The Naturopathic Doctor
Naturopathic doctors (N.D.'s) are general practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. While they are educated in the conventional medical sciences, Naturopathic Doctors are not orthodox medical doctors (M.D.'s). They 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 doctors cooperate with all other branches of medical science, referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate.
In practice, naturopathic doctors perform physical examinations, laboratory testing, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, and other diagnostic tests. They are the only doctors 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 doctor has a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (N.D.) degree from a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical college. In states where they are regulated, naturopathic doctors must pass either a national or a state level board examination, and their actions are subject to review by a State Board of Examiners.
The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The principles of naturopathic medicine unite the profession. The following principles are the foundation upon which naturopathic medical practice is built:
- The Healing Power of Nature (vix medicatrix naturae)
The body has the inherent ability to heal itself. This healing process is intelligent and ordered. Naturopathic doctors support and assist the healing process by identifying and removing obstacles to cure and by using natural methods and medicines that work with, not against, the body’s natural processes.
- Identify and Treat the Cause (tolle causum)
Every illness has a cause. Causes may occur on the physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual level. Symptoms are expressions of the body’s attempt to heal, but are not the cause of illness. The goal of Naturopathic doctors is to find and remove the underlying cause of an illness rather than just eliminate or suppress symptoms.
- First Do No Harm (primum non nocere)
Naturopathic doctors use methods and medicines that minimize the risk of harmful side effects. Methods designed to suppress symptoms but not remove the underlying cause may be harmful, and their use is avoided. Naturopathic physicians prefer non-invasive treatments that 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.
- Doctor as Teacher (docere)
The original meaning of the word "doctor" is teacher. A principal objective of naturopathic medicine is to educate the patient and emphasize self-responsibility for health.
- Treat the Whole Person
Health or disease comes 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. When treating an individual, all aspects of that person (physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual) are taken into account.
- Prevention is the Best Cure
Illness is often due to diet, habits, and lifestyle. Naturopathic doctors assess risk factors and susceptibility to disease and make appropriate recommendations to prevent illness or to prevent minor illness from developing into more serious or chronic disease. The emphasis is on building health rather than treating symptoms.