What is Naturopathic Medicine? 

Naturopathic medicine is a complete and coordinated approach to health care. It is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural therapies and gentle, non-intrusive methods.

Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine are trained in much of the same way that conventional doctors are trained. Where conventional doctors have been trained in pharmaceutical treatment of symptoms of disease, naturopathic doctors specialize in natural medicine and preventive health care, integrating scientific knowledge with traditional healing wisdom. They are health-care professionals who use safe, gentle, non-invasive therapies to assist the whole person in maximizing the body's inherent self-healing capacity.

The Goal of the Naturopathic Doctor

The Naturopathic Physician's goal is to restore health, prevent disease, and promote well-being through individualized patient care and public education. Methods of treatment include homeopathy, acupuncture, Asian medicine, botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, and lifestyle counseling.

To treat and prevent disease using contemporary natural methods in alignment with the body's inherent self-healing capacity. In this way naturopathic doctors differ greatly from conventional doctors, whose main obective is to suppress symptoms of disease through pharmaceutical means, which often carry undesirable side-effects. In contrast, Naturopathic Doctors aim to treat illness at the core level, so that true healing can take place; balance is restored and health can be maintained through basic lifestyle changes.

The Principles of Naturopath Medicine

The principles of Naturopathic Medicine that guide the Naturopathic Physician are:

  • First, to do no harm; to provide the most effective health care available with the least risk to the patient at all times ( Primum Non Nocere ).

  • To recognize, respect and promote the self-healing power of nature inherent in each individual human being ( Vis Medicatrix Naturae).

  • To strive to identify and remove the cause of illness, rather than to eliminate or suppress symptoms ( Tolle Causum ).

  • To educate his/her patients, inspire rational hope and encourage self-responsibility for health ( Doctor as Teacher ).

  • To treat each person by considering all individual health factors and influences ( Treat the Whole Person ).
  • To emphasize the condition of health to promote well-being and to prevent diseases for the individual, each community and our world ( Health Promotion, the Best Prevention ).

How a Naturopathic Doctor is Trained

Naturopathic doctors obtain comprehensive and rigorous training in an educational structure similar to that of medical doctors. Naturopathic doctors require 3 years pre-med undergraduate education, plus 4 years of full-time study at an approved college of naturopathic medicine.

The four-year program incorporates basic medical science courses, clinical sciences and naturopathic therapies, as well as problem-based approaches to health issues, and 1500 hours of supervised clinical experience. In Canada, the only accredited college of naturopathic medicine is the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

Following the completion of their program, ND's must successfully complete Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) in order to qualify for licensing in Ontario. NPLEX is the standard examination used by all regulated provinces and states across North America.

(following by David G. Young, N.D.)
Although various naturopathic remedies are offered by other health care providers; including chiropractors, nutritionists, holistic nurses, and massage therapists; if you want the complete package, you need to seek out an ND (Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine). Such practitioners have completed four years of graduate-level training at a naturopathic medical college.

Naturopathic Medicine has become increasingly important in the lifestyles of people who recognize the value of natural healing versus the constant ingestion of synthetic (chemical) prescription drugs, many of which often cause more problems than they solve.

The basic approach of a Naturopathic Physician is to discover and eliminate the causes of disease. When treatment is necessary, the most natural, non-toxic and least invasive therapy available is used. Naturopathic Medicine treats the whole person. These concepts are about to dramatically change the way medicine is practiced in North America.

The History of Naturopathic Medicine (by David G. Young, N.D.)

Naturopathic Medicine grew out of the eclectic healing systems of the 18th and 19th centuries. Its philosophy was first used in the Hippocratic School of Medicine of about 400 B.C.. Physicians in the time of Hippocrates believed that they should try to understand as much as possible about the laws of nature, and apply it to their practice in a practical way. They looked for the "cause" of disease. They often used the term "Vis Medicatrix Naturae", which is Latin for "the Healing Power of Nature," to note the body's ability to heal itself. "Naturopathy" or "Nature Cure" is viewed by some as a way of life as well as a concept of healing that employs various natural means of preventing and treating human disease. Some of the earliest therapies used Hygienics and Hydrotherapy. The Eclectics that were the forefathers of modern "Naturopathic Medicine" tended to use any means to help their patients as long as it didn't harm them. There are times when "Conventional Medicine" or "unnatural medicine" may be the better choice. However I believe it is the philosophy guiding Naturopathic Medicine, which makes it safe and effective.

Naturopathy endeavors to cure disease by harnessing the body's own natural healing powers. Rejecting synthetic drugs and invasive procedures, it stresses the restorative powers of nature, the search for underlying causes of disease, and the treatment of the whole person (emotional, genetic, and environmental influences included). It takes very seriously the medical motto "first, do no harm."

The term "Nature Cure" itself was coined in 1895 by Dr. John Scheel of New York City to describe his own method of health care. Dr. Benedict Lust whose teachings initiated naturopathy in the U.S. began using the term Naturopathy in 1902 to name the Eclectic compilation of doctrines of natural healing that he envisioned as the future scope of natural medicine. They used such things as nutritional therapy, natural diet, herbal medicine, homeopathy, spinal manipulation, exercise therapy, hydrotherapy, electrotherapy, and stress reduction.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, naturopathy evolved and grew enormously, rivaling conventional medicine in popularity. Benedict Lust, a German doctor who emigrated to the U.S. in 1892, founded the health food store as we know it, and crystallized the focus of naturopathy on diet and nutrition as the chief route to health. During this period, health-food faddism rivaled that of the present day, with influential practitioners like Dr. Kellogg (of cereal-company fame) insisting that meat and other "unnatural" foodstuffs were wreaking untold havoc on human health.

Natural medicine flourished in the U.S. up until about the mid 1930's when economic factors and political factors helped produce what now appears to be a health care monopoly caused by chemical and drug industries heavily subsidizing medical schools.

With the rise of increasingly sophisticated drugs and advanced medical technology after World War II, naturopathy fell from favor (with a hearty push from organized medicine). Grains and herbs seemed like mere snake oil in the brave new world of antibiotics and polio vaccines. Science reigned supreme until the 1960's, when the discovery of unsuspected side effects from DDT, thalidomide, and other high-tech wonders reminded Americans that "better living through chemistry" sometimes had shortcomings of its own.

Tremendous technical advances in surgery promoted by two world wars were able to convince both the public and politicians of the apparent superiority of their system, resulted in the passing of legislation that severely restricted the availability of other health care systems. At this time, we are in the middle of what appears to be a health care revolution. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying "the doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his patient in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause of prevention of disease." Many people today think of Naturopathic Medicine as a fad that will soon pass away. The fact is that it has been around for several centuries. In this day and age the education of the Naturopathic Physician is the best that it has ever been.

Meanwhile, a new and more scientifically minded crop of naturopathy advocates, including nutrition writer Adele Davis and vitamin C researcher Linus Pauling, helped bring fresh respectability to the idea that nature still held healing powers. This new breed was quick to adopt the research techniques of "conventional" medicine to prove the effectiveness of age-old remedies like herbs and newer options such as vitamin pills. Placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trials, in which neither the doctor nor the patient knew who was getting genuine treatment and who was getting a fake, soon became common not only for drugs, but for diet as well. As the results accumulated, it became clear that our choice of food could indeed have significant impact on our health.

The State of Women's Health Today

Today more that ever, women are faced with a barrage of complex heath issues that they must contend with. The matter becomes even more difficult when one considers the the current state of our province's conventional failing health care system, with its shortage of doctors and diminishing services. In this deteriorating environment, a women must take their health concerns very seriously, become informed and be prepared to ask all of the right questions of their health care provider.

Conventional family medicine can no longer give the kind of service that it once did. When you consider that an average family doctor in Toronto sees anywhere from 70 to 80 patients a day, it is no wonder that many women feel neglected and misunderstood. Conventional doctors just simply don't have the time to listen to their patients. The other downfall is that many of the drugs that we have come to trust, and which family practitioners have come to depend on, carry risks of dangerous side-effects - some of them fatal.

It is in this environment that naturopathic medicine proves a viable alternative. With emphasis on listening to the patient's needs, the naturopathic doctor utilizes an array of contemporary medical methods to restore health. Once restored, a preventative model is then administered so the patient is less likely to relapse. Treatment methods are also all-encompassing so that any other latent ailment that may be present will also be treated simultaneously. The result is that women are walking away more informed and more committed to their health than before. They become a willing participant, with the guidance and experience of their naturopath in the treatment of their condition.

The Future of Naturopathic Medicine

Considering the state of our crumbling health care system today, the future of naturopathic medicine is looking quite bright. As the general population becomes more informed about the the nature of their health and the health care system they are paying for (through their tax dollars), they will be more likely to make better choices regarding their health care provider(s). They will see Naturopathic medicine, as well as other alternative models, as an opportunity to take charge of their health in ways that are currently not possible with conventional medicine.

The illusion of a "Magic Pill" that cures all is a fading dream as people begin to realize that they need to proactively take responsibility for their own health. That these so called "magic pills" many times prove to have deadly side effects. For example, consider the recent Vioxx incident that is said to have claimed about 100,000 lives. The literature is full of such controversial drugs prescribed by conventional doctors to treat disease but more often than not have side-effects that can harm, and sometimes kill it's users. According to a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine ( Woos, AJJ, CM Stein and Woosley, R. "Making Medicines Safer." New England Journal of Medicine 339(1998):1851-1854) that 100,000 people die each year from "adverse drug reactions", making them one of the most common causes of death (see http://upalumni.org/medschool/appendices/appendix-73a.html and here http://www.mercola.com/2003/nov/26/death_by_medicine.htm). This is an outstanding number of deaths.

Naturopathic medicine by contrast does not use drugs to treat disease and instead utilizes more gentler means of treatment. Much of it's focus is also on preventative methods, which in turn place a greater demand that patients take an active responsibility for their health. Further, most naturopathic remedies and treatments are affordable relative to the pharmaceuticals prescribed by conventional doctors. Because of this, pharmaceutical companies don't endorse Naturopathic medicine. There is simply no money in it. Keep in mind that major drug companies are publicly traded companies on the stock exchange and by law they have a judicial duty and responsibility to their share holders to turn a profit. They have no judicial duty to the end user of the drugs they produce. With their power they are in a position to lobby governments and influence laws controlling and sometimes banning natural medicines. In 1994 the Pharmaceutical lobby of Canada, in an attempt to stop the sale of natural remedies at health food stores, came close to putting in a law that would have every know "stimulant" be approved and regulated before becoming available to the public. This law was aptly struck down when confusion arose regarding the definition of a "stimulant" which began to include other things like coffee and common tea. You could image the fiasco if the general public would have had if there were to be a surcharge on their coffee and tea just so that it could be regulated!

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