Naturopathic medicine includes the diagnoses, treatment, and prevention of disease, as well as the promotion of health. Naturopathy is not a single modality-treatment, but draws upon many natural healing interventions and diagnostic techniques. One key to holistic wellness is minimal medical invasiveness. Naturopathy emphasizes the adage “do no harm”, by stressing the use of interventions that are largely free of side effects rather than pharmaceutical medicines and surgery.
Naturopathy is one of the oldest forms of medicine known to human-kind, tracing its roots to the healing techniques of ancient China, India and Greece, and to the Native American cultures. It weaves these healing traditions together with modern scientific principles and technology. Naturopathy was introduced as a formal American health care profession at the turn of 20th century by Dr. Benedict Lust. He came from Germany to the United States in 1896 to teach hydrotherapy, which he had used to help cure himself of tuberculosis. He founded the first school of naturopathic medicine in New York City, and taught herbal medicine, nutrition, physiotherapy, psychology, homeopathy, and manipulation techniques.Nature has the power to heal. It is the physician’s role to support the self-healing process by removing obstacles to health.Treat the whole person. Disease rarely has a single cause, so every aspect of the patient must be brought into harmonious balance.First, do no harm. A physician should utilize methods and substances that are as nontoxic and noninvasive as possibleIdentify and treat the causes. Rather than suppress symptoms, the physician should treat the underlying cause of the diseasePrevention is as important as cure A physician should help create health, as well as cure disease.Doctors should be teachers “Doctor” originally meant “teacher”. Part of the physician’s task is to educate the patient and encourage self-responsibility.
Naturopathic physicians help mobilize their patients’ own natural healing powers. They teach us how to live a healthier life and thereby minimize the chances of major breakdown in our body. I find principle number four above is a big problem in the health industry today. We have many pharmaceutical companies and doctors sponsoring research on how to cover up symptoms rather than treat and cure the underlying cause of these symptoms. I love that naturopathy advocates against this and it is for this reason that I would recommend a naturopathic doctor or approach before seeing a standard general practitioner.
- Clinical nutrition. Therapeutic use of nutrition and diet is the cornerstone or naturopathic medicine. Naturopaths make dietary recommendations and suggest nutritional supplements, including herbs, vitamins and minerals. I will post an entire article on supplementation later.
- Physical medicine. Naturopaths often use hydrotherapy, exercise, massage, naturopathic manipulation techniques(which are somewhat similar to chiropractic), immobilization, ultrasound, heat therapy, electrical stimulation and even light therapy.
- Homeopathy This is a frequent area of specialization among naturopathic practitioners and is a healing system that stimulates the body’s own natural force. It uses extremely dilute preparations of natural substances to stimulate the body’s natural self healing mechanisms.
- Botanical medicine Naturopathic physicians are trained herbalists who believe that using whole plants is generally more effective and less harmful than using either isolated chemical substances derived from plants. They are used in a way that minimize undesirable effects.
- Traditional Chinese medicine. A common area of specialization among naturopaths is traditional Chinese medicine, which includes the use of Chinese herbs and acupuncture.
- Ayurveda, Sanskrit for “science of life” originated in India. It is the world’s oldest organized system of natural medicine. It deals with eight unique disciplines including Toxicology, Paediatrics, and even demonic possession.
- Counseling and psychotherapy. Naturopaths are trained in counseling, psychotherapy, behavioral medicine, hypnosis, stress management, and biofeedback. They use these techniques to get patients to comply with lifestyle change.
- Minor surgery. Naturopaths are trained to perform a variety of minor surgical techniques (which are done in the office under local anesthesia) such as superficial wound repair, removal of foreign masses, sclerosing therapy for spider and varicose veins, circumcision, and the setting on fractures.
Initial consultation with a naturopathic physician takes about an hour, though patients may fill out a questionnaire ahead of time. The naturopath takes a complete medical history and evaluates the patient’s lifestyle as a whole.One of the largest challenges facing those who wish to achieve holistic wellness is to ensure that medical treatment is as minimally invasive as possible while still being appropriate. The facts are startling. Studies show that if you live near a major medical center, for instance, you are more likely to have a prostate operation, a hysterectomy, or any number of other procedures. We have been conditioned to believe that this is a good thing – quick access to medical care is critical, that these operations are appropriate.However, statistics tell us that people who live in rural areas far away from major medical centers and who do not undergo these operations have about the same survival rate as those patients who do have the procedures.