Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands also have licensing laws
for naturopathic doctors. In a number of states and provinces where there is not
yet professional licensure, naturopathic medical associations are actively engaged
in legislative initiatives to pass licensing laws.
The scope of practice varies from state to state and province to province. In states
and provinces without naturopathic licensing laws, many who hold the N.D. degree also
hold other degrees, such as the Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Doctor of Chiropractic (D.C.),
or Masters in Oriental Medicine degree (O.M.D.), and they practice under licenses for
those professions. Others offer services that do not violate their states' medical
practice acts. Most naturopathic physicians are in the states and provinces that
regulate the profession.
The Naturopathic Approach
How is a naturopath different from your regular doctor? Here are a few differences between
a North American naturopath trained at an accredited institution and a family or
First and foremost, the naturopath differs from your regular doctor on many points
of philosophy, which are outlined in the Naturopathic Principles. This is a different way
of looking at medicine and at healing which really defines the foundation of
the naturopathc approach.
Secondly, your average naturopath will spend much more time with you than
your regular doctor. There are a few reasons for this. Economically speaking, many GPs
are faced with pressing patient visits into a brief period of time. The average
doctor visit in the U.S., for example, is something like seven minutes, which I'm sure
is partially due to how they are paid, and also due to their training, since in
most hospital settings a physician in training learns to get essential info, prescribe,
and exit to see the next patient.
Naturopaths cannot afford to do this because an understanding of a whole person on
seven minutes interview is not likely to be particularly comprehensive, nor is it likely
to ascertain underlying issues besides the symptoms most distressing to you. Nor would
it provide time to do a good physical examination (which a naturopath is trained to
do, exactly like your M.D.). And in the end, it probably would not provide
enough information to formulate a truly effective healing program for you.
Normally, first office calls will be the better part of an hour, with return office
calls in the twenty to thirty minute range. Return office calls are lengthy becaue it
takes time to properly explain to you what is going on and to give you the information
you need to make your own health choices.
The questions that you are asked during a naturopathic interview include those types
of questions that you are used to being asked by your regular doctor, but also include
many more questions about your lifestyle habits and personal habits and health goals.
Diet is usually thoroughly reviewed, as are bowel habits, exercise habits, and past
medical history of yourself and your family.
Your naturopath and your GP will only partially vary in terms of diagnosis. Naturopaths
are trained to diagnose in the same way that your GP does, although the
naturopath's repertory of diagnoses often includes diagnoses which are not recognized
by your GP. Medical records must be transferable between practioners, however, so
your naturopathic records will contain diagnoses which other practitioners will
understand. This enables the naturopath to communicate with your other health
care providers, so that there is no misunderstanding about how you are being advised.
Treatments, of course, vary considerably between the naturopath and the GP. Naturopaths
are trained to use lifestyle approaches with the addition of the use of herbal
medicine, homeopathy, nutritional medicine, manipulation and physical medicine.
Naturopaths have access to professional formulations of herbs and nutritional s
upplements not available to the general public which they prescribe for you from their
own dispensaries. A naturopath may also provide you with hands-on medicine from massage
to physiotherapy to bony manipulation in which GPs are rarely trained in. In some
areas, naturopaths are also licensed to prescribe certain drugs, or charter
substances, including hormones and antibiotics, which were available to them
historically in some of the U.S. As a result, naturopathic education includes training
in the use of such medicines, although your average naturopath does not use
their prescribing priviledges on a regular basis.
The treatment plan that your naturopath formulates with you is also usually very
different than your GPs. There will usually be several suggestions for resolution of
your particular concerns involving your lifestyle, reading materials, possibly s
upplements, referals to other practitioners or to a specialized appointment for a
specific therapy with your naturopath, etc. And the emphasis will always be on what YOU
can do to improve your health, in other words, how you can take responsibility and
control in a way that you are comfortable with!
Philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic Medicine is a distinctively natural approach to health and healing
that recognizes the integrity of the whole person. Naturopathic Medicine is heir to
the vitalistic tradition of medicine in the Western world, emphasizing the treatment
of disease through the stimulation, enhancement, and support of the inherent
healing capacity of the person.
Methods of treatments are chosen to work with the patient's vital force, respecting
the intelligence of the natural healing process. The practice of Naturopathic
Medicine emerges from six underlying principles of healing. These principles are based
on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease, and are
continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis. It is these principles
that distinguish the profession from other medical approaches:
The Naturopathic Principles
Naturopathic Medicine is a natural approach to health and healing that recognizes
the integrity of the whole person. Naturopathic Medicine represents the
"vitalistic" tradition of medicine in our Western world. That is, it treats
disease through the stimulation, increase, and support of the person's inherent
healing capacity. These treatments are chosen to work with the patient's vital
force, respecting the natural healing processes of nature.
The practice of Naturopathic Medicine includes six underlying principles of healing.
These are based on the observation of health and disease. This observation
process involves the use of modern scientific methodologies and language.
The following principles make Naturopathic Medicine different from all other
medical approaches: (latin meanings in italics)
1. First Do No Harm - Primum No Nocere
Illness is a purposeful process of the organism. The process of healing includes
the generation of symptoms which are, in fact, an expression of the life force
attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and
synergistic with this healing process. The physician's actions can support or
antagonize the actions of the vis medicatrix naturae - the healing power of
Nature. Therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing the
underlying causes are considered harmful and to be avoided or minimized.
2. The Healing Power of Nature - Vis Mediatrix Naturae
The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The
healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the
life force. The physician's role is to facilitate and augment this process, to act
to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation of
a healthy internal and external environment.
3. Identify And Treat The Cause - Tolle Causam
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered
and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms
are expressions of the body's attempt to heal, but are not the cause of disease.
Symptoms, therefore, should not be suppressed by treatment. Causes may occur on many
levels including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The physician must
evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root
causes rather than at symptomatic expression.
4. Treat The Whole Person - Tolle Totum
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, a whole involving a
complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic,
environmental, social, and other factors. The physician must treat the whole person
by taking all of these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects
of the individual is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease, and requires
a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
5. The Physician as Teacher - Docere
Beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription, the physician must work
to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal relationship with the patient. A
cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The
physician's major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility
for health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating
the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who
ultimately creates/accomplishes healing. The physician must strive to inspire hope as
well as understanding. The physician must also make a commitment to his/her personal
and spiritual development in order to be a good teacher.
6. Prevention - Prevention is the best cure
The ultimate goal of any health care system should be prevention. This is
accomplished through education and promotion of life-habits that create good health.
The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and
makes appropriate interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The
emphasis is on building health rather than on fighting disease.
Types of Treatments Naturopathic Doctors Offer
Naturopathic philosophy serves as the basis for naturopathic practice. The current scope
of naturopathic practice includes, but is not limited to:
A cornerstone of naturopathic practice is that food is the best medicine. Many
medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and nutritional
supplements than by other means, with fewer complications and side effects.
Many pharmaceuticals can be strengthened and targeted more safely with knowledge
of nutritional sciences. Naturopathic physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene,
fasting, and nutritional supplementation in their practice. These methods can be used
as either alternatives to mainstream medicine, or as complementary and in concert with
it, depending on the desires of the patient.
Many plant substances are powerful medicines. Whereas a single chemically derived drug
may 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 fewer toxic side
effects. Their availability and safety make them more useful and affordable for home
care of chronic conditions.
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. Because these are both effective and very
safe, naturopathic physicians share a respect for this system of medicine
with practitioners of many other healing arts. Homeopathy is a central part of
our comprehensive training for these reasons.
Naturopathic medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of muscles,
bones, and the spine. Our physicians also use ultrasound, diathermy, exercise,
massage, water, heat and cold, air, and gentle electrical pulses to treat acute or
chronic physical injury. Many recent advances in Sports Medicine and exercise
physiology are essentially adaptations of herbal and homeopathic materials into the
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Tongue and pulse diagnosis, Chinese herbs, nutrition, and acupuncture comprise the
ancient practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Although this medical
system dates back some 3,000 years, it was only introduced to North America at the turn
of the century. TCM has even more recently become a respected alternative therapy in
the West during the last decade.
A TCM diagnosis is holistic in nature. The practitioner trained in Traditional
Chinese Medicine will take into consideration all the aspects of the individual,
including special observation of the tongue and the wrist pulses. These two areas
(among others), according to TCM, tell the practitioner about certain characteristics
of the person regarding their overall constitution. These findings tell the
practitioner what treatment is needed.
Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles through the skin and tissue at
specific points on the body. There is no injection of any substances, and the
treatment itself causes minimal discomfort. Acupuncture has been found to be effective
in treating a variety of painful disorders, both acute and chronic. The World
Health Organization in 1979 drew up the following provisional list of disorders that
lend themselves to acupuncture treatment. The list is based on clinical experience and
not necessarily controlled clinical research:
- Digestive disorders such as gastritis, hyperacidity, spastic bowl, constipation,
- Respiratory disorders such as sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma.
- Neurological and muscular disorders such as headaches, neck and back pain,
neuralgia, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, sciatica, and arthritis.
- Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive disorders.
- Addiction and substance abuse.
- Sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea.
According to TCM, acupuncture works due to its effect on the essential substance that
makes up the human body and enables it to sustain life activities and functions.
This "substance," for a lack of a better word, is known as Chi or Qi
(pronounced "chee"). Western biomedical research has learned that
acupuncture works in certain situations by stimulating the body to produce endorphins,
a morphine-like chemical that helps block pathways that relay pain messages. The result
is relief from pain, general relaxation, and restoring the body's own internal
Naturopathic Manipulation (Bodywork)
Often in conjunction with other treatments, bodywork uses a variety of systematic
movements to help heal musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. Manipulation of
bone alignment is used, similar to both osteopathic and chiropractic adjustments.
One technique in particular, "strain/counter-strain," is very gentle and
effective, especially for pain and injuries of the neck and upper back.
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 levels other than
only the physical.
As general practitioners, naturopathic physicians do in-office minor surgery,
including repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and
other superficial masses. We refer to surgeons when their skills are needed for
our patient's well being.
What Can I Expect During My First Visit To A Naturopathic Doctor?
Once the patient's history has been taken, the Naturopath may do a screening
physical, which is a standard physical examination supplemented by in-depth questions,
and may seek laboratory testing or diagnostic imaging of the complaint. After the
intake and physical are completed, the Naturopath will discuss the treatment plan
or protocol with the patient.
If needed, the patient will be referred for laboratory or other diagnostic tests, or
to their medical doctor for further consultation. Follow-up visits are scheduled from
one to four weeks after treatment has begun. If a chronic illness is being addressed,
the patient can expect to undergo at least one month of treatment for every year
What Conditions Can Naturopathic Medicine Treat?
There is a wide range of conditions that Naturopathic doctors treat, either alone or
in combination with other complementary or usual medical treatments. These include:
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia
- Cardiovascular problems – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, palpitations
- Digestive problems – bloating, heartburn, gas, constipation, sluggish digestion
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Skin conditions – acne, rashes, excema, psoriasis, rosacea, dry skin
- Allergies, Asthma, Sinusitis, Colds, Flus
- Headaches, Migraines
- Women's Health – menopause, PMS, fibroids, endometriosis, cramps
- epression, Anxiety, Mood disorders, Stress
- Autoimmune disease, weak immune function
- Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn's disease, Candida
- Hyperthyroidism, Hypothyroidism, Adrenal imbalances
- Diabetes, Hypoglycemia
- Urinary tract infections
- Weight loss and Weight management
- And much more