What is Naturopathic Medicine?
The tenets of naturopathy have been practiced throughout the world for more than 2400 years since the time of Hippocrates, and naturopathy is even advocated by the World Health Organization. Today we are experiencing the rediscovery of naturopathic medicine as people realize that “modern medicine” doesn’t have all the answers. The philosophy of naturopathic medicine - working with the laws of nature, finding and treating the cause of disease and treating the whole person - may be the solution to many of our growing chronic conditions in the U.S.
A naturopathic doctor (ND or NMD) is a medically trained physician who has attended an accredited, four-year, post-graduate naturopathic medical school. Advanced training includes a comprehensive study of medical sciences similar to that of a conventional medical doctor (MD). Naturopathic doctors receive additional training in botanical medicine (herbs), nutrition, homeopathy, manipulation techniques, counseling, hydrotherapy, and sometimes acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
As primary care physicians, Naturopathic doctors are trained to perform physical exams and conduct necessary diagnostic and laboratory testing. Naturopathic doctors may also refer patients to other specialists and health care providers when indicated.
The healing power of nature is the core principle of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic doctors work with their patients to provide the body with what it needs to self-heal. The primary methods of naturopathic treatment include, but are not limited to: nutritional and herbal supplements, homeopathic medicine, hydrotherapy, and physical manipulation. Whatever method or combination of treatments is used, the patient will leave with a thorough understanding of their condition and how they can make a difference in attaining quality of health.
Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person, not the disease, and provide an individualized treatment plan based on the totality of a patient’s physical, mental, and emotional self. For example, an ND may see two patients that suffer from migraines but each patient may receive different treatment protocols. Naturopathic therapies address the cause of the migraines. After a thorough health assessment, the naturopathic doctor may learn that one patient’s migraines fluctuate with her menses while the other patient’s migraines are brought on by specific foods. By treating the cause of the migraines instead of the symptoms, ND’s are able to decrease or possibly eliminate the migraines altogether.
In contrast, a conventional medical doctor may choose to prescribe the prescription migraine drug Imitrex for both patients. However, this treatment may work for the symptoms of migraines, but does nothing to correct the underlying cause. Conversely, the goal of naturopathic medicine is to locate and eradicate the cause of the problem to restore balance.
Naturopathic doctors are able to treat people with chronic or acute diseases and conditions such as ulcerative colitis, diabetes, ADHD, asthma, menopause, anxiety, depression, flu, and chronic fatigue. Naturopathic therapies can be used alone or in combination with conventional medical practices to achieve optimal health.
An initial office visit with an ND typically lasts from one to two hours, with follow-up visits taking about 30 minutes. You will find that an ND wants to know all about you to find possible causes of your condition, and is also skilled in offering suggestions to help prevent diseases. Although licensed in 14 states, North Carolina has no licensing law for naturopathic doctors. Even though they are trained as primary care physicians, they cannot practice as such in this state. An active licensing effort is underway in North Carolina to provide fully accredited ND’s with the right to practice as they are trained. However, without a license your naturopathic doctor can act as a consultant to your current healthcare and provide recommendations on diet and lifestyle as well as utilizing natural modalities to help restore your health. For more information on the licensing effort visit the North Carolina Association of Naturopathic Physicians at www.ncanp.com. To find a medically trained naturopathic doctor in your area visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at www.naturopathic.org.
By Dr. Michael T. Smith, ND Michael T. Smith, N.D. is a naturopathic physician and a graduate of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (www.scnm.edu), one of the accredited naturopathic medical colleges. He currently practices in downtown Matthews, NC. For questions about naturopathic medicine or an appointment, feel free to contact Dr. Smith at (704) 248-0410 or email: [email protected].