Frequently Asked Questions:
What is a naturopathic doctor?
“Naturopathic doctors (NDs) practice truly integrated medicine. They are the only primary care doctors who are clinically trained in both natural and conventional medicine. Naturopathic doctors attend accredited four-year graduate-level medical schools. NDs are trained in the same medical sciences as MDs, including the latest advances in medicine, with a focus on natural approaches to treatment.
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct and comprehensive system of health care that combines a variety of natural medicines and treatments with conventional medical diagnostics and standards.
Naturopathic doctors seek to restore health and promote wellness using the safest, most effective and least invasive therapies available. NDs primarily use a wide range of natural therapies, but also write prescriptions for pharmaceuticals when appropriate.
Naturopathic doctors work with and refer patients to conventional medical doctors and specialists, as well as complementary healthcare providers, such as acupuncturists and chiropractors, as needed. [In California and other licensed states] NDs are uniquely qualified to expertly prescribe both conventional and alternative care programs.”
Source: California Naturopathic Doctors Association, http://www.calnd.org 09/2011
What is naturopathic medicine?
“Naturopathic medicine (sometimes called “naturopathy”) is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) blend centuries-old knowledge and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer with current research on health and human systems.
Naturopathic diagnosis is focused on identifying the underlying causes of disease, while naturopathic therapies are supported by research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality.
The therapeutic modalities used in naturopathic medicine (including physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy and hydrotherapy) integrate conventional, scientific and empirical methodology with the ancient laws of nature. The underpinnings of naturopathic medical practice are in six principles (see a more detailed description):
- First Do No Harm – primum non nocere
- The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae
- Discover and Treat the Cause, Not Just the Effect – tolle causam
- Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum
- The Physician is a Teacher – docere
- Prevention is the best “cure” – praevenire”
Source: Bastyr University,09/12
What is the difference between a naturopathic doctor (ND) and a medical doctor (MD)?
“A licensed naturopathic physician (ND) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, 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. Please see the AANMC’s Professional Competency Profile for more information.
Additional information on naturopathic schools can be found on the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges Web site.”
Source: American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, 09/12
Is naturopathic medicine the same thing as homeopathy?
Stated simply, no. Homeopathy refers to a medicine given in an extremely small dose. Some NDs (as well as MDs, DOs, and dedicated homeopaths) use homeopathy as a tool when caring for their patients. A naturopathic doctor’s approach to treatment is called naturopathic medicine, and it involves the six principles. Naturopathic medicine may involve dietary changes, nutritional supplementation, or pharmaceutical medications, among other things. In naturopathic medicine we treat the person, meaning we listen to our patients’ preferences and experiences before the pen hits the prescription pad.
Wait, pharmaceuticals? I thought everything was all natural.
Natural inventions are always used when possible. But sometimes they are not the best option, and the lowest effective dose of a pharmaceutical medication may be most beneficial. Naturopathic doctors are uniquely trained to understand both natural substances and pharmaceuticals. We are cautious to avoid interactions with dietary supplements and herbs, which is another good reason to see a licensed naturopathic doctor.
Why would I come to you for advice on dietary supplements? The person at the store/internet answered all my questions.
Did the person you talk to at the store/internet source have extensive medical training? Did they ask about your entire medical history? Did they ask what other supplements or medications you take? If they didn’t, chances are they were making recommendations beyond what was responsible. Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it is safe for everyone. Dietary supplements and herbs can be powerful, and sometimes have serious effects. If you are taking them without informed professional advice, you could be risking your health, not to mention your wallet.
On a related note, often patients come to see me for the first time and bring in a grocery bag full of dietary supplements. Many times they are taking multiple products for the same reason, dosing incorrectly, or purchasing poor quality supplements to save money. All of these things can get quite expensive, and it’s more common for me to advise patients to discontinue certain supplements, than start them on new ones. Over time we find what works best them.