What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a system of healthcare—an art, science, philosophy and practice of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness. Naturopathic medicine is defined by the principles that underlie and determine its practice rather than by the substances used.
Our physicians came to naturopathic medicine because they believe that healing is a dynamic process. This process encompasses the whole-person, not isolated parts and systems. Naturopathy is not about symptom management, though at times this is inevitable. The goal, rather, is to find the root cause of discomfort and disease in order to re-establish health.
Naturopathic medicine is a thought process that requires putting all the pieces of the patient’s puzzle together to find the means of achieving, and maintaining, total health.
The guiding principles of naturopathic medicine
The Healing Power of Nature
Nature is self-organizing and there are healing processes inherent in all living systems. It is the naturopathic physician’s role to support, facilitate and augment this process by identifying and removing obstacles to health and recovery, and by supporting the creation of a healthy internal and external environment.
First Do No Harm
Naturopathic physicians utilize methods and medicinal substances that minimize the risk of harmful effects and apply the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health. Naturopathic physicians recognize and respect all medicines as having a valuable role in healing and prevention when used with the right patient, at the right time, and in the appropriate dose. Whenever possible the suppression of symptoms is avoided as suppression generally interferes with the healing process. However, suppression can save lives when the need is indicated.
Doctor as Teacher
The original meaning of the word “doctor” is teacher. A principal objective of naturopathic medicine is to educate the patient and emphasize self-responsibility for health. An informed patient can make intelligent choices about his/her health care. Naturopathic physicians also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship. A vital part of this therapeutic relationship is spending time with patients to fully understand them in the context of their lives.
What is a naturopathic physician?
Naturopathic physicians (NDs) are general primary care providers who have undergone rigorous professional training at an accredited school of naturopathic medicine. A naturopathic physician’s diagnostic and therapeutic techniques include both modern and traditional modalities, incorporating both scientific and empiric therapies ranging from the most fundamental (“nature cure” and “food as medicine”) to conventional medical treatments.
Naturopathic Doctors see patients with acute and chronic conditions and employ all standard conventional diagnostic tools including physical examination, laboratory tests and imaging. The full range of lab tests and physical exams (including PAP smears) are an essential part of ND training and practice. As participants in the larger medical system, they also refer to specialists when needed.
NDs may use additional physical and laboratory procedures to assess nutritional status, metabolic function and/or toxic load, while considerable time may also be spent assessing mental, emotional, social and spiritual status to assure that any treatment plan is comprehensive.