Naturopathic medicine is a health care system blending modern with more traditional and natural forms of medicine. It uses the healing power of nature to support and stimulate the body’s own healing abilities.
Advantages of naturopathic medicine
Naturopathic medicine treats all health concerns for all ages from acute to chronic and physical to psychological.
Health promotion – The focus of naturopathic medicine is health promotion and the understanding that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. By identifying and removing obstacles to cure, the body is able to heal and move toward optimal health. The goal of naturopathic practice is to treat underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by enhancing the body’s own healing abilities.
Disease prevention – Disease prevention and preventing the progression of disease are principles inherent to naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic doctors work with patients to identify the root causes of disease and to address all the factors that are affecting a patient’s health.
Conditions and illnesses treated – Naturopathic doctors are primary health care practitioners. They are trained to treat virtually all health concerns from acute to chronic, pediatric to geriatric and physical to psychological.
Individualized treatment – Naturopathic treatments are highly individualized. Each patient has a unique story, history, genetics, dietary habits, lifestyle and associated health concerns. A naturopathic doctor will work to determine the underlying cause(s) and create an individualized treatment plan to stimulate a person’s innate healing ability. Patients are also involved in their health program and learn to make effective, educated, self-care decisions that can prevent future health problems.
Working with conventional medicine – Naturopathic doctors can and do work with conventional medical doctors. NDs are trained to refer patients to other health care practitioners, where appropriate. Most naturopathic doctors cross-refer extensively to other health care practitioners.
Cost-effectiveness – Naturopathic medicine can contribute to resolving the costly epidemic of chronic disease. The cost-effectiveness of naturopathic medicine is currently being researched in Canada.
Naturopathic doctors use a variety of treatments
Clinical Nutrition – Clinical nutrition examines the relationship between diet and health. Special diets, food elimination, variations in dietary habits or the use of nutritional supplements may be recommended.
Botanical Medicine – The use of plants for healing dates back to the beginning of civilization and is the foundation of modern pharmacology. The use of herbs in many forms: teas, tinctures or capsules are used for their healing effects and nutritional value may be recommended for healing effect.
Homeopathic Medicine – Homeopathic remedies are minute dilutions of plant, animal and mineral substances designed to stimulate the body’s “vital force” and strengthen its innate ability to heal.
Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture – Based on balancing the flow of chi (energy) through meridian pathways under the skin, Oriental medicine includes the use of Oriental herbs and acupuncture to regulate and release chi in order to bring the body into balance.
Physical Medicine – Physical medicine includes soft tissue work (including therapeutic massage); naturopathic manipulation of muscle, bone or the spine; hydrotherapy techniques; gentle electrical impulses, ultrasound, diathermy; and exercise therapy.
Prevention and Lifestyle Counselling– Naturopathic doctors address all aspects of a person’s life, identifying and addressing the impact that stress and life events have on a patient’s health and assisting patients to make effective lifestyle choices.
Some naturopathic doctors will have additional training in other natural therapies such as:
- IV therapies
- Chelation therapy
- Minor surgery
- Colon therapy
How does naturopathic compare to conventional medicine?
Both are doctors, both provide primary care and both are similarly trained. The primary differences between naturopathic and conventional medicine are the philosophical approach and the therapies used. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) treat patients as individuals by addressing the physical, environmental, lifestyle, attitudinal, and emotional aspects of health. This allows naturopathic doctors to find and treat the cause of the disease using a variety of therapies. Conventional doctors generally address and treat the symptoms of disease and use pharmaceutical therapies or surgery.
What is the history of naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine was introduced in North America in 1902 by Dr. Benedict Lust. By 1920, naturopathic practice was well established in Canada.
After the Second World War health care moved away from a more natural approach, focusing on the advances in surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and the growth of the pharmaceutical industry. In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in the healthcare process and a growing dissatisfaction with high-tech solutions to health problems has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.
Naturopathic medical education began in Canada in 1978 to provide further educational opportunities for students seeking training as naturopathic doctors.
Naturopathic medicine today
Today, more people than ever before are seeking and benefiting from naturopathic medical care and the number of naturopathic doctors is growing at record rates to accommodate this increased demand. Currently there are naturopathic doctors practicing in every province and all but one territory in Canada. The more than 2,400 naturopathic doctors across the country continue to be an emerging answer to Canada’s health care concerns.
Naturopathic doctors are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners and as experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine. They provide leadership in natural medical research and are enjoy increasing politically activity at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. Positions for naturopathic doctors are opening up in hospitals, multi-disciplinary clinics and specialized health centers across Canada.
Currently, the naturopathic profession finds itself well positioned in health care. With more research emerging that supports the therapies used by naturopathic doctors, and the public demand for greater choice and increased access to more natural approaches to health care, naturopathic medicine is meeting the health needs of an ever increasing number of Canadians. Poised to make the transition from “alternative” medicine to “mainstream” medicine.
If you haven’t experienced the benefits of naturopathic medicine yourself, take the time to get a second opinion on your health by making an appointment with a naturopathic doctor in your area.