“What is naturopathic medicine?” Maybe you’ve been asked this question by family, friends, or even strangers. Or perhaps you’ve asked this question yourself in an attempt to grasp the idea and scope of this type of alternative medicine.
In this article I’ll aim to answer this question by diving into:
- What is naturopathic medicine (beyond a type of alternative medicine)?
- The six principles of naturopathic medicine
- The training of a naturopathic doctor
- How to find the right naturopathic doctor for you
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a type of alternative medicine that compromises and integrates multiple different modalities such as:
- Botanical Medicine
- Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture
- Mental Health & Counselling
- Hydrotherapy & Massage
- …and more!
It combines these modalities with knowledge of human physiology, anatomy, and biochemistry to get to the root cause of health issues. Targeting the root cause is a main focus of naturopathic medicine and one aspect that sets it apart from allopathic or conventional medicine.
What does targeting the root cause mean? It means diving deep into the patient’s health history, discussing or suggesting additional testing, and using the holistic or whole person perspective to determine what organ(s), system(s), and/or pathogen(s) are contributing to the patient’s condition(s) or issue(s).
Appointments with naturopathic doctors allow for this extensive history taking and the opportunity to build a positive relationship with the patient, as they can range from 60-90 minutes long.
The treatment protocol or plan will also reflect a holistic perspective and take different aspects, such as lifestyle, nutrition, and supplements, into consideration.
The Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Additionally, naturopathic medicine is built on the foundation of six principles, which naturopathic doctors aim to utilize in their practice:
- First, Do No Harm (Primum non nocere): naturopathic doctors aim to take the necessary steps possible to prevent harm by focusing on the least invasive and low risk options first.
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis medicatrix naturae): naturopathic doctors aim to stimulate the body’s own healing systems or the vis.
- Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle causam): as mentioned previously, naturopathic doctors aim to identify the root cause and treat the root cause.
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere): naturopathic doctors aim to empower their patients with the knowledge to support their health, prevent further health complications, and thrive.
- Treat the Whole Person (Tolle totum): as mentioned previously, naturopathic doctors treat the whole person by looking at the bigger picture, recognizing the body is integrated whole with systems and processes, and looking at physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors.
- Prevention (Praevenic): by using the modalities principles stated above naturopathic doctors focus on preventative care.
The Training of a Naturopathic Doctor
Naturopathic doctors learn these modalities and principles over the course of a 4 year program that is structured similarly to conventional medicine:
- 2 board exams called the NPLEX: first one is at the end of second year focusing on basic sciences and the second one is a licensing exam at the end of the fourth year.
- First year covers basic sciences except for naturopathic medicine programs in which students are also introduced to the basics of the holistic modalities.
- Students have to complete and pass OSCEs, or objective structured clinical examinations.
- In the fourth year, students complete a clinical practice internship under the supervision of a licensed naturopathic doctor.
How to Find the Right Naturopathic Doctor For You
Although naturopathic doctors are trained with these different modalities, not all naturopathic doctors will use every single one of these modalities. Many naturopathic doctors niche down and focus on one or a few of these modalities in their practice.
Some will focus on acupuncture while others will focus heavily on nutrition and lifestyle changes. Many doctors also choose to niche down for specific areas in health such as women’s hormones or sports medicine.
The best way to find the right naturopathic doctor for you is to do a search using your search engine with the keywords or specific focus you’re looking for along with the name of your city/town. Also search social media, especially Instagram, using hashtags on your specific health issues or location tags of your area or city. You can ask for a free short 15 or 30 minute consultation to determine if they’d be the perfect fit for you!
Interested in visiting a Naturopath? A Personal Health Plan from Saskatchewan Blue Cross offers coverage for Health Practitioners, including Naturopaths!