17 Dec 2014
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Naturopathic Doctors Rely on Science to Heal Their Patients

Naturopathic Doctors Rely on Science to Heal Their Patients

EXETER, N.H. — With little known about the education and practice of naturopathic physicians, the new law mandating insurance coverage is shedding light on this highly effective treatment option. 

A 2013 law requires New Hampshire insurers to provide coverage for services delivered by naturopathic doctors if those services would be covered when provided by other primary care providers. It is ironic that although naturopathic doctors — or NDs, for short — undergo virtually the same training as medical doctors, their services had not been covered by insurance companies in New Hampshire. 

Naturopathic doctors emphasize illness prevention and lifestyle guidance rather than pharmaceutical or surgical procedures in their practice. About 75 percent of health-care spending nationwide goes to treating chronic diseases, particularly those caused by diet and stress, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. 

Here on the Seacoast, two naturopathic doctors — Dr. Robyn Giard and Dr. Krista Delaplane of Starry Brook Natural Medicine in Exeter — display some overlapping talents and other divergent skills, fulfilling the promise of naturopathy by identifying and treating the causes of illness, rather than erasing these important clues with drugs. And by doing so, they are improving their patients’ health. 

Before entering medical school to study naturopathic medicine, Drs. Giard and Delaplane fulfilled the same prerequisites as medical doctors — also known as MDs or “allopaths.” These courses included chemistry, physics, biology and biochemistry.  

Like MDs, ND students sit two sets of boards. The first two years of ND medical school are the same basic science portion: anatomy and physiology, microbiology, biochemistry and other similar courses. The second two years are the clinical and diagnostic portion, where NDs learn how to perform a physical exam and study such disciplines as gynecology and pharmacology. 

One thing that separates NDs from MDs is the additional in-depth training naturopathic doctors get in such practices as acupuncture, botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, counseling and homeopathy. And naturopathic doctors often pursue post-doctoral training, allowing them to specialize in therapies that have proved their value over time. Naturopaths also must complete continuing medical education annually to keep their licenses. 

Both physicians emphasize the importance of integration of physical symptoms with emotions.  “Most allopaths focus on exterior symptomology, unaware that these symptoms often manifest from internal issues, such as anxiety, depression or stress,” notes Dr. Giard. 

Dr. Robyn Giard

Dr. Giard attended  Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, in Tempe, Ariz., an institution with a strong focus on integrative medicine. Integrative medicine is defined as “medicine that integrates the therapies of alternative medicine with those practiced by mainstream medical practitioners,” according to Merriam-Webster.com. So, Dr. Giard performed clinical rotations with MDs, DOs (Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine), as well as NDs in Arizona and Connecticut. 

“My physical and diagnostic skills are on par with my allopathic peers,” she says. During this time her primary focus was on clinical training in OB/GYN and mental health.  

In her third- and fourth-year studies, Dr. Giard also studied naturopathic manipulation therapy,  cardiology, neurology, geriatrics, pediatrics, gynecology, proctology, laboratory diagnosis — allowing her to draw blood and interpret labs — and diagnostic imaging. And she learned about the interactions between conventional pharmaceutical drugs and naturopathic herbs, allowing her to prescribe pharmaceuticals when warranted.  

Dr. Giard is also schooled in stress management techniques such as hydrotherapy — the use of water in different forms to work with a patient’s physiology. “Hydrotherapy is such an effective form of stress management that the Navy used it for years before prescription drugs became the norm,” says Dr. Giard. 

Dr. Giard has also been involved in extensive studies regarding the impact of nutrition on mental illness, including ADHD, depression and anxiety. She believes that homeopathy and botanical medicine complement dietary revision, lifestyle changes and mind-body therapies to help restore balance for her patients. 

Dr. Giard currently practices as a primary care physician, prescribing medications, ordering labs and imaging, performing physical exams, as well as offering her patients acupuncture, counseling, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and homeopathy. 

“My practice is firmly grounded in science,” says Dr Giard. “Acupuncture, herbs, and clinical nutrition all have fabulous studies to support their use.”  

Dr. Giard contrasts the time she spends with patients, often an hour for a first consultation, with the average seven minutes an MD takes. “I provide thorough patient care,” she says, “by taking adequate time, listening to the patient and hearing what they say. This is where we shine — in the time we take to know the patient and to help them integrate all parts of their life so that they can shine.” 

Dr. Krista Delaplane

Dr. Delaplane graduated from the National College of Natural Medicine, in Portland, Ore., with a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine. She is a board licensed naturopathic doctor in New Hampshire, as well as a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the New Hampshire Association of Naturopathic Doctors

Dr. Delaplane has been a student of herbal medicine and homeopathy for more than 10 years and enjoys sharing her love of healing plants with her patients. Prior to her career in naturopathic medicine, Dr. Delaplane worked as an herbalist in Brattleboro, Vt., and completed Reiki practitioner training at  Chiyu Center in Portland, Ore. She offers Reiki therapy sessions in addition to comprehensive primary care services at Starry Brook. 

Reiki promotes the healthy flow of energy within the body. Reiki energy therapy enhances the effectiveness of medical treatments and has been studied for illnesses such as  cancerfibromyalgia and mood disorders. 

Dr. Delaplane specializes in a natural approach to family medicine and treats patients of all ages. As a naturopathic doctor, she is an expert in diagnosing and treating the cause of persistent health problems. She has a special interest in treating children with chronic disease. During medical school, she dedicated 100 hours of mentorship to autism and pervasive developmental disorders. 

As does Dr. Giard, Dr. Delaplane individualizes medicine to meet patient’s physical and spiritual needs. 

“That means that as a naturopathic doctor when a patient comes in and tells me, ‘I have anxiety,’ that there is a lot more that I need to know about that person and how they experience anxiety in order to select the best medicine to help them,” says Dr. Delaplane. 

She explains that she has “a much bigger toolbox” of what she can use to treat anxiety or things that cause stress in people’s lives than what a regular medical doctor can provide. 

“I can use herbal medicine — there are hundreds of herbs that I can use — nutritional supplements, vitamins and minerals. I can use some physical medicine or manipulation,” she says. “I can do lifestyle counseling on helping people manage their schedules, manage their stress, and help them create an exercise plan which really helps them reduce stress. I can use amino acids. I can use nutrient IVs and homeopathy.” 

Dr. Delaplane says homeopathy gets to the deepest root of what often is stressing people out or the way their body reacts to stress. But the Starry Brook doctors can treat stress using other methods, as well. These include such simple things as telling patients to take a break and get a massage once a week or a couple of times a month. Drs. Delaplane and Giard also refer patients to Starry Brook’s hypnotherapist, Alena Ciriello. “She helps teach people to explore and identify their triggers for anxiety and stress, and then helps make positive changes in their lives using hypnosis,” says Dr. Delaplane.  

If a patient’s stress level leads to mood disorders like anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or even depression, Drs. Giard and Delaplane also often refer the patient out to other providers, often a psychiatrist, a mental health counselor or a behavioral counselor, to help patients explore other causes of stress and make changes.” 

Starry Brook Natural Medicine is a business partner of the Green Alliance, a union of local sustainable businesses promoting environmentally sound business practices and a green co-op offering discounted green products and services to its members. Green Alliance members get 20 percent off hourly consultation and service rates at Starry Brook. 

For more information about Starry Brook Natural Medicine, visit www.starrybrook.com

And for the Green Alliance, visit www.greenalliance.biz.