In the early part of the last century, Naturopathic medicine was the dominant practice of medicine in this country. With the advent of Allopathic medicine and prescriptive drugs, Naturopathic medicine faded into the background. Recently, there has been major resurgence in both the number of people practicing Naturopathy and public demand for it. Let’s take a closer look at this modern form of medicine rooted in ancient principles.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a primary health care profession emphasizing prevention and treatment of disease, maintenance of optimal health, and promotion of the individuals self healing process. Naturopaths can diagnose people using standard medical diagnostic techniques such as an extensive health history, physical examination, blood tests, and other laboratory procedures such as stool and saliva testing. Then, instead of drugs and surgery, Naturopaths utilize natural medicines and therapies as the first line of treatment. Some of these therapies include: clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, nutritional supplements, physical medicine such as soft tissue and boney manipulation, and lifestyle counseling.
What are the principles of Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopaths believe strongly in the healing power of nature. If the body is allowed to, it is able to do wondrous things in terms of healing itself. A major goal of Naturopathic medicine is to remove what are called, “obstacles to cure” – dietary, lifestyle or other factors that hinder the natural healing process. Naturopaths also embrace the original meaning of the word “doctor”, which was “teacher”. Patient education in terms of both understanding the current problems as well as how to prevent them in the future is a hallmark of Naturopathic care.
Another basic principle is the belief in approaching each patient as an individual. Disease is influenced by a complex interaction of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors. Which factors play a role in one person’s irritable bowel, for instance, may be quite different than another’s. Naturopathic medicine believes in treating the whole person, not just the symptoms, while addressing all of the factors above.
However, perhaps the most important tenant of Naturopathic medicine is to identify and treat the cause. Modern medicine has moved towards using prescriptive drugs to alleviate or suppress symptoms. Naturopathic medicine tries to approach illness from the opposite direction. While symptoms management is important, even more important is determining what underlying factors are causing those symptoms. By addressing the underlying factors that are causing disease Naturopaths can help to bring about true healing and resolution of current health issues.
How are Naturopaths educated?
Currently, there are four Dept. of Education sanctioned Naturopathic medical schools. These are four year programs which incorporate at least three years of clinical experience into their curriculum. Naturopaths are then required to pass a national board exam in order to be licensed in states that offer licensure. When searching for a Naturopath, it is important to make sure that the individual attended one of these programs. Unfortunately, there are numerous “correspondence schools” which offer Naturopathic “degrees”. People holding these degrees are not allowed to practice in states which license Naturopaths, nor are they eligible to take the national board exam because these correspondence programs are not legitimate medical education programs according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.
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