Because of recent licensure in the State of California that becomes effective this year for Naturopathic Physicians I thought it would be beneficial to provide an article to provide information and answer common questions regarding this type of doctor.
What is the education of a Naturopathic physician?
Naturopathic Doctors (ND) receive undergraduate training in standard premedical courses (four year Bachelors of Science, BSc), followed by four years of graduate level medical studies. The first two years-like those of an MD-are in basic medical sciences. The second two years emphasize clinical training in naturopathic and conventional therapeutics. Naturopathic doctors are clinically trained in a primary care outpatient setting rather than in a hospital, although many ND’s will choose electives and preceptor rotations in hospitals.
Are Naturopathic medical schools and universities accredited?
Yes. Those recognized by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) are either accredited or candidates for accreditation. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the only accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit naturopathic programs and colleges. Students attending CNME accredited programs are eligible for federal education loans.
How is Naturopathic medicine different from conventional medicine?
The main difference is in the philosophical approach. Naturopathic physicians treat patients by restoring overall health rather than suppressing a few key symptoms. Naturopathic doctors are more concerned with finding the underlying cause of a condition and applying treatments that work in alliance with mechanisms of the body rather than against them. Naturopathic treatments result less frequently in adverse side effects, or in the chronic conditions that inevitably arise when the disease is left untreated.
In what ways are Naturopathic and conventional physicians alike?
The academic training in medical sciences of naturopathic and conventional physicians is the same. Both study modern physical, clinical and laboratory diagnosis. Both can diagnose a disease and predict its course. Naturopathic doctors also perform minor surgery, and prescribe medications. Both naturopathic and conventional physicians refer patients to other health care specialties when appropriate.
Is Naturopathic medicine new?
No. Naturopathic medicine in the U.S. has grown out of medical traditions from throughout the world, both ancient and modern. The majority of states have licensed Naturopathic medicine at different times since as a distinct American medical profession in 1902. Naturopathic medicine continues to grow and evolve, incorporating advances in the diverse medical disciplines throughout the world.
What treatments does a Naturopathic physician employ?
Naturopathic doctors use therapies such as clinical nutrition, dietary and lifestyle modification, counseling, medical herbalism, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, exercise therapy, physiotherapy, natural childbirth, minor surgery, and limited drug therapy.
How are these treatments applied?
Naturopathic doctors consider the whole patient when treating illness. They work with the patient to determine the true cause of the illness, and apply their therapies in a way to restore overall health. They use therapies that inherently have low potential to cause side effects. NDs may at times use palliative treatments or suppress symptoms, but only in the context of overall health restoration.
Are Naturopathic physicians opposed to drugs and major surgery?
No. Naturopathic doctors are not opposed to invasive or suppressive measures when those methods are necessary and in the patient’s best interest. They make referrals for such treatments when appropriate. Naturopathic medicine generally has both safer and less invasive alternatives to many non-emergency surgeries.
Is Naturopathic medicine cost-effective?
Yes. Naturopathic doctors have alternatives to some expensive medications and procedures. The preventative approach has proven through countless research studies to reduce the incidence of high-cost chronic conditions while reducing both immediate and long-term health care costs.
Is Naturopathic medicine safe?
Yes. The safety record in states with review boards is excellent, therefore ND’s are offered malpractice insurance at extremely low rates. Patients who use natural remedies and herbs on their own without a doctor’s guidance run the risk of more side effects and medication interaction. Naturopathic doctors are some of the leading experts in safety and research of natural medicine. Most of the media attention regarding herbal side effects is with the misuse and abuse of a powerful and effective herbal medication not prescribed by a doctor.
Is Naturopathic medicine scientific?
Yes. Naturopathic medicine has its own unique body of knowledge,evolved and refined for centuries. It also encorporates scientific advances from medical disciplines throughout the world. Many of the individual therapies of Naturopathic medical practice have been scientifically validated, especially in the areas of clinical nutrition, homeopathy, herbal medicine, immunology, and hydrotherapy. The research departments of naturopathic universities also conduct ongoing research, exploring experimental models appropriate to the eclectic and individualized approach of Naturopathic medicine. They have also produced state-of the-art double blind and placebo controlled studies, published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
Where are Naturopathic physicians licensed?
Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington all license Naturopathic doctors as primary care physicians.
What about California?
As of January 1st, 2004 California has licensed Naturopathic doctors as primary care providers. The governing and licensing bureau will be set up in July the beginning of the 2004 fiscal year. When the bureau is established the licenses will be granted allowing for board certified Naturopathic doctors to practice to the full scope of their training.
Are there other kinds of “NDs” in the US?
Yes, unfortunately, some people obtain questionable ND degrees from brief correspondence courses or short seminars not requiring any clinical or extensive training. Such degrees are not recognized by state degree authorizing bodies. State licensing boards require graduating from a four-year graduate naturopathic medical school. In licensed states it is unlawful to call yourself an ND or any other kind of doctor without proper degree and license.
Is Naturopathic medicine covered by insurance?
Yes and no. More than 90 insurance companies cover Naturopathic medicine in the US and Canada. There are variations in companies and plans; it is best to check with your company. There are many flex-pay plans and health/medical savings account type plans that allow for Naturopathic care.
How do ND’s interact with other health professionals?
NDs refer to other health care providers such as MD/DO specialists, psychotherapists, chiropractors, and acupuncturists when appropriate. Most Naturopathic practices have extensive cross-referrals to and from other practitioners.
Do Naturopathic physicians practice natural childbirth?
All NDs are trained in basic obstetrics. Some elect to get the further training necessary for licensing to practice obstetrics. Licensing laws vary from state to state.
Is there a Naturopathic doctor in our area (Central Coast)?
Yes. Dr Tod Thoring graduated from the prestigious John Bastyr University in Seattle Washington and is a licensed ND. He has been on the central coast for two years. Dr Thoring is an integral part of the medical team at A Natural Balance Wellness Center. He specializes in general family practice with expertise in women’s health, chronic degenerative disease, gastrointestinal disorders, chronic fatigue, and urgent concerns. Dr Thoring facilitates the healing process through clinical nutrition, orthomolecular medicine, lifestyle changes, homeopathy, herbal medicine, counseling, environmental medicine and detoxification.