Monday, May 20, 2013

Alternative Medicine: Naturopathy

With all of the seemingly obscure, alternative medicine-related terms floating around the blogosphere, I thought it might be useful to write a series of blog posts, each focusing on one facet of alternative medicine.  Some of the practices that I intend to spotlight are osteopathy, ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic medicine, but today's topic is naturopathy. 

Naturopathy is holistic [1], meaning that it considers a patient as a whole, and not just as a sum of parts.  In addition, the patient's physical, psychological and social health are all taken into consideration [2]. 

Naturopathy is governed by six primary principles, which are as follows:

  • First do no harm.  Naturopaths do not administer treatments to suppress symptoms. They avoid unnecessary intervention, and work to minimize any negative side-effects of treatments.
  • Identify and treat the causes.  Symptoms are caused by diseases or by the body's attempts to heal itself.  Thus, the symptoms of a disease can best be removed by treating the cause of the disease.
  • Treat the whole person.  Health is not just a physical state, and diseases can be caused by a combination of mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors.
  • Healing power of nature.  Given the proper tools, the body has the capacity to heal itself.
  • Prevention.  Naturopathy focuses on maintaining health, not just on treating disease.  Heredity and risk factors for particular diseases are counter-acted by the adoption of habits for healthy living.
  • Doctor as teacher.  A  naturopathic doctor also focuses on teaching his or her patients, thereby promoting a sense of self-responsibility. [3]
So, what does a naturopath actually do? 

Naturopaths treat both chronic and acute diseases.  Some of the treatments prescribed or administered by naturopaths include nutritional counseling, herbal remedies, homeopathy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy.  Naturopaths typically counsel each patient for an about an hour per visit, although an initial consultation could take as long as an hour and a half.  During the initial visit, the additional time is spent discussing the patient's family history, lifestyle, diet and environment.  The naturopath may also administer or order a laboratory test for the patient to take [4].

"Real" naturopathic doctors have earned a doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine, from an accredited school of naturopathy.  In the U.S., naturopathic doctors are only legally recognized and certified in fifteen states, plus the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands [4].  Depending on the state, naturopaths may not be allowed to treat patients with drugs, minor surgery or acupuncture.  In states that do not recognize naturopathic physicians, the term "naturopath" is not reserved for doctors who have completed naturopathic training.  For this reason, it is best to check a naturopath's qualifications before making an appointment [5].

For those interested in learning more about naturopathy, Oregon's Board of Naturopathic Medicine has published an in-depth description of the principles and practices of naturopathy here.  You can also read about my own experience with a naturopathic doctor here

Did I miss something?  Do you have a personal experience to share?  Tell me in the comments below!

This post is linked to Natural Living Monday 5/20/13 at Mama Rosemary, Family Table Tuesday 5/21/13 at The Polivka Family, Living Green Tuesday 5/21/13 at Green Idea Reviews and Like a Mustard Seed, and Party Wave Wednesday 5/22/13 at Holistic Squid