level accredited naturopathic medical schools where they study biomedical and clinical sciences and receive extensive training in a wide spectrum of natural medicines. N.D.s use physical exams and lab tests to diagnose disease and form individualized treatment plans. N.D.s are the only primary care doctors clinically trained in the use of natural therapeutics. While N.D.s emphasize a more natural approach, all options are considered including prescription drugs.
What distinguishes naturopathic medicine is its philosophy. Naturopathic Physicians are guided by their oath, which includes the "Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine."
Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Do No Harm
Identify and Treat the Cause
Abide by the Healing Power of Nature
Treat the Whole Person
Teach as You Heal
Focus on Prevention
There is a philosophical difference between conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine. Conventional medicine is focused on treating disease and discomfort. Naturopathic medicine focuses on the whole person, giving the body the tools it needs to correct imbalance and heal itself.
Let's look at a couple examples of these different approaches at work...
A patient comes in with eczema.
The conventional doctor will often prescribe a topical cortisone cream to treat the affected area. If the problem returns, the cream is used again, and again, ad infinitum. A naturopathic doctor will search for the cause of the eczema e.g. allergies, toxins etc. Once the Cause is determined and removed, the skin will heal itself.
A patient comes in with recurring respiratory infection and fever.
The conventional doctor will often prescribe antibiotics for the infection and anti-inflammatory for the fever. If symptoms continue, stronger drugs may be prescribed. A naturopathic doctor will search for the reason why this person's immune system is weak, and they continually get sick. This could range from bad diet to stress to thyroid imbalance to lack of sleep or any number of other causes. Once the cause is discovered, treatment is made accordingly. Unless the fever is dangerously high, the N.D. will not seek to lower it. Fever is the body's natural way of combating the infection. Natural anti-bacterials will be used to treat the patient, but the underlying cause will also be addressed to prevent illness in the future.
There is an appropriate time and place for both conventional and naturopathic medicine. For most ER situations (broken bones, appendicitis etc) conventional medicine is more equipped to treat these conditions. For non life-threatening or chronic conditions naturopathic medicine is more appropriate.
Whatever the problem, the naturopathic doctor seeks to help the body return itself to a balanced, healthy state known as homeostasis.
Our health is supported by four pillars:
Each Pillar is of equal importance. If any one is weak, the body struggles to maintain homeostasis. A good naturopathic doctor will assess all four pillars to find the root causes of imbalance and give appropriate treatments to help patients heal themselves.
For more information on Naturopathic Medicine, licensing, and practice, please go to these websites. AANP, CNDA