The practice of naturopathic medicine surrounds the premise that the body contains the power to heal itself naturally.
Those who practice naturopathic medicine work to improve the body’s overall state of health, to prevent disease and to treat illness through the teaching of proper dietary habits, exercise and fitness regimens, healthy lifestyle habits and introducing natural nutritional agents into the body.
The concept of naturopathic medicine has been in practice for nearly 200 years, developed within the U.S. in the 1800’s.
In order to become a naturopathic physician today, individuals must complete a 4 year degree program from a naturopathic school. Many of the concepts and practices taught to a naturopath are the same ideas and guidelines taught to a M.D. The primary differences between the two types of medical professionals, in addition to the variance in length of schooling, are based within the overall philosophy of treatment and prevention.
Naturopaths focus on allowing the body to treat itself through the emphasis on lifestyle and dietary changes. And, naturopaths focus more on the prevention of illness and disease as opposed to treatment of symptoms.
Most naturopaths focus on treatment using diet, exercise, inclusion of nutritional supplements and other natural therapies.
And, these alternative treatments are often recommended before prescriptions or traditional medical treatment practices such as surgery for a patient.
The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic professionals follow 6 core principles:
1. First Do No Harm
Naturopaths believe that symptoms produced by the body are signs of the body trying to heal itself. Therefore, naturopaths work to enable this process by providing treatment options that work in harmony with the body’s natural process. It is important not to work in an antagonistic way with the body. Therefore, treatment options of naturopaths are designed to address the underlying cause of any symptoms, and not just the symptoms themselves.
2. Leverage the Healing Power of Nature
Naturopaths believe that the body has an inherent ability to establish, maintain and restore healthy. It is also believed that nature heals the body through the response of the life force itself. So, naturopaths believe that it is their responsibility to identify underlying causes, and to remove any obstacles within the body so that the body can begin to heal itself successfully.
3. Identify and Treat the Underlying Cause
Naturopaths believe that illnesses and diseases do not occur without cause. So, in order to treat illness or disease successfully, naturopaths believe that they must discover what the underlying cause in fact is. When they make this discovery, they can work in harmony to enable the body to treat itself.
4. Heal the Whole Person
Rather than only treating the symptoms, naturopaths work on treating the entire person. This incorporates body, mind and spirit.
5. Educate the Patient
In addition to providing treatment and prevention options, naturopaths believe that it is there role to educate the patient about their body. Naturopaths encourage their patients to accept responsibility for their own health, and to take action to promote positive health within their life over time.
Traditional medicine focuses on the treatment of illnesses or disease. Naturopaths focus on promotion of positive lifestyle habits, healthy diets, exercise programs and general good health habits rather than waiting for the body to tell us that something is wrong through the development of symptoms.
Why Do People Utilize Naturopathic Medicine?
People seek naturopathic treatment for the promotion of their health and for the prevention of disease.
In the event that an illness or disease has developed, individuals also seek treatment from this type of professional if they are more interested in natural treatment options than traditional prescriptions or surgeries.
The underlying principle of naturopathic medicine is to treat the underlying cause of the disease, not just the symptoms being shown.
Most naturopathic professionals work in combination with other medical teams in order to provide the most comprehensive treatment or prevention options available.
And if surgery or prescriptions are the best course of treatment, naturopaths will make the appropriate referrals.
Concerns about Naturopathy
While the general consensus about naturopathy is that it is safe, there are a few things that concern the traditional medical community.
Immunizations are often not generally supported by naturopaths. And, the risk of childhood illnesses and the protection of the society as a whole cause traditional physicians to be in opposition of this naturopathic philosophy. The other naturopathic practice that concerns some within the medical community is that of fasting.
While fasting can provide some medical benefits for a variety of individuals, it is not considered safe for some people with certain illnesses. It is recommended that any patient speak with a licensed physician before engaging in fasting, especially if they currently have a specific medical illness or disease.
When seeking a naturopathic physician, be sure to review the education and licensing they have completed.
Licensing requirements vary for naturopaths by state; some require licensing, while others do not. Be sure that you select a naturopath that both has the education and licensing required, and that you are comfortable with. After all, your health is the most important thing within your life.