What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathic medicine is all about treating people using natural remedies. A naturopathy practitioner has a wide spectrum of remedies to choose from. These include diet, exercise, fasting, and water intake adjustments. Other tools available at a naturopath’s disposal are homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. Naturopathy isn’t out of touch with reality. As new technology is discovered it becomes incorporated into naturopathy if suitable such as bio resonance, ozone therapy, and colon hydrotherapy.
Importance of naturopathy
There’s so much wrong with our lives and the environment right now. We’re surrounded by increasing levels of pollution which has so many impacts on our health from respiratory infections to cancers. Our diets are terrible. We eat fast food and junk food and neglect fruits and vegetables. Most of us suffer from IBS and other GIT problems that affect our lifestyle. Of course the amount of stress we’re exposed to is unprecedented. Chronic stress can lead to peptic ulcers, back pain, depression, and getting sick more often.
As you can see these aren’t organic problems that we can grasp, but they’re problems with our lives that result in organic diseases. This is where a naturopath comes in. Through his or her training and education they can direct a person towards a healthier lifestyle and teach them how to eat right and protect himself or herself from the hazards of stress and pollution.
Naturopathic doctors aren’t usually the first people patients go to. They’re the last resort. Once a patient has expired all their options only then do they decide to go to a naturopath. A patient might have back pain for years without getting relief from any of the available treatments provided by western medicine. After a suggestion from a friend and in a moment of despair a person might finally decide to try out naturopathy and to their surprise, it works.
The downside of relying on naturopathic doctors as a last resort is that we miss out on all their early benefits. They can detect diseases early due to their alternative methods of diagnosis. It’s always better to identify a particular predisposition in a patient rather than treat them after the disease has occurred.
Where do naturopathic doctors work?
Naturopathic doctors have a variety of options when it comes to employment. They can work as freelancers or they can sign with one of several entities. These entities can be hospitals, health care centers, spas, or even research institutes. Naturopathic doctors can also participate in raising awareness in the media. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to find them at beauty clinics either as well as in places where they can give nutritional and familial advice. The field as a whole is blossoming as it gains more acceptances worldwide and with the appearance of specializations such as sports, geriatrics, infertility, and skin problems.
A naturopath could be part of a multidisciplinary approach in multiple diseases. For instance they can work with surgeons to provide adequate diets for patients after surgery or with orthopedics and physiotherapists for optimum pain relief and restoration of mobility in patients with bone fractures.
Origins and principles
Naturopathic medicine dates back to 400 BC. Hippocrates, the Greek philosopher, believed that it was necessary to see each person as a whole of their mind, body, and soul and that it would be deficient to see them as any less. He believed that this would make it easier to diagnose the problem with the patient and that it would also help identify and select the most suitable cure for each person. It was from his ideas that naturopathy acquired its principles that are still present to this day.
The first of these principles is that nature has a healing power.
The second is to identify the cause and treat, that every problem in the human has a body which might be physical, emotional, or a combination of both.
Do no harm is the third principle and this makes a lot of sense because if you can’t help someone then the least you can do is to not hurt them.
It’s important to treat the whole person. This includes physical, mental, and emotional aspects. As we said naturopathy sees a person as a wholesome entity composing of a mind, body, and soul. Neglecting one of these will affect the others.
Naturopathic doctors see themselves as teachers. They don’t just want to be there for patients the rest of their lives. They empower patients and teach them how to take care of themselves.
Prevention is better than a cure. Naturopathic doctors may remove toxic substances from a person’s body or prevent them from doing something that might hurt them and cause disease. This is always better than dealing with a problem after it has occurred.
Orthodox western medicine vs naturopathic medicine
Naturopathic doctors believe that western medicine waits for a patient to get sick in order to start treating them rather than try to prevent the disease. They also believe that orthodox medicine doesn’t see the person as a wholesome package but rather as a simple disease. This is untrue for several reasons. The first being, that from a financial point of view doctors in most hospitals are paid a fixed amount of money per period of time. This encourages doctors to promote prevention of diseases. If I’m getting 100$ this week whether I see 5 patients or 100 patients then I would definitely rather do less work and only see 5 patients. How would I lower the number from 100 to 5? Promoting prophylaxis and disease prevention. If less people get sick then I’m seeing fewer patients and still getting the same income.
Vaccines are more proof that orthodox or western medicine is oriented with prevention as well. Vaccines are mostly given during the first 2 years of a baby’s life before any disease has occurred which is further emphasis on the importance of prevention in modern western medicine.
Finally, western medicine also focuses on people as a whole. It’s true that this may not have always been the case, but with more awareness about mental illnesses, doctors are becoming more oriented.
Challenges faced by naturopathic medicine
There’s no doubt that the world today is very different from that of Hippocrates. We have cell phones, factories, burning rubber, car exhaust, and so many hazardous substances all around us. A naturopathic physician who worked in 400 BC would definitely have a much easier task than one who works in 2018. There’s also fast food and all of the negative effects it brings to the human body. Every day we are exposed to plenty of harmful materials and to very few useful ones that we actually need. In many countries in the world there’s an increase in vitamin D deficiency. This isn’t because these countries don’t get enough sun, rather because the healthy sunrays don’t get through the pollution in the air. You could spend 6 hours in the sun and still have a vitamin D deficiency.
Luckily current naturopathic doctors have tools that weren’t available previously. They can rely on these in addition to the lifestyle modifications in order to combat the harmful effects of the world we live in. Hopefully the entire world starts realizing the impact the environment has on our health sooner rather than later.
Who practices naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic physicians are those specialized in the field. They often attend 4 year graduate level colleges and learn the same material as medical doctors (MDs). In addition to that they also learn more about psychology, nutrition, homeopathy, and herbal medicine.
You may also find traditional naturopathic doctors. These are people who haven’t received a particular form of education or license. You should be careful while visiting these as it can be hard to tell how qualified a person really is.
Finally we have people in the healthcare field in general such as doctors, nurses, or chiropractors who received some training in naturopathy.
History of naturopathic medicine
Naturopathic medicine is one of the oldest health professions in America. The term itself has a German origin. It comes from “water cure” or hydrotherapy which was advocated by Sebastian Kneipp in the 19th century. Up to this point naturopathic medicine was relatively primitive. This was until Dr. Benedict Lust came along. Dr. Lust is considered the father of naturopathic medicine. He added to the herbal treatments and hydrotherapy developed in Europe and transformed the science into a system of health. He was the first to introduce the science in the United States around 1900.
Dr. Benedict Lust formed the American School of Naturopathy in Manhattan. This occurred in 1901. The school’s approach focused on exercise, physical medicine, diet, herbs, and detoxification in order build on a person’s health towards the better and prevent diseases. During that same period he also created the first health food store. By the year 1925 there were almost two thousand naturopathic doctors in the United States and about ten naturopathic schools in the country. Naturopathic medicine was blooming and homeopathy was a part of it. Half of the states licensed naturopathic medicine and had rules and regulations for it.
This rise in the popularity of naturopathic medicine didn’t last long unfortunately. After World War II until the 1970s the world of medicine took a different direction. With the development of antibiotics and other drugs, medicine became focused on these new drugs which could perform miracles and neglected naturopathy. Once again, naturopathy was faced with a renewed interest in the 1970s and this led to the development of more naturopathic schools and more states becoming involved in the licensing and regulation of the field. Since then naturopathic medicine has been on the rise. Curriculums are being made, schools are gaining accreditation, and more research is being done in the field leading to new discoveries.
Conditions and procedures
Naturopathic medicine can be applied to most health issues. It is especially useful in diseases where western medicine has no cure. Allergies are one of these. Clearly western medicine has a treatment and can be life saving in cases of severe reactions, but allergies can still be annoying parts of our lives and this is where naturopathy comes in as it can find ways to make the condition less severe or more tolerable.
Headaches, chronic pain, and chronic fatigue syndrome are conditions that can impair a person’s functioning. They can stop one from going to work, studying, or even getting out of bed. Unfortunately sometimes it can be hard for western medicine to diagnose their cause, and more commonly the cause is known but there’s no treatment or the available treatment is too risky. Naturopathic medicine can finds way through acupuncture, diet, and exercise to limit the pain as much as possible. Naturopathic doctors will empower patients and allow them to take responsibility for their lives so that they can go on with their days without affection by their diseases.
Inform your doctor
It’s important to inform your doctor that you’ll be receiving naturopathic treatment. Naturopathy may interfere with your current diseases and medications. Certain vitamins or herbs given to you may affect the metabolism of the drugs you were already taking. This can either happen by slowing down their metabolism which allows them to accumulate in your body potentially reaching toxic levels, or speed up their metabolism which means your body eliminates the drugs too quickly for them to work.
Certain diets can also affect your health. If you have diabetes or other metabolic diseases then your diet should be adjusted carefully. Otherwise going on a detox for example could exacerbate your current condition. So keep your doctor in the loop so he or she can adjust their treatment plan accordingly and warn you if any hazardous interventions.
It must be made clear that you can’t become a naturopathic doctor (ND) by getting an online degree. These degrees are not eligible and entities responsible for regulating and licensing the field will not approve of you. You won’t be eligible to take Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exams either. Basically your degree will have no real application. In order to become an ND you need to complete an accredited program that includes supervised hands-on clinical training.
Naturopathic medicine, unlike many falsely believe, is in fact evidence based just like other forms of medicine. As mentioned previously, naturopathic doctors complete the same training and education as traditional medical doctors and additionally also receive training in the field of naturopathy. Naturopathic physicians are also avid participants in research. So claims that the practice is unfounded or not supported by science is as far as can be from the truth.
Just because the practice of naturopathic medicine focuses on natural remedies, that doesn’t mean that drugs aren’t part of it. NDs study pharmacology and the biochemistry of drugs including mechanisms of action and side effects just like any other doctor would. Naturopathic doctors actually have more work to do when it comes to that as they also study the effect of herbs and other naturopathic modes of intervention on a patient’s current treatment. Naturopathic doctors are responsible for a person’s overall health and this will almost definitely include drugs. So many of us are diabetics and hypertensives which means we’re definitely on medication to control these conditions. An ND will often work as part of a health team and naturally they’ll know about pharmaceuticals.
When seeking naturopathic medicine you need to look for someone with acceptable credentials. We said that there are traditional naturopaths and there are naturopathic doctors (NDs). Traditional naturopaths are often unqualified and aren’t accredited by licensing boards in the United States. You can’t trust them as you don’t know their level of training and education; they’re also not accounted for by any responsible entity. Naturopathic doctors on the other hand are monitored and tested thoroughly in order to make sure that you’re in safe hands when you visit a naturopathic doctor.
Conventional or orthodox western medicine is not an enemy of naturopathic medicine. You do not have to choose between conventional medicine and naturopathic as many believe. We mentioned the fact that the team responsible for a patient will often contain an ND in addition to a nurse, the responsible physician, and the rest of the team. There are studies that show that adding naturopathic medicine to conventional results in better outcomes. One of these studies showed that at the end of one year, the group of patients receiving combined care (naturopathic and conventional) had a lower risk of dying from a stroke or heart attack in comparison to the group that was receiving conventional care without naturopathic care.
Naturopathy is not for the wealthy. The field is gaining more popularity and thanks to this rise in prominence, insurance companies are starting to cover it in a rising manner. If your insurance still doesn’t cover naturopathic medicine you could still look for an ND who offers income based sliding scales. You also need to think about the long term benefits. If naturopathy lowers your risk of getting a disease then spending money on this kind of intervention now will save you lots of money that would be spent on treating the disease and its complications if they happen.
Sometimes naturopathy can be portrayed by the media as a science for hippies and the less educated. The truth is exactly the opposite. The well educated are the ones who seek healthier bodies, minds and souls. They’re the ones who are educated enough to know that it’s infinitely better to prevent disease than to wait for it to happen then treat it. Naturopathic medicine deals with various conditions that affect all classes of the population such as digestive tract problems, fertility, and nutrition.
Homeopathy is not the same as naturopathic medicine. Homeopaths are not NDs and do not know how to do the things that NDs can. On the other hand, NDs have knowledge of homeopathy and can perform utilize it as part of their intervention. Basically naturopathy includes homeopathy and homeopathy is just a branch or part of naturopathy. So don’t expect to receive the same quality of care and full healthcare experience from homeopaths as they’re not trained to provide it.
Naturopathic physicians are qualified enough to perform the same tasks as primary physicians. They can treat colds, aches, and deal with aspects of life and the family like family health and geriatrics. This is only natural considering that they received the same training and knowledge of the basic sciences but added to them the study of naturopathy.
Not all naturopathic remedies are safe, and not all are safe for you. This is why we advise consulting your primary physician beforehand. Your naturopathic doctor should have the knowledge to manage your condition as a whole and keep in mind any drugs that you’re taking, but it won’t hurt to keep your primary doctor informed of what’s going on as well.
The future of naturopathy
Since the 70s naturopathy has been on the rise and it’s hard to see it slowing down anytime soon. With increased toxins and harmful substances all around us we could all use a field like this to help us stay safe and healthy. Certainly the world is not now what it used to be 2400 years ago when Hippocrates founded the science. As newer technologies are invented and more research is conducted naturopathic medicine will only grow in importance.