About Naturopathic Medicine

The past 30 years has seen an extraordinary increase in consumer demand for safe, effective, economical, and natural health care. Naturopathic medicine has emerged as the health-care profession best suited to meet this demand. Although it almost disappeared in the mid-twentieth century because of the popularity of drugs and surgery, naturopathic medicine now offers safe, effective natural therapies as a vital part of our modern day health-care system.

Naturopathic medicine is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies' ability to ward off and combat disease. NDs view the patient as a complex, interrelated system (a whole person), not as a part like a clogged artery or a tumor. Naturopathic physicians craft comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health.

 

The six principles of Naturopathic Medicine, founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence:

  • The Healing Power of Nature.  Let nature heal. Our bodies have such a powerful, innate instinct for self-healing. By finding and removing the barriers to this self-healing, such as poor diet or unhealthy habits, naturopathic physicians can nurture this process. 
  • Identify and treat the cause. Naturopathic physicians understand that symptoms will only return unless the root illness is addressed. Rather than cover up symptoms, they seek to find and treat the cause of these symptoms.
  • First, do no harm. Naturopathic physicians follow three precepts to ensure their patients' safety:
    • Use low-risk procedures and healing compounds, such as dietary supplements, herbal extracts and homeopathy, with few or no side effects.
    • When possible, do not suppress symptoms, which are the body's efforts to self-heal. For example, the body may cook up a fever in reaction to a bacterial infection. Fever creates an inhospitable environment for the harmful bacteria, thereby destroying it. Of course, the naturopathic physician would not allow the fever to get dangerously high.
    • Customize each diagnosis and treatment plan to fit each patient. We all heal in different ways and the naturopathic physician respects our differences. 
  • Doctor as Teacher.  Educate patients. Naturopathic medicine believes that doctors must be educators, as well as physicians. That's why naturopathic physicians teach their patients how to eat, exercise, relax and nurture themselves physically and emotionally. They also encourage self-responsibility and work closely with each patient.
  • Treat the whole person. We each have a unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, sexual and spiritual makeup. The naturopathic physician knows that all these factors affect our health. That's why he or she includes them in a carefully tailored treatment strategy.
  • Prevention. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" has never been truer. Proactive medicine saves money, pain, misery and lives. That's why naturopathic physicians evaluate risk factors, heredity and vulnerability to disease. By getting treatment for greater wellness, we're less likely to need treatment for future illness.

Naturopathic Doctors treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. NDs can perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds. However, they do not practice major surgery. NDs are trained to utilize prescription drugs, although the emphasis of naturopathic medicine is the use of natural healing agents.

Naturopathic physicians teach his or her patients about managing their condition and improving their health. An ND may also use diagnostic tests to fully understand their patient's health status. Besides taking the time to carefully and fully assess a patient's root problem, NDs speak and understand the language of conventional medicine.  They can diagnose the way MDs do, yet they bring to the patient a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Instead of waiting for a disease to emerge, NDs work to head it off before it happens.

Professional Education

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.  In addition to a standard 4 year medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician is also required to complete training in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, psychology, and counseling.

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.  Currently, 16 states, five Canadian provinces, the District of Columbia, and the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands all have laws regulating naturopathic doctors (NDs).  In Arizona, NDs are licensed as primary care practitioners and, as such, can write prescriptions, perform minor surgery, and order lab work. 


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