What is Naturopathic Medicine?

The scope of practice for naturopathic medicine includes all aspects of preventative and natural health for your family, from pediatrics to geriatrics. Naturopathic doctors can help patients with ailments such as colds and flus, injuries and sleep disorders, as well as with more chronic health concerns such as arthritis and chronic pain, allergies and asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, depression, fibromyalgia, digestive disorders, HIV/AIDS, adjunctive care for cancer and much more.

Naturopathic medicine emphasizes prevention of disease, encouragement of the body’s inherent healing abilities, treatment of the whole person and personal responsibility for one’s own health. In addressing your illness or efforts to optimize wellness, the naturopathic care team might prescribe vitamin/mineral supplements, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, provide physical medicine and hydrotherapy treatments or recommend changes in diet, lifestyle and exercise.

Annual wellness exams are an important component of preventative health. Wellness exams include a comprehensive assessment of body systems, screening physical exam and personalized additional screenings tailored to your health goals, risks and needs.

While firmly science-based, modern naturopathic medicine also preserves the centuries-old wisdom of successful natural therapies. Your naturopathic doctors take the time to listen and to get to know you as a whole person. As a partner in your own health care, you play an integral role in making decisions about your treatment.
-Above taken directly from The Bastyr Center for Natural Health website: www.bastyrcenter.com

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care – an art, science, philosophy and practice of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness. Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles which underlie and determine its practice. These principles are based upon the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are continually reexamined in the light of scientific advances. Methods used are consistent with these principles and are chosen upon the basis of patient individuality. Naturopathic physicians are primary health care practitioners, whose diverse techniques include modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods.

Naturopathic Medical Education

A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as a M.D. 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, the naturopathic physician is required to complete four years of training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling (to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health). A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician. Additional information on naturopathic schools can be found at http://www.aanmc.org/

History of Naturopathic Medicine

NDsmalldiscNaturopathic medicine, sometimes called “naturopathy,” is as old as healing itself and as new as the latest discoveries in biochemical sciences. In the United States, the naturopathic medical profession’s infrastructure is based on accredited educational institutions, professional licensing by a growing number of states, national standards of practice and care, peer review, and an ongoing commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research. Modern American naturopathic physicians (NDs) receive extensive training in and use therapies that are primarily natural (hence the name naturopathic) and nontoxic, including clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and counseling. Many NDs have additional training and certification in acupuncture and home birthing. These contemporary NDs, who have attended naturopathic medical colleges recognized by the US Department of Education, practice medicine as primary health care providers and are increasingly acknowledged as leaders in bringing about progressive changes in the nation’s medical system.

The word “naturopathy” was first used in the US exactly 100 years ago. But the natural therapies and the philosophy on which naturopathy is based have been effectively used to treat diseases since ancient times. As Rene Dubos noted in @The Mirage of Health (1959)@, the word “physician” is from the Greek root meaning “nature.” Hippocrates, a physician who lived 2400 years ago, is often considered the earliest predecessor of naturopathic physicians, particularly in terms of his teaching that “nature is healer of all diseases” and his formulation of the concept@ vis medicatrix naturae@– “the healing power of nature.” This concept has long been at the core of indigenous medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy to this day.

The earliest doctors and healers worked with herbs, foods, water, fasting, and tissue manipulation — gentle treatments that do not obscure the body’s own healing powers. Today’s naturopathic physicians continue to use these therapies as their main tools and to advocate a healthy dose of primary prevention. In addition, modern NDs conduct and make practical use of the latest biochemical research involving nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, and other natural treatments.

For many diseases and conditions (a few examples are ulcerative colitis, asthma, menopause, flu, obesity, and chronic fatigue), treatments used by naturopathic physicians can be primary and even curative. Naturopathic physicians also function within an integrated framework, for example referring patients to an appropriate medical specialist such as an oncologist or a surgeon. Naturopathic therapies can be employed within that context to complement the treatments used by conventionally trained medical doctors. The result is a team-care approach that recognizes the needs of the patient to receive the best overall treatment most appropriate to his or her specific medical condition.

The AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Physicians), founded in 1986, is the professional association that represents licensed NDs in the US. www.Naturopathic.org

Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic Principles

The Healing Power of Nature – Vis Medicatrix Naturae
Naturopathic Medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing ability in the body that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to recovery and to facilitate and augment this healing ability.

Identify and Treat the Cause – Tolle Causam
Naturopathic physicians seek to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, rather than to solely treat symptoms.

First Do No Harm – Primum Non Nocere
Naturopathic Medicine follows three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:

  1. Utilize therapies and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects.
  2. Avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms.
  3. Acknowledge and respect the individual’s healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.

Treat the Whole Person – Tolle Totem
Naturopathic physicians encourage a healing path that takes into account each individual’s unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social attributes.

Doctor as Teacher – Docere
Naturopathic physicians educate patients so they can make informed choices about their health. They also encourage self-responsibility for health and acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.

Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease, assessing risk factors and heredity, susceptibility to disease, and make appropriate interventions to prevent illness. Naturopathic Medicine strives to create a healthy world in which humanity may thrive.

The primary goals of naturopathic physicians are to establish and maintain optimum health and to promote wellness. They believe that wellness is inherent in everyone, regardless of the level of health or disease. They acknowledge that being well in spirit contributes significantly to ones ability to heal.

Therapeutic Order

  1. Determinants of Health
    Assess the determinants of Health and find the cause of the disturbance to the natural balance of the body.

  2. Stimulate the Healing Power of Nature
    Support the bodies natural healing mechanisms and give the body the rest, supportive nutrition and attention necessary for proper functioning.

  3. Tonify Systems
    Support specifically the effected systems and facilitate normalization of their function. Give physical and biochemical support to the effected tissues and organ systems.

  4. Correct Structural Integrity
    Manipulate the tissue or bones to facilitate the needed compensation for health to return.

  5. Natural Symptomatic Treatment
    While attempting further assessment or treatment of the causative factors palliate symptoms at hand while being cautious not to undermine the vis.

  6. Synthetic Symptomatic Treatment
    Utilize synthetic treatments designed to alter physiological function in order to control the reaction of the body to the disturbance.

  7. Surgery, Chemotherapy, etc
    When all subtle attempts fail and surgical or suppressive therapy is indicated.

Therapeutic Modalities

Naturopathic philosophy serves as the basis for naturopathic practice. The current scope of naturopathic practice includes, but is not limited to:
Clinical Nutrition 
That food is the best medicine is a cornerstone of naturopathic practice. Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and nutritional supplements than they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects. Naturopathic physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in practice.
Botanical Medicine 
Many plant substances are powerful medicines. Where single chemically-derived drugs may only address a single problem, botanical medicines are able to address a variety of problems simultaneously. Their organic nature makes botanicals compatible with the body’s own chemistry; hence, they can be gently effective with few toxic side effects.
Homeopathic Medicine
Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of “like cures like.” It works on a subtle yet powerful electromagnetic level, gently acting to strengthen the body’s healing and immune response.
Physical Medicine
Naturopathic Medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of muscles, bones, and spine. NDs also use therapeutic ultrasound, interferential, exercise, massage, and hydrotherapy.
Psychological Medicine 
Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal on the psychological level.

The philosophical principles of naturopathic medicine guide the physician in choosing which therapies are appropriate for the patients particular experience of disease.

More Information / Links

For more information on naturopathic physicians or complementary and alternative medicine, please refer to the following important links.