What is Naturopathic Medicine?

On September 18, congress designated the week of October 6 through October 12, 2014, as “Naturopathic Medicine Week” to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care (S.Res.420.)

Naturopathic Medicine Week 2014.jpg

Since this is coming up next week, you might be wondering

“What exactly IS naturopathic medicine, anyway?”

Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct system of primary health care which emphasizes prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ ability to heal as naturally as possible.

The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods. Naturopathic Physicians follow six primary principles to deliver their patients the best possible care:

  • The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): This means the Naturopathic Physicians recognize that each person's body has the ability to heal itself. By respecting and working with this Naturopathic Physicians work to identify and remove obstacles to recovery and to facilitate this inherent self-healing process.

A good example of this is the use of constitutional hydrotherapy to promote recovery from anxiety conditions. Scientifically, we would say that the parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated by this treatment, and this increases the body’s ability to recover and heal itself after stressful times.

  • Identify and Treat the Causes (Tolle Causam): The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms.

An example of this principle would be promote immune response to a virus or bacteria that is causing a runny nose and address the reasons the person was susceptible to illness rather than merely stopping the person’s nose from running.

  • First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere): Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient:

o Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk

o Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms

o Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process.

For this example, let’s go back to that person with the runny nose. Stopping this discharge that their body is trying to get rid of could result in harm by reducing the body's natural method of bacterial/viral elimination. Consider another patient with a mild GI infection; in order to avoid further GI upset the use of immune support and gentle antimicrobial herbs would be chosen before the use of prescription antibiotics to avoid damaging natural gut flora

  • Doctor as Teacher (Docere): Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.

Naturopathic Physicians spend a lot of time educating their patients on possible treatment options and recommendations and then allow patients to decide the plan of action and, importantly, respect their decisions

  • Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development.

Consider two patients with constipation – one may need to drink more water or eat more fiber, but another may have increased stress and poor coping skills that cause the constipation. Though they may have the same symptoms or diseases, no two people are exactly alike and therefore no two treatments will be exactly alike in naturopathic medicine. This connects back to treating the cause of the problem!

  • Prevention: Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness.

An example of preventative medicine would be if patients with family history or genetic risks for cancer or heart disease are encouraged to make healthy lifestyle changes to decrease risk of disease occurrence

“So What Do Naturopathic Physicians DO?”

Licensure and scope of practice differ for Naturopathic Physicians from state to state. Naturopathic Physicians are licensed in the state of Hawai’i (as well as many others- click here) to use clinical nutrition, parenteral therapy (injections), nutritional supplementation, prescription and pharmaceutical medications, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine and herbs, psychology and counseling, physical medicine and manipulation, minor surgical procedures, hydrotherapy, as well as screening and exam procedures.

Licensed Naturopathic Physicians have trained for 4+ years in an accredited graduate level naturopathic medical school to specialize in conditions such as endocrine and hormonal imbalances, gastroenterological conditions, allergies and many other complex problems. In many states, Naturopaths function as Primary Care Providers.

In honor of Naturopathic Medicine Week, Klein Natural Health and Wellness Center will be offering 20% OFF all naturopathic services from October 6-12, 2014. Call (808) 959-4588 for more information.

For more information about Naturopathic Medicine, click here for the website of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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