AN INTRODUCTION TO NATUROPATHIC MEDICINE
Naturopathic physicians (NDs) are general practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. They are educated in the conventional medical sciences, but they are not orthodox medical doctors (MDs). Naturopathic physicians treat disease and restore health using therapies from the sciences of clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, exercise therapy, counseling, acupuncture, natural childbirth, and hydrotherapy. They tailor these approaches to the needs of an individual patient. Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating most health problems, whether acute or chronic. Naturopathic physicians cooperate with all other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners (MD’s, Chiropractors, etc.) for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.
In practice, naturopathic physicians perform physical examinations, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, X-ray examinations, and other diagnostic tests. They are the only primary care physicians clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. They combine and tailor these treatments to the needs of the individual based on a cogent philosophy that acknowledges the patient as a participant.
The naturopathic physician has a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree from a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical college. Connecticut has licensed Naturopathic physicians since 1923.
ANOTHER KIND OF DOCTOR
Naturopathic physicians are the only primary care physicians clinically trained in a wide variety of natural therapeutics. Some of the therapies used by naturopathic physicians are:
Clinical Nutrition. Nutrition and the therapeutic use of foods have always been a cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. A growing body of scientific knowledge in this area is reflected in numerous professional journals of nutrition and dietary sciences, validating the naturopathic approach to diet and nutrition. 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 plant substances 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 U.S. 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, ultrasound, diathermy and hydrotherapy and exercise therapy.
Oriental Medicine. Naturopathic physicians are trained in the fundamentals of oriental medicine and diagnosis, and many use acupuncture, acupressure and oriental botanical medicine in their practices.
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 principles of naturopathic medicine unite the profession. The following principles are the foundation that naturopathic medical practice is built upon.
The Healing Power of Nature. 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. 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. Every illness has an underlying cause, often in aspects of the lifestyle, 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 and disease come from a complex interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and other factors. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, taking these factors into account.
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.
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 hadn’t been combined before, and 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 a resurgence in the last two decades, as a health conscious public began to seek out alternatives to conventional medicine. As a body of knowledge, naturopathic medicine continues to grow and evolve.
NATUROPATHIC MEDICAL EDUCATION
Naturopathic medical colleges are four-year postgraduate schools with admissions requirements comparable to those of MD’s. The degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine requires four years of graduate level study in the medical and clinical sciences. Because the coursework in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic doctors receive significantly more hours of classroom education than the graduates of many leading medical schools, including Yale, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and Mayo medical schools.
THE CONNECTICUT CENTER FOR HEALTH
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