The Therapeutic Order: The Hierarchy of Health in Naturopathic Medicine
Despite common belief, naturopathic doctors do not merely just prescribe supplements using a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, naturopathic medicine has a rich history and philosophy that has been curated, cultivated and passed down through our elders. Components of our history include our naturopathic principles, our oath, and the therapeutic order. The therapeutic order is a unique hierarchy of tenets that is meant to govern the naturopathic doctor’s clinical approach to patient care. The therapeutic order ultimately ensures a gentle approach that stimulates the innate healing ability of the body.
Remove Obstacles to Health
Bodies can affected by both internal and external obstacles and when this occurs for a prolonged period of time, the body will begin to express symptoms. Thus, we approach symptoms with curiosity and acknowledge that they are the body’s way to communicate its needs. Obstacles to health can be stressors, ineffective breathing techniques, dehydration, poor nutrition and/or lack of exercise to name a few.
Stimulate the vis
In naturopathic medicine, your vis is considered your life force and it harbours the body’s innate self-healing ability. As naturopathic doctors we truly believe that the body is capable of self-healing and we hope to inspire our patients to think the same. Traditionally, we use energetic approaches to stimulate vis including acupuncture, hydrotherapy and homeopathy and/or drop-dosing botanical herbs.
Correct structural integrity
Since we consider the whole person, we observe the physical body and determine if it is possible to increase circulation and vitality through spinal mobilizations or manipulations. A common example would be the posture we often see today from people on their cellphones or computers; shoulders rounded in, head drooping slightly forward and the chin tilting up. Although it may seem like this type of posture would only affect the musculoskeletal system, it also makes it more difficult for people to fill their lungs completely as they breathe or to digest properly if they are rounded over applying unnecessary pressure on their gastrointestinal system.
Support and restore weakened body systems
Sometimes there are body systems that need to be restored and cannot simply be stimulated. The particular system and the approach will differ drastically patient to patient but this is often where we will call upon botanical medicine, acupuncture and/or nutraceuticals to tonify weakened systems.
Use of natural substances
Our primary goal is to restore health and not to treat pathology. However, there are instances where this approach becomes a priority such as an acute infection or to ease a troubling symptom while we continue to address the root cause.
Note that use of supplementation is further along the hierarchy than establishing the necessities for a healthy life. It is becoming common for practitioners to bypass all the previous steps as supplementation can be easier and more convenient than lifestyle changes. This approach is known as green allopathy, whereby a healthcare practitioner prescribes a supplement to treat a symptom without questioning why the symptom has arisen in the first place.
Despite its growing popularity, green allopathy is ultimately unsatisfying to both patient and naturopath as it evades the roots of our medicine. A patient can only proceed so far along their health journey if the foundations for health have not been met through the previous tenets and the cause remains unknown.
Use of pharmacological substances
In instances where the naturopathic doctor has prescribing rights and in provinces where they are able to, naturopaths may prescribe pharmaceutical drugs to suppress symptoms. Again, the goal is always to restore health so pharmacy is not seen as a solution but rather a tool to abide symptoms while we work towards treating the root cause.
When surgery is required, the patient will be under the care of medical doctors who are trained in this arena. However, a naturopath may be of use in easing side effects of surgery.
Given all of the above, when you visit a naturopathic doctor, you can expect that there will be lifestyle changes, dietary changes and perhaps a prescription for contrast showers. You can also expect that we will do the diagnostic work required to find the root cause of your dis-ease and, in the mean time, we may employ any of our tools to abide troubling symptoms.
If you have been prescribed supplements for the purpose of suppressing symptoms but the root cause remains unclear, do speak with your naturopathic doctor. The well-trained naturopathic doctor will always prioritize patient safety while being aware of patterns, weaknesses, obstacles specific to that patient and, of course, will strive to prevent further dis-ease through employing the therapeutic order along with the principles of our medicine.