9 Differences between a Naturopath and a General Practitioner ...


9 Differences between a Naturopath and a General Practitioner ...
9 Differences between a Naturopath and a General Practitioner ...

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.

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Both Are Educated

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.


While a naturopath typically studies various natural healing techniques and holistic approaches, a general practitioner (GP) goes through conventional medical training which includes modern pharmacology, surgery principles, and evidence-based medicine. Both types of professionals need to pass rigorous licensing exams relevant to their practice before they can treat patients. It’s important for both to commit to ongoing education to stay updated with the latest in medical research and treatments, whether natural or conventional, to provide the best care possible.


Both Care for and Treat Patients

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.


When seeing a patient, both practitioners prioritize the patient’s overall well-being, but their approaches can differ significantly. A naturopath will typically emphasize the body’s natural healing processes, often incorporating herbal remedies, nutrition, lifestyle changes, and other holistic practices into their treatment plans. In contrast, a general practitioner may lean more towards conventional medicine, prescribing pharmaceuticals, and utilizing modern medical technologies to diagnose and treat ailments. Despite these differences, the fundamental goal remains to provide care that is tailored to the individual's unique health situation.



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.


Surgery is a critical distinction as it aligns with more invasive treatments where traditional doctors excel. General Practitioners (GPs) are trained and licensed to perform various surgical procedures, while naturopaths focus on non-invasive healing methods. For conditions that naturopathic treatments can't address effectively, such as an appendicitis or a broken bone requiring surgical intervention, a GP will be the go-to professional. It’s essential for patients to understand the limitations and scopes of each practice to make informed decisions about their health care options.



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.


A naturopathic approach is often holistic and patient-centered, focusing on lifestyle changes and natural remedies. They might inquire about your diet, stress levels, and daily habits, considering these as potential contributing factors to your condition. By addressing these areas, they aim to enhance the body’s own healing capabilities. In contrast, a general practitioner (GP) may concentrate on alleviating the symptom quickly, often with the aid of pharmaceuticals. The GP’s methodology is typically rooted in conventional medicine, which emphasizes the management of symptoms and diseases using drugs or surgical procedures.



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.


Naturopaths often prioritize holistic wellness and ensure that any recommended supplements align with your entire well-being. For example, someone dealing with stress may be advised to take adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha to balance cortisol levels. It’s also common for them to recommend probiotics to nurture gut health, as a thriving microbiome can be the key to overall vitality. Moreover, they might encourage adding omega-3 fatty acids for heart health or turmeric for inflammation. Each suggestion is tailored to support the body’s natural healing rather than just masking symptoms.


Treatment Philosophy

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.


Naturopaths adhere to the healing power of nature, emphasizing preventive measures and the body's inherent ability to heal itself when given the correct support. This can include dietary changes, herbal supplements, and lifestyle adjustments. General practitioners, while sometimes advocating for preventive measures as well, often utilize evidence-based treatments including pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures that target specific ailments or injuries. Their focus is often on immediate intervention and alleviating symptoms rapidly so that the patient can return to daily life as quickly as possible.


Herbal Medicine

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 Are Invaluable

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.


In understanding our health, we need a balance between natural and conventional approaches. This is where the collaboration between a GP and a naturopath becomes a powerful tool in our wellness arsenal. The former provides lifesaving interventions and understands the complexities of modern medicine. Meanwhile, the naturopath delves into lifestyle and holistic therapies that can prevent and treat chronic ailments. Together, they offer a comprehensive health support system, truly the best of both worlds. When we combine their expertise, we are taking a step towards a more integrated and personalized form of healthcare.


Both Can Be Used Together

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?

Source: naturecarewholistic.com.au

Feedback Junction

Where Thoughts and Opinions Converge

I think the authors statement that GPs are only interested in treating the symptoms

Ive had a kinesiologist recommended by my Gp 11 years ago and never looked back since! Also I have a chiropractor as doctors couldn't work out a symptom I had but offered my antibiotics! GPs should be working alongside alternative therapists and maybe the cost of health would decrease and patients have less illness!

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