Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care - an art, science, philosophy and practice of diagnosis, treatment and prevention of illness. Naturopathic physicians (ND's) are primary care and specialty doctors who address the underlying cause of disease through individualized natural therapies that integrate the healing powers of body, mind and spirit. ND's utilize diverse techniques that include modern and traditional, scientific and empirical methods. They are trained to be the doctor first seen by the patient for general health care, for the diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic conditions, and for preventative medicine. They also serve those whose treatment by conventional means has not met their needs and who seek Naturopathic care as an alternative.
Naturopathic physicians are well trained in all modern methods of diagnostic testing and imaging including X-ray, ultrasound, and other imaging techniques.
Naturopathic Medicine is a distinctively natural approach to health and healing that recognizes the integrity of the whole person. Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes the treatment of disease through the stimulation, enhancement, and support of the inherent healing power of nature. Methods of treatment 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 healing power of nature. Vis medicatrix nature.
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.
Identify and treat the cause. Tolle causam.
Illness does not occur without cause. The 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.
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 complimentary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician's actions can support or antagonize the actions of the healing power of nature. Therefore, treatments designed to suppress symptoms without removing underlying causes are considered harmful and are avoided or minimized.
Treat the whole person. The multifactorial nature of health and disease.
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 factor into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of individual is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease, and requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
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.
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.
Naturopathic philosophy serves as the basis for Naturopathic practice. Naturopathic physicians are general practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. In practice, Naturopathic physicians perform physical examinations, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, and allergy testing. They may order x-ray, ultrasounds, other imaging procedures, and other diagnostic tests.
The current scope of Naturopathic practice includes, but is not limited to:
- Clinical Nutrition
That food is the best medicine is a cornerstone of Naturopathic practice. Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and nutritional supplements than they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects. Naturopathic physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in practice.
- Botanical Medicine
Plant substances are powerful medicines. Where single chemically-derived drugs may only address a single problem, botanical medicines contain compounds that have a synergistic effect. Their organic nature makes botanicals compatible with the body's own chemistry; hence, they can be gently effective with few toxic side effects.
- Homeopathic Medicine
Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of "like cures like." It works on a subtle yet powerful energetic level, gently acting to strengthen the body's healing and immune response.
- Physical Medicine
Naturopathic Medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of muscles, bones, and spine. ND's may also use ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage, water (hydrotherapy), heat and cold, air, and gentle electrical pulses.
- Psychological Medicine
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 the psychological level.
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. Because the coursework in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, ND's receive significantly more hours of classroom education than the graduates of many leading medical schools. 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. Additional information on naturopathic schools can be found at http://www.aanmc.org.