Naturopathic medicine is a segment of medicine that uses therapeutic methods to help encourage people's ability to self-heal. It often uses natural substances and incorporates Eastern medicine practices to create overall wellness for patients.
What is a naturopathic doctor?
A naturopathic doctor is a type of primary health care physician who emphasizes disease prevention, treatment, and the creation of optimal health. Naturopathic doctors rely on both modern and traditional methods of treatment, as well as scientific and empirical techniques.
They combine nature's wisdom with modern science to focus on holistic and proactive prevention, along with comprehensive diagnostics and treatment plans. One priority of naturopathic physicians is to minimize the risk of harming a patient. In order to do this, naturopathic physicians work with the body’s innate ability to restore and maintain its own health. While a naturopathic physician identifies and removes any barriers to proper health, they are ultimately working to optimize the human body to be healing both internally and externally.
Naturopathic doctors follow very specific principles and foundations for their medical practices. These include:
- Nature's healing power
- The removal of obstacles to recovery
- Identify and treat the cause of ailments
- Minimize side effects of treatments
- Respect people's self-healing process
- Treat the whole person
- Focus on disease prevention
Naturopathic medicine looks at the self-healing process that everyone has to do most of the healing work. Naturopathic doctors work to identify and remove any obstacles to the body's own natural healing and recovery while supporting and augmenting the patients' innate self-healing process.
By removing the underlying causes of an illness, a Naturopath seeks to cure disease from the inside out rather than just masking the symptoms and allowing a disease to progress. They really work with their patients, educating and encouraging them to take responsibility of their own health. These doctors also recognize the potential therapeutic benefits of a doctor-patient relationship and flourish it to the best of their ability.
When it comes to treating the whole person, naturopathic physicians take several aspects of a patient's life into account, including physical, emotional, mental, genetic, social, environmental, spiritual, and other factors.
They also work with their patients to emphasize prevention of disease. This is done by assessing any risk factors, including heredity risk factors and susceptibility to disease, and by intervening with their patients to help prevent an illness.
What do they treat?
Naturopathic physicians can work in their own private practices, clinics, hospitals, and community health centers. Those who become qualified naturopathic physicians must first undergo rigorous training in order to become a licensed health-care practitioner.
Naturopathic physicians are able to treat all medical conditions that one would typically visit an MD for. They can also provide individual as well as family health care.
Some of the most common ailments that naturopathic physicians treat include:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Chronic pain
- Hormonal imbalances
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Pulmonary conditions
- Adrenal fatigue
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
They can even perform minor surgeries including removing cysts and stitching up superficial wounds. It is important to note, however, that they do not perform any major surgeries. While they are trained to use prescription drugs, the emphasis of naturopathy is to use natural healing remedies that work with the body.
A licensed naturopathic physician goes to a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school. They are educated in the same basic sciences as a medical doctor, however, they also study holistic and nontoxic approaches to healing and have a strong emphasis on optimizing health and preventing disease.
In addition to a normal medical education, naturopathic physicians also study clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, psychology, and even counseling. These physicians must take professional board exams in order to be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a physician.
What is a visit with a naturopath like?
The first visit with a naturopathic physician is often lengthy as they want to get a complete look at the patient's health. The doctor will typically talk about your health history, learn about your daily diet, assess your stress levels, talk about any tobacco or alcohol use, and go over your main health-related goals.
The doctor may perform a physical exam and order some diagnostic tests if the patient presents a specific health problem. Naturopathic physicians are constantly working to keep themselves up-to-date on emerging scientific research, which they then incorporate into their treatments.
Naturopathic physicians work with their patients to set up a health management strategy that is right for their specific needs and lifestyle. If a patient presents a problem that is out of the naturopath's scope of treatment, they will refer the patient to a more appropriate doctor for treatment.
Naturopathic physicians take their time during appointments, as they need to have enough time to ask the patient questions and fully understand the patient’s health goals. They also take the time to teach their patients about improving their health and managing their specific health concerns.
Naturopaths are also a bit different from MDs in the sense that they speak to their patients in traditional layman's terms. Although they understand the language of conventional medicine, they work to bring their patients an easier approach to managing their health. They also provide new resources of insights and treatments.
The main goal of a naturopathic physician is to prevent a disease before it happens. They work with the body's natural processes to heal itself and often use natural remedies to decrease the number of side effects that a patient may experince.