What is a Naturopathic Physician? Naturopathic Physicians (N.D.) are primary care practitioners who are specialists in natural medicine. They diagnose, treat and aide in the prevention of illness. They work with and support the bodies own healing ability. Naturopathic medicine blends centuries-old natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in the study of health and human systems, covering all aspects of health care. Naturopathic medicine concentrates on whole-patient wellness; the medicine is tailored to the patient and emphasizes prevention and self-care. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person when addressing any symptom or disease. Naturopathic medicine attempts to find the underlying cause of the patient's condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment. Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.

What Education is required? Naturopathic physicians are educated in both conventional and naturopathic medical sciences. Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year postgraduate schools with admissions requirements comparable to those of conventional medical schools. The degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine requires four years of graduate level study in the medical sciences including: anatomy - cardiology - physiology - neurology - biochemistry - radiology - pathology - minor surgery - microbiology - obstetrics - immunology - gynecology - pharmacology - pediatrics - dermatology - lab diagnosis - clinical and physical diagnosis - and other clinical sciences. Throughout the four years, there is training in naturopathic therapeutics, including therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy naturopathic manipulative therapy, and other therapies. Because the course work in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic doctors receive as many and sometimes more hours of classroom education than the graduates of many leading medical schools. There are presently four accredited colleges of Naturopathic Medicine in the United States.

Are Naturopaths licensed? Currently, 12 states (including California!) and the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands have licensing laws for Naturopathic Doctors. In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from a four-year, residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination in order to receive a license. Licensed naturopathic doctors must fulfill state-mandated continuing education requirements annually, and will have a specific scope of practice defined by their state's law.

What are the Principles of Natural Medicine? The practice of Naturopathic Medicine emerges from six underlying principles of healing. These principles are continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis. It is these principles that distinguish the profession from other medical approaches: The Healing Power of Nature. Vis medicatrix naturae The body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent. The physician's role is to facilitate and augment this process, to act to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation of a healthy internal and external environment
  • First, Do No Harm. Primum no nocere Therapeutic actions should be complimentary to and synergistic with the healing process. Naturopathic Physicians prefer non-invasive treatments that minimize the risk of harmful side effects.
  • Identify and Treat the Cause. tolle causam Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms are expressions of the body's attempt to heal, but are not the cause of disease. Causes may occur on many levels including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The Physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes rather than at symptomatic expression.
  • Treat the Whole Person. Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, a whole involving a complex interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, lifestyle and other factors. The Physician must treat the whole person considering all aspects that contribute to health and illness this requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
  • The Physician as Teacher. Docere The Physician must work to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal relationship with the patient. A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The Physician's major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for health. The Physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates/accomplishes healing. The Physician must strive to inspire hope as well as understanding.
  • Preventive Medicine. The natural approach to health care can prevent minor illness from developing into more serious or chronic degenerative diseases. The prevention of disease and the attainment of optimal health in patients are primary objectives of naturopathic medicine. In practice, these objectives are accomplished through education and the promotion of healthy ways of living. Naturopathic physicians assess risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and make appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness. Patients are taught the principles with which to live a healthy life.
What kind of treatments are prescribed? Different therapeutics are utilized depending upon the individual person and the health issues they wish to address. Some of the natural therapeutics practiced by Naturopathic Physicians are:

  • Clinical Nutrition. Nutrition and the therapeutic use of foods have always been a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. A growing body of scientific knowledge in this area is reflected in numerous professional journals of nutrition and dietary sciences, validating the naturopathic approach to diet and nutrition. Many medical conditions can be treated as effectively with foods and nutritional supplements as they can by any other means, often with fewer complications and side effects.
  • Homeopathic Medicine. Homeopathic medicines act to strengthen the body's innate healing response based on the principle of "like cures like." It works on a subtle yet powerful level, gently acting to strengthen the body's healing and immune response, they seldom have side effects. Some conditions that conventional medicine has no effective treatment for respond well to homeopathy.
  • Botanical Medicine. Many plant substances are powerful medicines. They are effective and safe when used properly, in the right dose and in the proper combinations with other herbs or treatments.
  • Counseling and Stress Management. Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing and disease. Naturopathic physicians are trained in various psychological techniques, including counseling, and stress management.
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