What is Naturopathic Medicine?
History of Naturopathic Medicine
As a distinct American health care profession, Naturopathic Medicine is almost 100 years old. Its roots go back through medical history to the healing wisdom of many cultures and times.
At the turn of the century, practitioners of a variety of medical disciplines combined natural therapeutics in a way they had never been combined before. They joined together to form the first Naturopathic professional medical societies. Naturopathic Medical conventions in the 1920's attracted more than 10,000 practitioners. Earlier in the century there were more than 20 Naturopathic medical colleges, and naturopathic physicians were licensed in a majority of the states.
Naturopathic Medicine experienced a decline in the 1940's and 50's with the rise and popularity of pharmaceutical drugs, technological medicine, and the idea that drugs could eliminate all disease. It has experienced resurgence in the last three decades, as an alternative to conventional medicine. As a body of knowledge, Naturopathic Medicine continues to grow and evolve. It incorporates those elements of scientific modern medicine that forward the knowledge of the mechanisms of natural healing and therapeutics, especially in the fields of diagnosis, immunology, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and other clinical sciences. As an organized profession, Naturopathic Medicine is committed to ongoing research and development of its science through such organizations as the American Naturopathic Medical Association and the American Academy of Naturopathic Physicians
Another Kind of Doctor
Naturopathic physicians are clinically trained in a wide variety of medical systems. Some natural therapies practiced by Naturopathic Physicians are:
Clinical Nutrition. Nutrition and the therapeutic use of foods has always been a cornerstone of Naturopathic Medicine. A growing body of scientific knowledge in this area is reflected in many professional journals of nutrition and dietary sciences, has validated the naturopathic approach to diet, nutrition and blood type. Many medical conditions can be treated as effectively with foods and nutritional supplements as they can by any other means, but with fewer complications and side effects. Naturopathic Physicians receive more than 140 classroom hours in clinical nutrition; most medical doctors receive fewer than 20 hours.
Homeopathic Medicine. This powerful system of medicine is more than 200 years old, and is widely accepted in other countries. (The Royal Family of England uses a homeopathic physician.) Homeopathic medicines act to strengthen the body’s innate immune response; they seldom have side effects. Some conditions that conventional medicine has no effective treatment for respond well to homeopathy.
Botanical Medicine. Many plants contain substances that are powerful medicines, with advantages over conventional drugs. They are effective and safe when used properly, in the right dose and in the proper combinations with other herbs or treatments. A resurgence of scientific research in Europe and Asia is demonstrating that some plant substances are superior to synthetic drugs in clinical situations. Naturopathic Doctors are trained in both the art and the science of botanical medicine.
Physical Medicine. In the last 100 years, various methods of applying treatments through the manipulation of the muscles, bones and spine have been developed in the United States. Naturopathic Medicine has its own techniques collectively known as naturopathic manipulative therapy. Physical medicine also includes but is not limited to physiotherapy using heat and cold, gentle electrical pulses, diathermy and hydrotherapy, and exercise therapy. Acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, bio-magnetic, and bio-electric are other physical medical techniques used to heal the body.
Natural Childcare. Naturopathic physicians provide natural childcare in an out-of-hospital setting. They offer prenatal and post-natal care using the most modern assessment techniques.
Counseling and Stress Management. Mental attitudes and emotional states can be important elements in healing and disease. Naturopathic physicians are trained in various psychological techniques, including counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback and other methods.
The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The following principles are the foundation upon which naturopathic medical practice is built.
The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae.) Nature acts powerfully through healing mechanisms in the body and mind to maintain and restore health. Naturopathic Physicians work to restore and support these inherent healing systems when they have broken down, by using methods, medicines and techniques that are in harmony with natural processes.
First Do No Harm (Primum non nocere.) Naturopathic physicians prefer non-invasive treatments, which minimize the risks of harmful side effects. They are trained to know which patients they can treat safely, and which ones they need to refer to other health care practitioners.
Find the Cause (Tolle Causam.) Every illness has an underlying cause, often in aspects of the life- style, diet or habits of the individual. A Naturopathic Physician is trained to find and remove the underlying cause of a disease.
Treat the Whole Person. Health or diseases come from a complex interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, life-style, and other factors. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, considering these multi-dimentional factors.
Preventive Medicine. The Naturopathic approach to health care can prevent minor illnesses from developing into more serious or chronic degenerative diseases. Patients are taught the principles with which to live a healthy life; by following these principles they can prevent major illnesses.
A Natural System of Medicine That Meets Today's Needs Based on Timeless Principles
The philosophy of Naturopathy centers on the study of health and how to promote it, rather than the study of disease and how to suppress it. The rehabilitation of chronic ailments may consist in doing any one or more of the following things: Disease is the absence of health in the same way that darkness is the absence of light. Produce light and you eliminate darkness; produce health and you eliminate disease. The two opposites cannot exist at the same time. As you increase health, you decrease disease or ill health.
Naturopathic physicians cooperate freely with other practitioners of the healing arts. The naturopathic approach to the treatment of patients consists in the enlistment of
Naturopathic physicians as a profession believe that people are very well designed. Humans have been on this planet for quite awhile and you know when you are hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, tired, and sleepy and you will repair yourself when damaged. Therefore why should he assume your body does anything for no good reason?
Virus, bacteria and parasites have evidently been on this planet long before we were; therefore if we didn’t have the ability to compete in this environment, we humans would all be extinct. When something goes wrong, your body reacts to the imbalance the best it can; but it doesn’t have an infinite amount of time or resources to make repairs. Your body has natural defenses, but if it can’t resolve the problem shortly, it begins to develop symptoms. Symptoms are how your body copes with imbalances in an effort to restore itself, but if left unchecked, your body will produce more and more serious symptoms, which ultimately result in death in some form, like a heart attack, strokes, diabetes or cancer, etc.
A Naturopathic healthcare professional seeks to determine what your body is trying to do and help you to do it; and then the symptoms go away. Unlike conventional medicine which of course has its place in many situations, including serious life-threatening conditions, Naturopathic physicians are not ‘symptom driven’ and never suppresses or ‘Band-Aid’ symptoms. Rather they look for the cause of the imbalance, and support, promote, and encourage an approach in harmony with the Laws of Nature.