What is Naturopathic Medicine?
In short, Naturopathic Medicine is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention. It is a unique form of primary health care that combines modern scientific research with the art and wisdom of traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is predicated on the belief that all living organisms have an innate capacity to heal. As such, Naturopathic Doctors structure their interventions in order to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself. Using gentle and non-invasive means, Naturopathic Doctors tailor their treatment plans to the unique needs of the individual, taking into account the physical, emotional, environmental and spiritual influences impacting the patient’s health.
How does Naturopathic Medicine compare with Conventional Medicine?
While both conventional and Naturopathic Doctors are similarly trained, the philosophy that governs their approach to disease and treatments used differ significantly. Modern medicine has typically focused on the outward appearance, or manifestations, of disease. It identifies a symptom and applies a therapy, leaving most of us to rely on our symptoms as key indicators of health or disease. The WHO definition of health reflects a shift from the conventional model of health to a broader description that includes “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Just because we can function does not mean we are healthy. As a result most of us learn to live our lives with limitations instead of being free of them. There is often a solution for seemingly intractable health concerns. The answer lies in finding the root cause and clearing the way for the body to heal itself. Suppressing the symptom, does not mean that the cause has been removed.
How are Naturopathic Doctors Trained?
Like most health care professionals, Naturopathic Doctors must first complete their pre-medical studies at a post-secondary institution after which they enter into a rigorous 4 year program at an accredited Naturopathic educational facility. During the first two years of the program, N.D.’s are schooled in anatomy, physiology, immunology, histology, biochemistry, radiology, pharmacology, microbiology, embryology, physical and clinical diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis and pathology. The remaining time is spent on botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, Traditional Chinese Medicine, homeopathy, lifestyle counseling, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, and extensive clinical experience under the supervision of licensed Naturopathic Doctors. Graduates receive the title “N.D.” or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
Are Naturopathic Doctors Licensed?
A licensed Naturopathic Doctor is one who practices in a regulated province (Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba Nova Scotia and Ontario) or state or, if practicing in an unlicensed province or state, has obtained and maintains his/her license in a regulated province/state and has completed a four-year, full-time program at an accredited school of Naturopathic Medicine. Following the completion of an accredited program, N.D.s must successfully complete standardized North American Board exams known as the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) in order to qualify for licensing.
Here in Saskatchewan, Naturopathic Doctors are regulated by the Saskatchewan Association of Naturopathic Practitioners.
Can I get Coverage for my Naturopathic Visits?
Most extended health insurance plans in both Canada and the United States cover Naturopathic treatments. Insured patients are encouraged to contact their employer or individual insurance brokers to determine if they are covered and/or to request that their policy be extended to include Naturopathic services if it does not already do so (since Naturopathic Doctors use alternatives to costly techniques and drug therapies, more insurance companies are beginning to investigate expanding coverage of this cost-effective treatment method).
Do I need a Referral to see a Naturopathic Doctor?
Naturopathic Doctors are primary health care providers. Feel free to contact our office and book an appointment as soon as a health concern arises.
What kind of Health Concerns do Naturopathic Doctors Treat?
It is important to realize that Naturopathic Doctors aim to ‘treat the whole person’. As such, they are trained to manage all aspects of health including conditions that range from acute to chronic, pediatric to geriatric and physical to psychological. Naturopathic Doctors work with three main groups of people:
- Patients that are looking for disease prevention and health promotion;
- Patients with a range of health concerns and no clear diagnosis;
- Patients with chronic and severe illnesses.
Can I see Both a Naturopathic Doctor and a Conventional Doctor?
In fact, as Naturopaths we encourage collaboration with conventional medical doctors as each has something different to offer. N.D.s are trained to refer patients to other health care practitioners, where appropriate. Most Naturopathic Doctors cross-refer extensively to other health care providers. Health is a complex issue and therefore warrants different approaches in some situations. In the end, the patient benefits from having access to the best each health care provider has to offer.
What can I Expect when First Seeing a Naturopathic Doctor?
The first appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor is about 1½ hours and subsequent appointments will be from 15 minutes to 1 hour in length depending on your specific health concerns and the Naturopathic Doctor you are working with. Typically during the initial visits your Naturopathic doctor will take a detailed history of your current and past health concerns, conduct a complaint oriented physical exam (as appropriate) and use information from laboratory tests to make an assessment and diagnosis. With the patient’s input, a personalized treatment plan will be proposed to help facilitate achieving his or her health goals.
When can I Expect to Feel Better?
The answer to that question is difficult in that it is determined largely by the patient’s participation in their own recovery and their commitment to their health. Generally speaking however, the longer you’ve been ill the more time is required to heal depending on the condition, roughly one month for every year spent in dysfunction.
What would a Treatment Plan look like?
Of course treatment plans are individualized; however, there are some common elements.
A treatment plan will touch on:
- Dietary recommendations
- Water intake
- Sleep habits
- Stress management
- Nutritional supplements to restore healthy levels of essential vitamins and minerals
- Botanical medicines to gently effect positive change within the body
- Traditional Chinese Medicine to restore the flow and balance of Qi within the body
- Intravenous therapy
- Hydrotherapy to manipulate circulation and improve blood flow
Any or all of these can be used to touch on various aspects of one’s health. Which ones are used will depend on the nature of the health concern and the patient’s level of involvement.