Unlike conventional doctors who usually treat and treat specific symptoms of the disease with pharmaceuticals or surgeries, naturopathic doctors seek to find and treat the cause of the ailments using a variety of therapies, botanical-based medications, some conventional prescriptions and modification of behavior. Is the natural medicine right for you?
In 1902, Dr. Benedict Lust introduced the practice of naturopathic medicine in North America when he established the first school of naturopathic medicine in the country of New York. Lust believed in the inherent ability of the human body to heal itself, a belief that has since become the cornerstone of naturopathic medicine in which doctors treat the whole person by addressing the environmental, lifestyle life, dietary and emotional health of a person.
"One of our main foundations for what we do is prevention," according to Dr. Elizabeth Yori, president of the Maine Naturopathic Physicians Association practicing in Belfast. "Another is that we work with a person to treat the whole person and treat the whole cause behind a medical problem."
According to Yori, the big difference between seeing a naturopath doctor or ND compared to a doctor is the amount of time spent working directly with a patient.
Working with and being treated by a naturopathic doctor, Yori said, means spending a lot of time with that doctor and being willing to make some lifestyle changes to manage and improve your health. That, in turn, he said, means really committing to play an active role in the management of your health.
"Knowing if natural medicine is right for you means knowing if you are in a place where you want to make some changes," Yori said. "As ND, we ask you many questions, so if you are someone who does not like to answer many questions about you, naturopathy may not be the right choice for you."
At the same time, Dr. James Jarvis, MD, senior vice president and executive physician of the Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, cautioned that any decision on individual medical care should be made only after weighing the risks and benefits of any treatment: natural or conventional.
"All medicine should be checked continuously," Jarvis said. "As science and technology, as well as our understanding of the complexities of the human body, evolve.
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, naturopath doctors are trained through accredited naturopathic medical colleges, where they learn to diagnose, prevent and treat acute and chronic diseases by working with the inherent self-healing capabilities and immune systems of an individual.
This postgraduate training is carried out for four years in one of the seven accredited naturopath colleges or universities in the United States.
While not commenting directly on the quality or quantity of that training, Jarvis said that doctors and osteopaths go through a longer training period: a minimum of seven years of medical graduate training and residency programs.
"Many [doctors] have longer residency programs and additional experience in scholarship programs," Jarvis said. "This training focuses on providing evidence-based medicine, which means that treatment plans, medications and procedures have undergone a rigorous clinical study through the scientific method and are based on meaningful results, such as prevention of death or decreased hospitalization. "
Instead of suppressing the symptoms, Yori explained, the NDs work to identify the underlying causes of the disease and to develop personalized treatment plans to address them.
"Many chronic diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, can be treated successfully through changes in diet and lifestyle," he said. "We work with the whole person, not only with the disease."
Many medical doctors also take those factors into account, Jarvis said.
"As a family doctor, I always take into account the totality of a person," he said. "Not only your body and mind, but also your spirituality, your family and community and your environment.
The ND also works closely with doctors to design treatment plans and gather diagnostic information, Yori said.
"Most people have a primary care physician and [like ND] we supplement it and help people get the best possible care," said Dr. Dennis Godby, a naturopath in Sacramento, California. "We really want to work for what is best for the patent."
Jarvis believes that proven and safe alternative and natural treatments have a place in the treatment of patients.
"The medical profession has adopted certain modalities of alternative treatment, such as acupuncture for certain pain syndromes, which through research have been shown to be safe and effective," Jarvis said. "Preventive medicine is fundamental to both philosophies, including a healthy diet, exercise [and] quitting smoking."
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, naturopathic medicine can be used to treat diseases such as allergies, chronic pain, digestive problems, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory diseases, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, fatigue and cancer.
Naturopathic doctors are also trained in minor surgeries, such as the removal of cysts and the treatment of superficial wounds. As part of their formal pharmacology curriculum, NDs learn medical and clinical pharmacology. However, regulations that cover what pharmaceutical products an ND can prescribe and under what conditions vary by state, according to a publication written by Dr. Amy Rothenberg, ND, of Naturopathic Health Care in Connecticut.
"We treat people who want to be healthy and stay healthy," said Godby. "So we help patients build and maintain their health."
Yori said the idea is to help the patient identify the obstacles to good health and then work to overcome them through changes in diet, lifestyle, sleep patterns and, if necessary, medication.
It is a method that, according to her, gives the patient a lot of responsibility.
"If you're someone who just wants a quick treatment and a prescription drug and it's done, natural medicine may not be for you," Yori said. "We're going to work to adjust things little by little over time and see what works for you."
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