What Is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is a natural healing technique using the healing powers of nature. Sometimes referred to as “natural medicine,” naturopathy goes back thousands of years, drawing on the healing wisdom of many cultures including Indian (Ayurvedic), Chinese (Taoist), Greek (Hippocratic), Arabian, Egyptian, and European (monastic medicine) traditions. Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2,400 years ago, is often considered the earliest predecessor of naturopathic physicians, particularly because of his teachings “nature is healer of all diseases” and his formulation of the concept vis medicatrix naturae — “the healing power of nature.” This idea has long been at the core of indigenous medicine in many cultures around the world and remains one of the central themes of naturopathic philosophy to this day.
Naturopathy is guided by six fundamental principles:
- The healing power of nature
- First do no harm
- Find and treat the underlying cause and not just the symptom
- Always treat the person as whole, not only the disease
The philosophy of Naturopathic Medicine is that all living beings have an innate ability to heal themselves. Our vital force promotes self-cleansing, self-repair, and therefore, self-healing. This process can be achieved by focusing on the immune, hormonal, nervous, and detoxification/elimination systems of the body. Naturopathy supports the body’s natural self-healing abilities and helps it to restore balance.
What is the education of a Naturopathic Doctor?
A Naturopathic Doctor undergoes a four-year undergraduate training in regular pre-medical programs followed by four to five years of graduate medical training, including a two-year clinical internship.
The four year program includes over 4,500 hours of classroom training in basic medical science courses (i.e. anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, neuroscience, etc.), clinical sciences (i.e. clinical diagnosis, pathology, pediatrics, oncology, & gastroenterology, etc.), and naturopathic therapies, as well as 1,500 hours of supervised clinical experience. Overall, academic training in medical sciences of NDs and MDs is similar. Those students who graduate from a qualified naturopathic college receive the designation Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND).
Why choose Naturopathy?
There are many reasons to choose naturopathy:
- If you have a chronic disease which is not responding to the treatments recommended by medical doctors.
- If you are tired of taking drugs to maintain health for the rest of your life. Naturopathic treatments address the root cause instead of symptoms.
- If you want treatment that offers a holistic approach i.e. it considers all your symptoms and you as a whole, instead of just targeting the disease to be eliminated.
- If you prefer natural cures to drug based symptom treatment, and want to avoid drug side effects (all drugs have side effects – even the safest approved drugs have side effects).
What are the specialties of Naturopathy?
Naturopathy has many different specialties which include:
- Clinical Nutrition: This includes nutritional supplements, nutrition counseling, and dietary changes such as eating more whole and unprocessed foods. A majority of medical conditions can be treated effectively with diet alone or in combination with nutritional supplements.
- Physical Medicine: Focuses on the muscles, bones, and spine, using massage, exercise, heat, water, and cold to heal.
- Homeopathy: Works to strengthen the body’s immune system by giving natural medicine that produces similar symptoms to what the body is already feeling in order to treat an illness. Homeopathy is based on the principle “like cures like.”
- Botanical Medicine: Uses plants as medicines to treat disease. Today’s research has proven the medicinal powers of many common plants. A herb usually works on the body in one of three ways: it can purge the body of impurities, it can build up the immune system, or it can strengthen the makeup of an organ so it will function at optimal efficiency.
- Chinese Medicine: Is based on the theory that vital energy (called “qi” or “chi”) flows throughout the body via certain pathways (or “meridians”). According to this theory, illness and other emotional, mental, and physical health problems develop when qi is blocked. Restoring the flow of qi is considered essential to balancing the yin and yang and, in turn, achieving wellness. The treatments used are Acupuncture or Acupressure.
- Psychotherapy and Counseling: Counseling techniques include stress management strategies and life coaching.
What diagnostic tools are used in Naturopathy?
Both, traditional and naturopathic, diagnostic tools are used for evaluating health concerns and determining the most appropriate treatment program. The diagnostic tools used include:
In-depth Health History
An initial appointment is usually about 1½ to 2 hours and it covers your family’s and your medical history, your lifestyle, the stress in your life, and all aspects related to your current concern – when it started, how it feels, whether it’s constant or periodic, if you are experiencing any other symptoms simultaneously. The doctor will also ask about various bodily parts and functions such as hearing, sleep patterns, bowel function, and sex life. These issues provide insight into the overall picture of your health. Doctors will also typically enquire about your childhood and important moments in your life; relationship with your partner, friends, and family; and your work life. You will also be asked in some detail about your diet and lifestyle habits, such as the amount of exercise, if you smoke, drink, etc. and the frequency with which you do so. Keep in mind, you do not have to answer any questions that make you uncomfortable; however, the more information you share, the better the treatment plan can be customized to take into account your unique situation.
Assessment of food is made by asking questions about your eating habits and diet. Often the doctor will take the time to understand and evaluate the impact of eating habits and diet on your health.
In Naturopathy, all visits include a physical examination. As with conventional doctors, “vital signs,” such as temperature, blood pressure, weight, and pulse, are routinely recorded. The doctor will also perform additional examination as necessary to determine the source of your health problem such as palpating the abdomen, checking for reflexes, or looking in the ears, eyes and mouth. Naturopathic Doctors often take more time to ensure that the “minor” symptoms are identified and addressed before they become a “major” problem. Clients are encouraged to have a complete physical exam annually as it is an essential part of a preventative health care program.
In Naturopathy, a variety of testing methods are used to evaluate bodily functions and locate evidence of particular concerns. Many of these tests are identical or similar to those run by conventional doctors: blood tests for anemia and liver problems, urine tests for kidney problems, stool tests for infections, etc.
Some less common tests are also employed. For instance, some blood, urine, stool and saliva tests help evaluate the function of various organs and body systems.
- Blood tests help determine food allergies or look for deficiencies in vitamins and minerals.
- Saliva tests are most often used to evaluate adrenal gland function by looking at levels of the cortisol hormone at different points during the day. Saliva tests are also useful for assessing imbalances in other hormone systems.
- Urine tests are commonly used to look for heavy metal toxicity and to check for hormone and neurotransmitter levels.
- Stool tests are useful for determining bacterial imbalances, the presence of candida and other fungi, and can identify markers for inflammation or poor digestion.
What Illnesses Can Naturopathy Treat?
There are a wide range of illnesses which Naturopathy treats either alone or in combination with other complementary treatments.
- Internal Organ Dysfunction e.g. chronic disorders of Lungs, Liver, Kidneys, and Heart
- Common Chronic Diseases e.g. Hypertension, Diabetes, Asthma, Obesity
- GI Tract Disorders e.g. Colitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Chronic Constipation
- Joint Pains e.g. Arthritis, Spondylosis, Sciatica, Back Pain, etc.
- Neuro Muscular e.g. Paralysis, Neuro Myopathy, Hemiplegia, etc.
What Techniques and Treatments are used in Naturopathy?
In consultation with the client, any of the following might be recommended:
- Mud Therapy
- Fasting Therapy
- Reflex Therapy
- Naturopathic Manipulation
- Massage Therapy
- Yoga and Pranayama
- Botanical Medicine
- Counseling and Lifestyle Modification
- Special Programs