Since naturopathy is becoming more popular as people look to alternative healthcare, it is important to get acquainted with the facts about naturopathy. Naturopathic medicine was introduced to the world in 1902 when Dr. Benedict Lust founded the school of Naturopathic medicine. Dr. Lust employed many different modalities to treat health problems, which ranged from nutrition to hydrotherapy. As primary care physicians, naturopathic doctors emphasize the self-healing process, which is one of the key facts about naturopathy you should know. While the emphasis on self-healing is a critical aspect of naturopathy, there are many other important features of this holistic healthcare approach.
Naturopathic practitioners are guided by several principles that are the cornerstone of naturopathy. These principles are rooted in the teachings of Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine”. One of the guiding principles is that nature has healing powers, which is one of the teachings of Hippocrates. As part of adhering to this principle, naturopathic doctors look to such things as nutrition and herbs to heal people. Other principles that naturopathic doctors include identify and treat the cause of the problem, do no harm, treat the whole person, prevent illness, and act as a teacher. By following these principles, naturopaths are able to get to the root of the problem and heal patients from the inside out, which is one of the facts about naturopathy that I deeply appreciate. Western medicine sometimes uses prescriptions to put a Band-Aid on the problem without actually getting to the cause of the problem.
In their practice, naturopathic doctors employ many different modalities to treat patients. One of the chief modalities used is nutrition; however, it is not the only method employed to help patients feel better. Naturopaths also use botanical medicine, homeopathy, injections, manipulative therapy, acupuncture, and counseling. Believe it or not, naturopaths can even perform minor surgeries and deliver babies! Knowing all of these different modalities requires a lot of knowledge. Naturopaths are highly educated as they study the same sciences as medical doctors as well as the holistic approaches such as homeopathy and nutrition.
Seventeen states have licensing laws that govern naturopathic doctors. In these states, naturopaths are required to hold a degree from a four year residential naturopathic medical school and pass the post-doctoral board examination. Once licensed, naturopaths are required to take continuing education courses. If you are wondering if your state has licensing requirements for naturopaths, you can go to naturopathic.org. This is the website for the American Association for Naturopathic medicine. On this website you can also find a list of naturopaths for all states who meet the association’s requirements.
Naturopaths treat patients using a hierarchy of therapies. They begin with treatments that are the most efficient and have the least potential to cause harm. If these do not work, they move on to more aggressive approaches. The basic idea of using this order of therapeutic treatment is to let the body be self-healing. This hierarchy uses the following tenets: reestablish the basis for health, use natural treatments, tonify and nourish weakened systems, correct deficiencies, prescribe substances and modalities, prescribe pharmaceutical substances, use radiation, use chemotherapy, and perform surgery. As you can see, the order of treatment is very specific and is followed to ensure aggressive therapies are only used if absolutely necessary.
Seeing a naturopathic doctor is very different from seeing a typical MD. Your initial evaluation will be very lengthy and last about two hours. During this time you will go over your entire medical history with the naturopath. Some naturopaths are even interested in your health as a baby! You will be asked questions about diet, your environment, the symptoms you experience, and your emotional health. The naturopath will also want to know what medication and supplements you are currently taking. As they gather information about your health, the naturopath will begin to form a treatment plan for how to help you feel better.
Depending on your needs, your treatment plan may be quite complicated. Unlike seeing a typical MD, you will not leave the office with a prescription. You may be required to make changes in your diet and add supplements. You may also need to make lifestyle changes such as finding ways to reduce stress or quitting smoking. All of these changes will require commitment and are not quick-fixes. Since naturopaths are trying to treat the underlying cause of an ailment, the treatment generally requires more participation from the patient. In fact, you may even be given homework such as researching the treatment you are supposed to follow or reading a recommended book. Clearly, when you see a naturopath, you will be an active participant in your health care.
Seeing a naturopath can be very costly. When you see a naturopath you have to look at it as an investment in your health. Initial visits can be over $300, and the recommended supplements and diet changes may also be very costly. Unfortunately, most insurance companies do not cover naturopathic treatment; however, flexible spending accounts can generally be used when seeing a naturopath. For many people, naturopathic doctors are too expensive to see; however, those that can afford to see them often have good results.
Naturopathic medicine has become more popular in recent decades. People who have chronic illnesses are increasingly turning to naturopathy for help. While it can be cost prohibitive, naturopathy can be very helpful and might be worth looking into if you can afford it. Have you ever seen a naturopath?
naturopathic.org, Micozzi, Marc S. Fundamentals of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 4th ed. St. Louis, Missouri: Saunders, 2011. Print
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