Principles of Practice
Naturopathy: Naturopathy is an approach to medicine based on the human body's innate ability to heal itself; the healing power of nature. Naturopathic medicine encourages the use of non-invasive therapies and preventative care.
Naturopathy is an American healthcare profession. Naturopathic medicine was formally founded as a healthcare system, at the turn of the 20th century, by medical practitioners from various natural therapeutic disciplines. Today, there are thousands of licensed naturopathic doctors in the US and Canada .
As practiced today, naturopathic medicine uses modern treatments (i.e. IV therapy and ultrasound treatment) and traditional natural therapies - that may include botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, oriental medicine, hydrotherapy, and naturopathic spinal manipulation. These natural approaches are guided by modern scientific medical diagnostic science and standards of care.
The basis of naturopathic family physician practice is very similar to what American patients are familiar with. Visits usually consist of an intake and case history, a physical exam, and a consultation with a doctor to discuss treatment options. Lab tests may be ordered if the doctor needs additional information about a patient to help make a diagnosis.
What a patient may find different in a visit to a naturopathic doctor:
- The amount of time the doctor spends with you- especially during a first-time visit. A naturopathic doctor does a more thorough intake process than you are probably used to, and may ask many questions about your eating and sleeping habits, your work, your personal and family life and your daily routines. This is part of a normal first-time visit to a naturopathic doctor, and may take up to an hour.
- The naturopathic doctor's approaches to treatment may include some therapies that you haven't heard of before. Essentially, there are some tools in the naturopathic doctor's toolbox that are new to you. Please ask lots of questions about anything that you don't understand and consult the book review and links sections of this website for resources to educate yourself.
- Individualized treatment plans are developed by naturopathic doctors for each patient, based on their particular health status, case history and needs. Your medicines and instructions for care may look very different from another patient with a similar complaint.
- The doctor's focus on prevention through health promotion as opposed to disease management. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle modifications by changing your diet or daily routines as a way to prevent illness or lessen the effects of an existing health problem.
- The frequency of contact with your doctor may be more than you are used to. Naturopathic doctors partner with their patients to create an optimal health care plan for each individual.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of family health from prenatal to geriatric care. Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. ~Taken from the American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges
Scope of license and training
Naturopathic physicians are licensed in 14 states, the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, five Canadian provinces and registered in Kansas . Students take pre-med courses, prior to entering a four year doctoral program leading to eligibility for license in family practice. Many naturopathic doctors have additional training in natural childbirth and/or acupuncture.
A cornerstone of naturopathic practice is the recommendation of the ancient Greek Hippocrates (460-377 BC), who said. "Let foods be your medicine and medicine be your foods." Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods, nutritional supplements and herbs than they can by other means, with fewer complications and adverse side effects. N.D.s use dietetics, fasting, and nutritional supplementation.
Healing systems, Naturopathic, hands on, methods of therapeutic manipulation are used on muscles, bones, lymph, and spine. N.D.s also use massage, water, heat and cold, air, exercise, ultra-sound, diathermy, and gentle electrical pulses to stimulate the body's healing systems.
Botanical Medicine (herbs)
Herbal plant substances contain powerful medicines, and many well-known medicines are derived from plants, herbs such as digitalis (from foxglove), taken by cardiac patients. Single chemically derived drugs may address only a single problem, however, botanical medicines are able to address a variety of problems simultaneously. Their organic nature makes botanicals gently effective with low toxic side effects.
The healing philosophy of Oriental medicine is well with that of naturopathic medicine, offering an important understanding of the unity of the body and mind and adds to the Western understanding of physiology. Acupuncture and other energy medicines provide a method of treatment that can unify and harmonize the imbalances present in disease conditions, which stimulate the immune system and the healing response.
Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of "like cures like." Clinical observation indicates that Homeopathics work on a subtle, yet powerful energetic level, gently acting to strengthen the body's healing and immune response thereby triggering a healing process.
Naturopathic physicians provide natural childbirth care in an out-of-hospital setting. They offer prenatal and postnatal care using modern diagnostic techniques. The naturopathic approach strengthens healthy body functions to prevent complications associated with pregnancy.
As general practitioners. N.D.s do in-office minor surgery including repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and other superficial lesions.
Naturopathic scope of practice also includes the use of any medical substances that contain elements that are components of bodily tissues or can be employed by the body for the maintenance of life and the repair of tissues; and all methods of diagnostic testing and imaging including X-ray and ultrasound. The current scope of practice excludes major surgery and the use of most synthetic drugs.
For more information on Naturopathic Medicine please visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website
Naturopathic principles of practice
(as defined by the AANP )
The healing power of nature
The healing power of nature is the inherent self-organizing and healing process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health. Naturopathic medicine recognizes this healing process to be ordered and intelligent. It is the naturopathic physician's role to support, facilitate and augment this process by identifying and removing obstacles to health and recovery, and by supporting the creation of a healthy internal and external environment.
Identify and treat the cause
Illness does not occur without cause. Causes may originate in many areas. Underlying causes of illness and disease must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur. Symptoms can be expressions of the body's attempt to defend itself, to adapt and recover, to heal itself, or may be results of the causes of disease. The naturopathic physician seeks to treat the causes of disease, rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.
First do no harm
Naturopathic physicians follow three precepts to avoid harming the patient:
- Naturopathic physicians utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful effects, and apply the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health.
- Whenever possible the suppression of symptoms is avoided as suppression generally interferes with the healing process.
- Naturopathic physicians respect and work with the vis medicatrix naturae in diagnosis, treatment and counseling, for if this self-healing process is not respected the patient may be harmed.
Treat the whole person
Health and disease result from a complex of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development. Naturopathic medicine recognizes the harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual as being essential to health. The multifactorial nature of health and disease requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person taking all of these factors into account.
The physician as teacher
The original meaning of the word "doctor" is teacher. A principal objective of naturopathic medicine is to educate the patient and emphasize self-responsibility for health. Naturopathic physicians also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.
Naturopathic medical colleges emphasize the study of health as well as disease. The prevention of disease and the attainment of optimal health in patients are primary objectives of naturopathic medicine. In practice, these objectives are accomplished through education and the promotion of healthy ways of living. Naturopathic physicians assess risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and make appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness. Naturopathic medicine asserts that one cannot be healthy in an unhealthy environment and is committed to the creation of a world in which humanity may thrive.