What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary care. You can think of a Naturopathic Doctor as a general practitioner of natural medicine. This is because naturopathic doctors are the only complimentary health care practitioners who are licensed by the government to provide natural health care for the whole body.
A licensed Naturopath has extensive training: The standard 3 years pre-medical studies at university that MD’s do, then 4 years full-time education at an approved College of Naturopathic Medicine. The first 2 years focus on the basic medical sciences and diagnosis, as in allopathic (MD) training. The last 2 years concentrate on naturopathic principles and therapeutics, including extensive naturopathic clinical practice in a supervised teaching clinic.
Naturopathic doctors recognize that illness doesn’t occur without cause and so there is a definitive need to identify and remove the cause. Symptoms can be expressions of the body’s attempt to heal itself, or they may be the results of the cause of the disease. The naturopathic practitioner seeks to treat the cause of the disease, rather than merely eliminate or suppress the symptomatic language by which the body tells us of its difficulties. Indeed, wherever possible, suppression of symptoms is avoided, since suppression generally interferes with the normal healing process and the naturopathic professional oath dictates: Primum Nom Nocere – first Do No Harm.
Naturopaths believe in the healing power of nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae). Naturopaths recognize this as the inherent, self-organizing and healing process of living systems which establishes, maintains and restores health. Naturopathic medicine recognizes this healing process to be ordered and intelligent. Yet sometimes the ability to maintain and heal ourselves becomes overwhelmed by things that happen in our lives. Anything on the physical, mental or emotional level can knock us out of balance, little by little or with one big kick, eg. contaminants in the environment we live and work in, stresses at work or at home, nutritional sensitivities or imbalances, accidents, bereavement etc. etc.
A naturopathic practitioners role is to support, facilitate and augment the self-healing process. This is accomplished by identifying and removing obstacles to health and recovery and by supporting the creation of a healthy internal and external environment.
The basic approach of naturopathic medicine is to treat the person suffering the disease or imbalance, rather than treating the symptoms that result from the problem.
Naturopathic medicine is unique in its integrated approach to health. It enables the practitioner several ways of analyzing patterns of symptoms and coming to an understanding of what is happening to the body. In addition to western or allopathic system of analysis which of course includes laboratory diagnosis, Naturopaths are also trained in traditional Chinese medicine syndrome differentiation, homeopathic symptom interpretation, iridology, dietary and nutritional analysis, structural assessment and an understanding of how emotional stressors affect health.
Naturopaths do not use prescription drugs or surgery – the two focal points of allopathic medicine. Naturopaths instead, focus on giving the body what it needs to do the job itself; gentle therapeutics that support and stimulate the body’s own healing mechanisms to bring the patient back to a healthy balance.