There are many differences between a naturopath and a general practitioner- also known as a doctor or GP- tthat you should know, so you can be informed when choosing which is best for you. Growing up, I was like any typical little American girl who went to the doctor with her mom, was assessed by my doctor, given a prescription, a lollipop on my way out the door, and was on my merry way. I grew up my entire life this way until I was 21 years old and began seeking other options. I knew I needed something more personable, something less to do with prescription drugs, and more to do with the body as a whole. I wanted something holistically based. I wanted a naturopath who would help me find the true cause of the problem, not just medicate it with a chemical drug. I think a general practitioner is one of the most valuable things our country has compared to other countries who can't receive even basic treatment. We are blessed in this country to have medical coverage and assistance wherever we turn, regardless of the price. I’m not against the medical field, or general practitioners at all, but there are significant differences between a naturopath and a general practitioner that you should learn about. Both are very different and each one serves different needs. Here are the main differences, and even some similarities between the two that you need to know to find out which one is best for you.
Table of contents:
First, before we dive into the differences between a naturopath and a general practitioner, let’s talk about how they are similar. Both a naturopath and a general practitioner are university educated, have a degree, and both have received extensive knowledge about the medical field.
Both a naturopath and a general practitioner care for and treat patients. A naturopath is not a counselor, therapist, etc. Just like a general practitioner, or doctor, a naturopath will see patients in a medical office setting, and treat that patient according to their needs.
Now let’s talk about how they differ. First, a doctor will be able to provide medical surgery, while a naturopath will not. Most people who seek a natural form of healing from a naturopath will not want medical surgery anyway, though that’s not always the case, such as in life or death situations.
While a general practitioner will put a label on any condition and give it an actual diagnosis with a name, a naturopath will try to find a reason for the ailment to begin with. For instance, let’s say you have swelling in your legs all the time. A general practitioner will simply give it a medical name by the symptoms, also known as a diagnosis, make a few suggestions, and probably give you a prescription drug to treat it. A naturopath may not give you an actual label, or name, but instead, seek to find the reason you’re having the swelling to begin with. They’ll find the root of the problem, and help you treat that, which will in turn treat the swelling, without a prescription to treat the symptoms of the true problem.
While your naturopath may not give you a prescription for a medical drug, they may suggest natural exercises or even natural supplements, such as vitamins or herbs, that could help your issue as well. For instance, if you suffer headaches and fatigue, they might suggest you try a magnesium supplement, because many people who have these symptoms are short in magnesium due to nutritional deficiencies. They may ask you about your diet, stress levels, how much rest you get, etc. Or, if you have digestive issues, they may suggest a diet for you to try, and seek to find the reason the digestive issues are occurring. For instance, if you have chronic indigestion, they may advise a diet, along with a natural supplement that might help treat the root cause. These are just suggestions of examples, of course. General practitioners generally never suggest supplements, but instead suggest prescriptions to help the symptoms, not the root cause.
One of the main, and most significant differences between a naturopath and a general practitioner is their view on treatment. A naturopath believes in the concept of vitality as the ultimate form of treatment. A general practitioner generally believes in the concept of reduction of symptoms, which is where prescription drugs or surgeries come in. They aim to reduce the symptoms, where a naturopath looks to treat the whole mind, body, and spirit, to heal the problem and increase vitality.
Many people wonder why naturopaths even prescribe herbal medicine. Isn’t this the same as prescription drugs? Well, no, not really. Herbal medicines are 100% plant-based, and most patients with the same issue are never given the same herbal medicine to treat it, like patients are given the same prescription drugs to treat the same issue. Both are very different scenarios of treatment. Herbal medicines are literally so vast and abundant that many of them heal a large number of issues in the mind and body, not just one or two like a prescription drug. They can also be used interchangeably for a variety of issues, which is different than a drug that only treats migraines, for example. Naturopaths usually use herbal medicines as treatment because they are natural, and their healing abilities are abundant.
Both a naturopath and a general practitioner are invaluable in today’s world, where healing is needed on a number of levels. If I needed surgery tomorrow and was on my deathbed, I could easily go to a general practitioner, and that’s something I’m grateful for. By the same token though, if I am having digestive issues and need someone to figure out what is going on, I’m going to turn to a naturopath to find the root of the cause, not just hand me a paper form allowing me to get a chemical drug. See, both are invaluable, just in two different ways.
One of the biggest differences between a naturopath and a general practitioner, which most people who go to one or the other don't realize, is that we can have the best of both worlds. Why not use them both for necessary circumstances? Use a naturopath for general health issues to treat the mind and body. If you have depression, see a naturopath, who might be able to help you find the root of the issue to treat the depression. They may even suggest activities or supplements if needed, to help you treat the mind, body, and spirit. You could try this before seeking treatment from a prescription drug through a general practitioner. Then, if you ever have a circumstance where serious medical attention is needed on a higher level, go see a doctor or general practitioner. We can have the best of both, and don’t need to always choose between one or the other.
I appreciate that we’re allowed to have both naturopaths and general practitioners in our world today, when so many can't even get medical care from either one. Now that you know the differences between the two, you can make the best decision for you and your needs. So you tell me, do you see a naturopath or a general practitioner?
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