Naturopathic medicine is becoming more and more popular among health care consumers. Why? With increased interest in nutrition, herbal therapy, homeopathy, acupuncture, and other natural treatments, people are looking for a different kind of health care that's focused on preventing disease, not treating it once it's already present.
Here are some questions and answers about naturopathic medicine.
What Exactly Is A Naturopathic Doctor?
Naturopathic physicians combine holistic healing and mainstream medicine. They use traditional healing methods right along with the newest natural treatments. Naturopathic medicine focuses on the prevention of disease, along with restoring good health. The basic premise is that the body will heal itself if barriers to good health are taken away.
A naturopathic doctor has a holistic outlook. He or she sees the patient as a whole, instead of seeing only a collection of symptoms.
How Is Naturopathic Education Different?
These doctors study the same basic pre-med courses that conventional doctors do. But instead of attending a regular medical school, they attend a four-year naturopathic medical college. Along with the standard medical curriculum, they study clinical nutrition, homeopathy, herbal therapy, acupuncture, counseling, and psychology. Like conventional doctors, naturopathic physicians must also pass state board exams in order to receive a medical license.
There are six principles that naturopathic practitioners follow:
- The body will heal itself when problems like poor diet, smoking, excessive drinking, lack of exercise, and too much stress are corrected.
- This leads to patient education. Patients are taught to take responsibility for their own health. The naturopathic practitioner teaches the patient about nutrition, stress-reduction, relaxation, and the importance of regular exercise. In short, patients learn how to care for their own physical and mental well-being.
- Do no harm. Naturopathic physicians use low-risk treatments, including homeopathy, herbal therapy, and acupuncture, which have few, if any, side effects. Symptoms that indicate the body is trying to heal itself, like a fever, are recognized as part of the healing process, and are not suppressed, unless they become dangerous. Because everyone responds differently to treatments, each patient's treatment plan is customized for him or her.
- Treat what's causing the symptom, not just the symptom itself. The underlying problem must be corrected, or the symptom will come back.
- A naturopathic doctor takes into account each person's unique make-up. This encompasses not only the physical, but also emotional, social, genetic, and spiritual factors, as well. All these aspects are taken into account when formulating a customized treatment plan for the patient.
- Lastly, the focus is on preventing illness by assessing a person's risk factors, heredity, and other circumstances that may make a person more vulnerable to a certain disease. By lessening or eliminating certain factors, a person's likelihood of developing a particular disease may be drastically decreased.
Where Do Naturopathic Physicians Practice?
They work in clinics and hospitals throughout the United States and Canada, just like conventional doctors do. Although naturopaths can and do prescribe drugs, their training is focused on using natural treatments so the body can restore itself to health. Naturopathic doctors can do simple surgical procedures, such as removing cysts in the office, or stitching up cuts, but they don't do major surgery.
Today, some naturopaths and medical doctors are combining their practices to offer their patients intergrative medicine. This approach offers the best of both worlds, since patients can receive the best combination of traditional treatments right along with the latest modern medical care.
Information in this article is from The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.