Naturopathic physicians are trained as general family practitioners in a four-year post-graduate doctorate level, medical school. Our education includes many of the same sciences that “regular” medical schools offer, such as pathology, biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, clinical physical diagnosis, etc. In addition, we are trained in natural therapeutics such as botanical medicine, homeopathy, manipulation, nutrition, physical therapy and mind/body medicine. In the state of Oregon, naturopaths are regulated by a state board and are licensed to be primary health care practitioners.
The question often arises, why should someone choose a naturopathic doctor over seeing a medical doctor, especially when patients are often paying out-of-pocket to see a naturopath, while their insurance will cover seeing an MD? While the latter do save thousands of lives every day, and pharmaceutical drugs and surgery are necessary in a variety of conditions, many times medications are given with little regard for the side effects, or when simple life style changes can make dramatic changes in how a person feels, and the symptoms that they present with.
As naturopathic physicians, we attempt to help a person heal from within, to educate and empower a person toward achieving optimal wellness through safe and gentle means that have relatively few side effects.
We focus on the understanding of the laws of nature for the purpose of helping patients move from a diseased state toward an ultimate goal of optimal wellness by changing their diet, lifestyle, etc. to be more in line with those natural laws.
• We use scientific evidence to better understand what is necessary to further optimum wellness in each individual patient, as opposed to using standardized, high-risk interventions to suppress symptoms.
• We reserve drugs and surgery for only those scenarios in which the patient’s condition is so severe that an increased level of intervention is necessary to preserve their health.
• We have a high level of success with chronic diseases (so-called “lifestyle diseases”).
• We can help patients identify and remove impediments to optimum wellness—even when they lack a clearly-defined disease.
• We have excellent success with the prevention of many diseases.
There are 5 basic tenets of Naturopathic medicine:
First Do No Harm
Belief in the Innate Healing Power of Nature
Treating the Whole Person Through Individualized Treatment Plans
Finding and Removing the Cause of Disease
Doctor as Teacher
These tenets act as guiding principles in our treatment of patients. Through a detailed history, physical exam, and lab analysis, we work to discover where and why disease has occurred in a person, taking into consideration symptoms of the mind, body and spirit, lifestyle issues, diet, and environmental factors.
We then act to remove obstacles to health: to help reestablish equilibrium from within. We believe that the body has an innate wisdom, and symptoms are a reflection of the vital force’s attempt to adapt to stress. For example: a fever is the mounted in the body in response to a bacteria or virus or other inflammatory process. A fever will increase the flow of blood, which will in turn increase immune response to assist in healing. Furthermore, many microbes cannot live in temperatures much higher than the body’s core temperature. In this way, the body is actively working to rid the system of a noxious pathogen. Often, while taking a drug to reduce a mild fever does relieve symptoms associated with illness, it does not increase healing time and in many cases may hinder healing. As naturopaths, we work to support the body’s immune system: through diet, hydrotherapy, nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy and other means, while attempting not to suppress it.
Naturopathic medicine is not cookbook medicine. We will individualize a treatment plan based on our impressions of what is occurring in a person, not based on a diagnosis a person has been given. And we educate the patient to take an active role in their healing. We often ask that they make lifestyle and diet changes, work on breathing, exercise, and stress reduction. We may ask that they seek out counseling. It is not medicine for the unmotivated individual, but for someone who wants to take an active role in their own healing journey. Sometimes this journey is slow. The medicine that we use is usually gentle and stimulates your body to restore balance.
Western medicine is often necessary in severe illnesses and traumatic situations, but it often produces unwanted side effects. Naturopathic medicine can help reduce some of the side effects associated with certain medications and procedures and can assist in recovery from surgery, chemotherapy, radiation. Furthermore, in Oregon, Naturopathic doctors have a formulary which allows us to prescribe many pharmaceutical drugs and hormones when we deem it necessary, including antibiotics, pain relievers, and cardiac drugs, just to name a few.
Naturopathic medicine is gentle, supportive medicine for the whole family, based on trust in the innate healing power of the body, utilizing the wisdom of nature and empowering the individual to take an active role in their healing process.