Complementary and alternative medicine is one of the largest growing trends in the health care system today. Although this is a growing trend, many people are skeptical of whether this form of health care can heal and prevent illness the way that it claims it can. There are many forms of alternative medicine but the focal point of research will be naturopathy. Topics being discussed are what naturopathy is and what it has to offer as a form of health care, how naturopathic doctors treat their patients and what their credentials are, and how nutrition plays a role in this natural lifestyle belief system.
Quite simply naturopathy is a system which is concerned with the whole person, rather than just the problems afflicting his/her various organs and systems. 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 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. (1) Nutrition plays a very important role in naturopathic medicine. “Nutrition is the backbone of naturopathic medicine. ” (4) By changing our diets and adopting a healthy lifestyle, we can often change or reverse the course of an illness and restore health. What we eat impacts every cell in our body: you are what you eat.
Unfortunately, the importance of nutrition is downplayed in our society. Foods can and do have a positive and negative impact on our health. (4) Naturopathic doctors are trained to counsel their patients and help them change certain lifestyle habits such as diet and exercise. They teach their patients what effects different foods can have on their bodies and eating healthy and natural foods can help the body heal itself and prevent illness. Naturopathic physicians base their practice on six timeless principles founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence.
The first, let nature heal, is nurtured by NDs through educating patients about a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle habits. (1) This allows the bodies instinct for self-healing to do its job. The second principle is to identify and treat causes. NDs seek to find and treat the causes of symptoms rather than just cover these symptoms up. They understand that unless the root illness is addressed, the symptoms will only return. (1) The third principle followed by naturopathic physicians is first, do no harm.
This principle is used to ensure the patients’ safety. NDs use low-risk procedures and healing compounds with few or no side effects. (1) Such healing compounds include dietary supplements, herbal extracts and homeopathy. Whenever possible, do not suppress symptoms, as these symptoms are the body’s efforts to self-heal. Each diagnosis and treatment plan is customized to fit each patient’s needs. Naturopathic physicians understand and respect the fact that we all heal in different ways. The fourth principle used in naturopathic medicine is to educate patients.
This follows the belief that doctors must be educators as well as physicians. NDs teach their patients how to eat, exercise, relax and nurture themselves physically and emotionally and they also work closely with each patient. (1) Naturopathic physicians treat each patient as a whole, which is the fifth principle. There is a belief that each person has a unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, sexual and spiritual makeup and that all of these factors affect our health. Therefore, the ND includes these factors in a carefully tailored treatment strategy.
Finally, the sixth principle, prevent illness, is the belief that proactive medicine saves money, pain, misery and lives and that by getting treatment for greater wellness, we’re less likely to need treatment for future illness. This is why NDs evaluate risk factors, heredity and vulnerability to disease. (1) Although some naturopaths are self-taught and may still consider themselves a naturopathic doctor, they may not have taken any licensing exam. There are naturopathic physicians who have actually earned a four-year medical degree and passed the licensing exam.
Licensed naturopathic physicians are required to take the same basic science and medical courses at a four-year medical school that an M. D. is required to take. In addition to 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 (to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health). (1) A total of 12 states license naturopathic physicians.
All states and provinces with licensure laws require a resident course of at least four years and 4,100 hours of study from a college or university recognized by the state examining board. To qualify for a license, the applicant must pass the naturopathic physicians licensing examinations (NPLEX) which includes basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects and clinical sciences. The scope of practice will vary from state to state depending on licensure status. (2) Today, there are six accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America.
In 1956, Charles Stone, Frank Spaulding, and W. Martin Bleything established the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, Oregon in response to plans by the Western States Chiropractic College to drop its N. D. program. In 1978, Sheila Quinn, Joseph Pizzorno, William Mitchell, and Les Griffith established John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine (now Bastyr University) in Seattle, Washington. The rise of the holistic health movement in the early 1970s contributed to this revival. (3)
Naturopathy is practiced in many countries, especially the United States and Canada, and is subject to different standards of regulation and levels of acceptance. The level of medical education among naturopaths also varies, though no naturopathic training program reaches the same level of training as an MD. In the United States and Canada, the designation of Naturopathic Doctor (ND) may be awarded after completion of a four year program of study at an accredited Naturopathic medical school that includes the study of basic medical sciences as well as natural remedies and medical care as mentioned earlier.
The scope of practice varies widely between jurisdictions, and naturopaths in unregulated jurisdictions may use the Naturopathic Doctor designation or other titles regardless of level of education. (3) Naturopathy can be a great compliment to contemporary medicine but anyone who wants to explore this world of alternative medicine should do their research. As you just learned, there are many things to consider when thinking about turning to this alternate form of health care. When choosing a naturopathic doctor, it is important to ask many questions and learn as much as you can about his/her educational background and credentials. It is also important to find out what type of licensing, if any, your state requires for a naturopathic to use the designation ND.
1. “Naturopathic Medicine? “. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. April 8, 2009 . 2. “What is Naturopathic Medicine? “. The Center for Naturopathic Medicine. April 8, 2009 . 3. “Naturopathy”. Wikipedia, the Free Encylopedia. April 10, 2009 . 4. Swierzewski, Stanley J.. “Naturopathic Medicine”. Alternative Medicine Channel. April 15, 2009 . 5. “Your Research Paper’s Format”. Capital Community College. April 15, 2009 .