The philosophical approach of naturopathic medicine includes prevention of disease, encouragement of the body's inherent healing abilities, natural treatment of the whole person, personal responsibility for one's health, and education of patients in health-promoting lifestyles. Naturopathic practice blends centuries-old knowledge of natural, nontoxic therapies with current advances in the understanding of health and human systems. The scope of practice includes all aspects of family and primary care, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and all natural medicine modalities.
The U.S. Department of Labor defines the naturopathic physician as one who "diagnoses, treats, and cares for patients, using a system of practice that bases its treatment of all physiological functions and abnormal conditions on natural laws governing the body, utilizes physiological, psychological and mechanical methods, such as air, water, heat, earth, phytotherapy (treatment by use of plants), electrotherapy, physiotherapy, minor or orificial surgery, mechanotherapy, naturopathic corrections and manipulation, and all natural methods or modalities, together with natural medicines, natural processed foods, herbs, and natural remedies.
Naturopathic treatments exclude major surgery, therapeutic use of x-ray and radium, and use of drugs, except those assimilable substances containing elements or compounds which are compounds of body tissues and are physiologically compatible to body processes for maintenance of life."
Most naturopathic physicians provide primary care integrative natural medicine through office-based, private practice. Many receive additional training in disciplines or modalities such as midwifery, acupuncture and Oriental medicine, homeopathy, psychotherapy, and Ayurvedic medicine to broaden the services they can offer their patients. An increasing trend is the establishment of associate practices and interdisciplinary integrated care clinics, bringing together the services of a diverse group of practitioners. Some naturopathic physicians choose to practice as specialists.
Naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, including naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology and spirituality.
Information technology and new concepts in clinical outcomes assessment are particularly well-suited to evaluating the effectiveness of naturopathic treatment protocols and are being used in research, both at naturopathic medical schools and in the offices of practicing physicians. Clinical research into natural therapies has become an increasingly important focus for naturopathic physicians.
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