“A dietitian friend referred me to a Naturopathic doctor. What is naturopathic medicine? Are they ‘real’ physicians?”
Naturopathic medicine (or naturopathy) is based on the belief that the body can heal itself naturally. Naturopathic medicine attempts to improve health, prevent disease, and treat illness by promoting the use of organic foods and exercise; encouraging a healthy, balanced lifestyle; and applying concepts and treatments from other areas of complementary medicine (such as ayurveda, homeopathy, and herbal therapies).
Naturopathic medicine tries to find the cause of the condition rather than focusing solely on treating symptoms.
According to the World Health Organization, the principles of naturopathy can be summarized as:
• “first, do no harm”
• act in cooperation with the healing power of nature
• seek, identify and treat the fundamental cause of the illness
• treat the whole person using individualized treatment
• teach the principles of healthy living and preventive health care
A properly trained naturopathic physician works with other health professionals, referring people to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.
Is Naturopathy Safe?
If considering a Naturopathic practitioner, you’ll want someone willing to work together with your conventional health care providers. For your safety, it’s important for all of the professionals involved in your health to communicate and cooperate.
Two common concerns about naturopathic medicine are the use of dietary fasting and a bias against immunization (vaccinations).
How is a Naturopathic Doctor Trained? Are they Licensed?
Today, a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) attends a 4-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and studies the same basic sciences as a medical doctor (MD). But the ND also studies alternative approaches to therapy, such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, and bodywork.
Not all naturopathic educational programs are the same. In the United States, the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the only agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit naturopathic programs and colleges. Licensed naturopathic physicians must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and will have a specific scope of practice defined by their state’s law. (List of US states requiring licensing.)
Naturopathy licensing is not universally mandated. In North America, for example, five Canadian provinces, seventeen U.S. states, and the District of Columbia require naturopaths to be licensed.
Selecting a Naturopathic
Selecting a naturopathic practitioner is like choosing any doctor or other health professional—look for someone you trust, who understands your personal care needs. The person you choose depends on the type of care you want to experience, and your comfort level with non-traditional care.
In the U.S., choose a naturopath who graduated from an accredited naturopathic program or college. And if it’s required by your state, is appropriately licensed.
Also see our FAQ answer to: “How do I find a doctor with a more “holistic” approach? I want nutritional counseling and a more integrated approach.”
Keep your GP and Cardiologist Informed
Always tell your doctors if you are thinking about combining a naturopathic therapy with your conventional medical treatment. Be cautious. Combining treatments, supplements or medications can have unexpected results.
Last updated: Saturday, February 11, 2017
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