The Naturopathic Doctor
Naturopathic doctors (N.D. or N.M.D.) are general medical practitioners specializing in natural medicine techniques. N.M.D.’s treat patients and their disease to restore health utilizing therapies from the sciences of clinical nutrition, botanical (herbal) medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine and manipulation, Oriental medicine, psychological medicine and counseling, minor surgery and hydrotherapy. Naturopaths also learn and can specialize in obstetrics (natural childbirth) and acupuncture. In practice, the Naturopathic doctor can perform physiological examinations, gynecological exams, laboratory testing, nutritional and dietry assessments, allergy testing, x-ray examinations, and other clinical and physical diagnostic testing.
Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating patients with acute and chronic diseases as well as many common health problems. Preventative treatment and education are a primary goal as naturopathic methods help prevent the development of minor illness and the degneration of chronic diseases. Naturopaths also work with other medical professionals, referring when necessary, to provide a complementary medical foundation.
Naturopathic Medical Education
The naturopathic doctor earns a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D. or N.M.D.) from a four-year, postgraduate medical school. States that regulate naturopathic physicians require passing grades on national and state-level board examinations. Their practice is subject to review by a State Board of Examiners. The Doctorate degree requires extensive study and training in basic and clinical medical sciences including:
- Minor Surgery
- Clinical & Physical Diagnosis
In addition to the standard medical curriculum, coursework in natural therapeutics also includes clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, natural childbirth, naturopathic manipulation, psychology and counseling, Chinese medicine as well as other disciplines of natural medicine.
The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The foundation of Naturopathic Medicine is based on six principles formulated from the observation of health and disease. Following are the six principles that distinguish naturopathic medicine from other medical philosophies.
The Healing Power of Nature (1)
The body has the natural ability to maintain and restore health. This natural healing process occurs in response to the body’s life force and the mind’s regulation of the body; creating a balance between mind, body, and spirit. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process by identifying and removing any obstacles to recovery. The Naturopath works to support the inherent healing system by creating a healthy internal and external environment.
First Do No Harm (2)
The Naturopath is trained to utilize noninvasive therapeutics, which help to support the immune system and the healing power of nature while minimizing the risks of harmful side effects. N.M.D.’s may also work with other health care practitioners to ensure that the patient receives the safest and best possible health care.
Identify and Treat the Cause (3)
All illnesses have an underlying cause, which must be identified and treated in order to achieve complete recovery to health. Symptoms of disease represent the body’s attempt to heal itself, but are not necessarily the cause of disease. Naturopathic medicine primarly addresses the causes of illness rather than just the symptoms. The doctor evaluates the possibilities of underlying causes and directs treatment to the core issues; not just to the symptoms.
Treat the Whole Person (4)
Health and disease are associated with a complex interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and social factors. These are conditions of the whole organism and vary according to each individual. The Naturopath treats each person as an individual considering all of the aspects essential to recovery or prevention of disease.
Physician as Teacher (5)
In understanding that the body has the inherent ability to heal itself, the doctor’s major role is to educate and coach the patient in taking responsibility for his/her health. The doctor works to enhance healing by promoting a healthy lifestyle and improving an individual’s ability to fight off disease. Ultimately, though, it is the patient, not the physician, that accomplishes healing.
The fundamental goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention. This approach to health care can prevent chronic or degenerative diseases from developing out of minor illnesses. The emphasis is based on building health and strengthening the body and its systems rather than on just fighting disease. It is the joint responsibility of both the doctor and patient to create a healthier internal and external environment.