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Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are general medicine doctors who focus on restoring health and preventing disease. A naturopathic doctor will determine the root causes of your health problems and partner with you to develop an individualized program to address them using the safest, most effective treatments available.
Naturopathic doctors look at you as a whole person, not as an illness. Naturopathic doctors understand that the body has strong natural defenses and the ability to heal itself, even from many serious conditions. Chronic illnesses occur when these protective mechanisms are not working properly. Poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, and a number of environmental toxins disrupt the body’s natural balance. NDs use a wide range of non-toxic therapies such as dietary change, nutritional supplementation, detoxification, homeopathy and herbs to strengthen the body. Following a naturopathic doctor’s guidelines is a sure path to better health, and often fully restores a patient’s well-being.
Naturopathic medicine combines the best of conventional medical diagnostic testing with alternative medicine treatments, allowing people to maximize health, minimize reliance on prescription drugs, and take active steps toward longer, healthier lives.
Naturopathic vs Conventional Medicine
Naturopathic medicine and conventional medicine are both valuable systems that excel at different aspects of patient care. Conventional medicine is crucial in most emergency situations. Naturopathic medicine is the best approach to prevention, because it involves a wellness-oriented diet, lifestyle change and supplements that support the body. Naturopathic medicine is often also the best first step in dealing with chronic illnesses, such as arthritis or eczema, because these conditions improve when diet, lifestyle and nutrient deficiencies are addressed. Additionally, naturopathic medicine is a great choice for non-emergency acute illnesses, such as colds and flus, because naturopathic medicine modalities effectively support the body’s immune system.
For most diseases, conventional medicine treats symptoms alone, usually with drugs or surgery. While sometimes necessary, this can lead to long-term management with an improvement in symptoms at the cost of side effects, which often require more drugs. Naturopathic medicine, on the other hand, attempts to treat the root cause of the health issue so that the body can ultimately heal itself. The results can be measured as a reduction or elimination of drugs, improved vitality and/or a complete reversal of disease.
Naturopathic medicine does not abandon the conventional medical model. Many aspects of the conventional approach to medicine are not only beneficial but also essential for the practice of naturopathic medicine. For example, naturopathic doctors are trained in conventional medical sciences and routinely order conventional labs and scans alongside alternative medicine tests (like nutrient blood tests and food sensitivity panels) to help establish appropriate diagnosis of disease conditions and monitor treatment progress. Naturopathic doctors are also trained in pharmacology, and if necessary, can write a prescription for pharmaceutical medications. NDs also refer out to medical specialists for further work-up or when there is a need for acute care stabilization in a health crisis.
Naturopathic medicine is unique in certain respects:
The relationship between a naturopathic doctor and his or her patient is a partnership. What this means is that naturopathic doctors spend a significant amount of time with their patients. They listen closely to gain a full understanding of all aspects of the patient’s health problem. They then explain both the disease process and the treatment approach so the patient understands why each treatment recommendation is important and can be an empowered and active participant in incorporating the changes that will lead to improved health.
NDs strive to find and treat the root cause of the disease, treat the whole person, and choose treatments that are not harmful and will engage the body’s own self-healing abilities.
NDs work with a large toolkit of evidence-based, effective and safe natural therapies: herbs, vitamins and minerals, homeopathic remedies, bioidentical hormones, nutritional IVs and other natural therapies – to restore health.
Naturopathic doctors can serve as your primary care doctor, or in conjunction with your medical doctor, osteopathic doctor, acupuncturist or chiropractor. A naturopathic doctor can be of help and offer expertise, whether you are seeking insight about your general wellness or you are already chronically ill. Talk to a naturopathic doctor to find out how naturopathic medicine treatments can help you.
Naturopathic doctors focus on restoring health and preventing disease. A naturopathic doctor will determine the specific factors that are causing your health problems and partner with you to develop an individualized program to address and eliminate the root causes of your health problems through the safest, most effective natural treatment available.
Naturopathic doctors look at the whole person, not just the sickness. While various factors contribute to disease, many health conditions are not only treatable, but are completely avoidable. Most diseases in the United States are related to diet, lifestyle and environment. Many of the foods we eat are nutritionally deficient and lack proper amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential fats and enzymes. Some foods also contain chemicals such as pesticides, synthetic additives, growth hormones and antibiotics that contribute to the loss of health.
Stress, lack of exercise, and a wide variety of environmental toxins can also disrupt the body’s natural balance, affecting the various biochemical processes that keep us healthy. Our daily lifestyle choices critically impact the degree of health — or disease — we experience.
Naturopathic doctors know the body has strong natural defenses and the ability to heal itself, even from serious conditions. Chronic illnesses occur when these protective mechanisms are not working properly. Thus, a naturopathic doctor’s main goal is to help restore the body’s ability to heal itself. In contrast to conventional medicine’s approach to treating symptoms with pharmaceuticals and surgery, naturopathic doctors use a wide variety of non-drug therapies to restore health by supporting the body, strengthening the self-healing processes and even preventing health problems from developing in the first place.
When people learn how to eliminate things that cause their health problems and are supported with treatments that improve how their bodies function, true healing can begin. Naturopathic doctors use nontoxic techniques such as dietary change, nutritional supplementation, detoxification, homeopathy and herbs to assist the body to do what it does naturally: heal. Following a naturopathic doctor’s guidelines — especially the recommended lifestyle modifications — is a sure path to better health, and often fully restores a patient’s well-being.
Naturopathic doctors are committed to:
Addressing the fundamental causes of health problems, not just the symptoms.
Supporting the body’s natural healing ability.
Using the safest, most effective medicines available.
Partnering with you and showing you how to improve your health.
Looking at all aspects of a person — physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.
Prescribing pharmaceutical drugs only when absolutely necessary.
Naturopathic medicine combines the best of conventional medical screening and diagnostic techniques with alternative medicine treatments, allowing individuals to maximize health, minimize reliance on prescription drugs, and take active steps toward longer, healthier lives.
A Visit to a Naturopathic Doctor
The first visit to a naturopathic doctor will take from 60 to 90 minutes, to allow for a thorough understanding of you and your health concerns. During this visit, the ND will:
Discuss your medical history.
Ask questions regarding diet, exercise, sleep patterns, and general health habits.
Discuss your stress level and other external factors that influence health.
Perform a physical exam.
Review old lab tests and other medical records.
Order additional lab tests, if needed.
Your naturopathic doctor will then create and discuss an individualized treatment plan for you and schedule a follow-up visit two to four weeks later to evaluate progress and review the results of any new lab tests. The frequency of future visits will be scheduled as needed on an individual basis.
Please click on the tabs to the left for more details about diagnosis, treatment approaches, cost and results.
Naturopathic Doctor Education
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are the only primary care providers who are clinically trained in both natural and conventional approaches to medicine. Naturopathic doctors attend four-year post-graduate federally recognized and accredited medical schools and are trained in the same medical sciences as medical doctors (MDs). Their education includes the latest advances in medicine, with a focus on natural approaches to treatment and an underlying philosophy of treating the root cause of disease.
Naturopathic doctors’ education and training includes:
Two years of basic science education (e.g., gross anatomy, biochemistry, physiology).
A Board exam covering basic sciences.
Two years of education in the clinical sciences (e.g., gynecology, oncology, cardiology).
A Board exam covering the clinical sciences.
An integrated curriculum incorporating conventional and alternative treatment approaches.
Naturopathic doctors’ training emphasizes treating disease with a wide range of natural therapies, such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, counseling, musculoskeletal techniques, and clinical nutrition. Naturopathic doctors are trained in the appropriate use of conventional and alternative testing techniques. They complete 1,500 hours of clinical internships and treat patients under the supervision of naturopathic and conventional doctors in an outpatient setting.
Currently, there are eight accredited naturopathic medical schools in North America:
Bastyr University, Kenmore, WA
Bastyr University California, San Diego, CA
Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM),Vancouver, BC, Canada
Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), Toronto, ON, Canada
National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), Portland, OR
National University of Health Sciences (NUHS), Lombard, IL
Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM), Tempe, AZ
University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine (UBCNM), Bridgeport, CT
Naturopathic Doctor Licensure
In California, naturopathic doctors (NDs) are licensed as primary care providers. California law requires naturopathic doctors to be graduates of an accredited naturopathic medical school with a minimum of 4,100 hours of training. Of the total hours required, 2,500 are didactic classroom-based training hours, with a minimum of 1,200 hours of clinic-based supervised learning Candidates must also pass a national licensing exam administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE).
It is important to distinguish licensed naturopathic doctors from lay practitioners who may refer to themselves as “naturopaths” but who do not have accredited didactic and clinical naturopathic medical training. California naturopathic doctors are regulated and licensed by the Naturopathic Medicine Committee under the Department of Consumer Affairs. Consumer information and licensee verification can be found at www.naturopathic.ca.gov.