What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of healthcare that addresses the root causes of illness and promotes health and healing using natural therapies. The focus of naturopathic medicine is on optimizing health and well-being through individualized patient care and education.
Naturopathic medicine involves therapies which are gentle, non-invasive, and designed to support the body’s own healing mechanisms. These therapies include: acupuncture, botanical (herbal) medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, and nutritional and lifestyle counseling.
What education and training do Naturopathic doctors have?
Naturopathic physicians must complete undergraduate work in pre-medical sciences, then 4-5 years of graduate work with a theoretical and clinical component at one of 6 accredited schools in North America. These schools are carefully regulated to ensure a high quality, standardized education. Upon completion of this education, naturopathic physicians must pass licensing exams to be qualified to work as primary care physicians.
How are Naturopathic doctors regulated?
To be licensed to practice naturopathic medicine in BC you must:
- Have completed at least 3 years of liberal arts or sciences at a university.
- Have graduated from a recognized naturopathic medicine education program. There are currently four schools in the United States and two in Canada.
- Have successfully completed rigorous professional board exams, both written and oral.
- Have your application accepted by the College of Naturopathic Physicians of British Columbia (CNPBC).
Why would someone go to a naturopathic doctor?
Naturopathic doctors are unique in health care because their training combines conventional medical sciences and diagnostic tools with a broad scope of therapies. The ability to integrate different philosophies and practices gives us many tools to work with. This allows greater flexibility and creativity when approaching complex subjects like health and disease.
Common reasons people visit a naturopathic doctor:
- they have a chronic health issue or a ‘niggly’ sense that something is not right, and have been to numerous practitioners and not found sustainable relief
- they experience a major health crisis and want to explore their treatment options
- they want to feel better – they want to sleep well, have plenty of energy, have stable moods, live without pain or discomfort, they want to achieve their goals and know peace in their daily life
- they feel overwhelmed by the growing mountain of health products they think they should be taking and want a professional to help them prioritize
- they want a comprehensive health creation and disease prevention program
- they choose to have a naturopathic doctor as their family doctor
We encourage people to see an ND before their health is in crisis. Minor health problems are symptoms of imbalance - warning signs from your body that it is not functioning as well as it could be. The earlier you address a health concern, the easier it is to treat.
What is the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a specific system of medicine that uses diluted potencies of natural substances to stimulate the body to heal itself. Naturopathy is a medical practice that integrates a wide variety of therapies, including homeopathy, to treat the cause of an individual’s symptoms.
Why would I see a naturopathic doctor when I can get good advice about natural products from my health food store?
Naturopathic doctors are primary care physicians. This means they base recommendations on a diagnosis or probable cause of a problem, rather than symptoms. For example, fatigue can be caused by hundreds of different factors – from sleep disturbance to anemia to cancer. A naturopathic doctor considers medical history, physical exams, and appropriate laboratory testing in their assessment to determine what treatment will be the most appropriate, safe, and effective. Treatments are individualized and take into account your whole history. A further benefit of consulting a naturopathic doctor is that your response to therapies are monitored and adjusted as needed.
Do you work with other health care professionals?
Quality health care involves teamwork and communication. For far too long, various disciplines have worked in isolation, without communication. Our patients feel caught between differing therapeutic philosophies, often to their detriment. I feel strongly that the best care we can offer our patients is one of true integration, where all health professionals work together respectfully, holding the intention to provide the best possible care to every individual.
For this reason, I regularly refer patients to other professionals. As well, I am happy to work with your other health care providers at your request. Because naturopathic medicine has so many tools, your treatment can be individualized to complement other therapies you may be receiving. An example of complementary medicine is pre- and post- surgical support to help reduce your chance of complications and help you heal faster.
It is important to recognize that all systems of medicine have their strengths and weaknesses. During a life-threatening event, like a major trauma or meningitis, there is no question that conventional medicine has powerful tools and resources that will save your life. Specialists like oncologists, endocrinologists, and gynecologists have a focused body of knowledge that allows them to be experts in a specific area of medicine. Similarly, Osteopaths and Registered Clinical Counselors, are trained to be experts in their chosen philosophies and therapies. Naturopathic doctors are trained to be primary care doctors who can integrate a number of different philosophies and therapies. By understanding both conventional and alternative treatments, we can help our patients combine the best of both worlds.
What conditions do you treat?
We treat people rather than conditions. There is no set treatment protocol or magic supplement that will cure all IBS, osteoarthritis, or thyroid dysfunction because everyone is an individual with different factors that need to be addressed. The therapies we choose are targeted at removing a person’s unique obstructions to healing and promoting optimal health. This treatment approach can be applied to anyone who would like to improve their overall health.
Are Naturopathic Physicians licensed to prescribe pharmaceuticals?
Yes, as of the fall 2010, legislation was passed to grant licensed NDs practicing in British Columbia authority to prescribe a wide range of pharmaceutical medications. This was initiated to provide NDs, as primary care physicians, the ability to appropriately manage patient medications and to prescribe in emergency situations or when deemed necessary for the patient. This also allows NDs access to a number of traditional medicines that have become restricted for use without prescriptive authority.