If you’ve been looking for a word to describe a doctor who treats the body, mind, and spirit as one unit, you’ve finally found it: naturopathic doctor. But that’s not all you’ll find here. An ND is quite similar to what is known as an MD (medical doctor) in more conventional medicine, but with an important distinction. These doctors are competent to diagnose diseases based on physical examinations and laboratory tests. Still, functionally, an ND focuses on treating illness and preventing illness without resorting to surgery or drugs. In a Naturopathic Clinic, the doctors use natural healing methods, including diet, nutrition, lifestyle changes, vitamins, herbs, and other natural remedies, instead of invasive surgery or synthetic drugs.
What Are Naturopathic Doctors?
Naturopathic doctors practice a unique blend of modern scientific knowledge and traditional natural medical approaches. Naturopathic doctors focus on prevention, treatment, and optimal health.
Naturopathic doctors attend a four-year graduate-level accredited naturopathic medical school. There they study all of the exact basic sciences as an MD and many additional courses such as clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling (to name a few). In addition to their formal education, naturopathic doctors complete approximately 1,500 hours of supervised clinical experience before becoming licensed as primary care general practitioners. As primary care physicians, NDs complete yearly continuing education requirements to stay current with new developments in their field.
Naturopathic doctors are highly trained sole care providers who combine standard medical diagnostics with a massive range of natural therapies. Naturopathic medicine focuses on the root cause of disease and illness rather than just treating symptoms. NDs are trained in diagnostic testing such as lab work and x-rays, but they also receive extensive training in physical exams to conduct a comprehensive health assessment. NDs must pass national board exams before a state or jurisdiction can license them. Some of the treatments used by naturopathic doctors are:
- Botanical Medicine – This uses plant-derived medications to treat disease or restore health.
- Clinical Nutrition uses food and food products to achieve optimal health and treats disease.
- Homeopathic Medicine – This uses very dilute substances, taken mainly in tablet form to trigger the body’s natural healing system.
- Hydrotherapy applies to water, ice, steam, and hot and cold temperatures to maintain health and treat disease.
- Lifestyle Counseling – involves the use of exercise and stress management]. It discusses your habits and behaviors, intending to improve your health and wellbeing.
- Physical medicine (massage therapy)- involves Physical manipulation of the body to relax muscles and increase blood flow to promote healing. Massage therapy is one example.
- Mind-body techniques (psychological counseling) focus on strengthening the mind’s ability to heal the body by relieving stress, anxiety, and other negative emotions. Examples include biofeedback, guided imagery, and hypnosis.
- Pharmacotherapy uses natural medicines. Substances found in nature are used to treat illness within the body by enhancing self-healing mechanisms and restoring biochemical balance.
- In classical oriental medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine,
Conditions That Benefit From Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic doctors can help treat some of the following common health issues;
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
- Fertility issues
- Hormonal imbalances
- Digestive problems
Some naturopathic doctors also have training in natural childbirth, and they can double as your primary care physician.
The goal of naturopathic medicine is to restore health by working with the healing power of nature. When appropriate, it is achieved through diet, exercise, lifestyle adjustment, nutritional supplements, and homeopathy. Naturopathic doctors also prescribe conventional lab tests to monitor progress or refer patients to other health professionals for further evaluation or intervention.
In addition to treating illness and disease, naturopathic doctors look at how to prevent disease through proper diet, nutrition, and exercise. For example, it is well known that a diet high in fat can lead to heart disease and many cancers. Naturopathic doctors counsel their patients on appropriate diets for their age and condition to avoid getting sick in the first place.
Naturopathic doctors are trained in both traditional and natural medicine. They eschew antiviral and antibacterial medicines, instead favoring immune system-strengthening practices. Naturopathic doctors work with their patients to understand their lifestyles, goals, and medical history for the doctor to leverage his or their knowledge of natural substances to prescribe customized treatment plans based on patient needs. While some may consider naturopaths and homeopaths quacks, these individuals practice responsibly, utilizing their training and science-based research to understand better how the human body works.