Naturopathic Medicine is a system of holistic medicine that aims to use individualized, natural techniques and therapies to identify the root cause of a patient’s health state, to prevent illness, and to address health conditions in a minimally invasive manner. Naturopathic medicine is based on a set of principles that act as a foundation for patient assessment, diagnosis, treatment and overall patient care.
• Primum non nocere – first, do no harm: to provide effective health care with minimal risk and side effects
• Vis medicatrix naturae – the healing power of nature: to promote the body’s self-healing capacity and to support this function using natural treatments
• Tolle causum – treat the cause: to identify and remove the cause of illness, to avoid the suppression of symptoms
• Tolle totum – treat the whole person: to tailor treatment to the individual, taking into consideration the unique factors affecting their health
• Docere – doctor as teacher: to educate the patient on their health and to encourage self-responsibility and empowerment
• Health promotion is the best prevention – illness prevention is the best cure: to identify risk factors for disease and to prevent illness before it occurs
Naturopathic medicine can be used to prevent, manage or treat a variety of health conditions. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are particularly well versed in the management of chronic conditions such as diabetes, elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels, arthritis, and thyroid conditions, skin conditions such as eczema, acne and psoriasis, among others.
NDs also value illness prevention and the optimization of health and wellness. Treatment may be used to support immune function and prevent cold and flu and other infections. Also, patients with a family history of certain health conditions (e.g. Type II Diabetes) can benefit from guidance on how to avoid developing the condition themselves through various preventative measures. NDs also have in their arsenal of natural therapies various options for managing acute illness such as infections, injuries, and joint and muscle pain.
What to expect from a visit with an ND
An initial visit with an ND often surprises new patients as it differs so much from their past healthcare experiences. NDs strongly value the therapeutic experience and aim to explore all aspects of a patient’s health and wellness. Because of this attention to detail, an initial visit with an ND is usually 60 to 90 minutes long and includes clinical interview, physical examination and the start of treatment. This allows sufficient time for patients to discuss all of their concerns, to ask questions and to be heard by their ND. Follow-up visits may take 30 to 60 minutes depending on the therapies being administered. The frequency of visits is determined based on the condition being treated and the type of treatment being used; this can be discussed with your ND at the time of your initial visit.
What therapies are used in Naturopathic Medicine?
• Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM includes the use of acupuncture, diet and traditional botanical formulas following the theories of TCM such as qi (energy), the balance of yin and yang, hot and cold, the five elements, etc. Acupuncture is the insertion of small needles along the body to address health concerns and restore balance to the system. Because NDs are trained in the TCM approach to acupuncture, they are able to use it to treat much more than just pain/injury. Based on signs and symptoms, an ND can diagnose imbalances in the body and treat them appropriately. Acupuncture can be used in combination with diet and herbs which can influence the body’s energy and balances.
• Herbal/Botanical Medicine
Herbal medicine is the use of plants for medicinal purposes. These remedies can be used individually or in combination. Herbal remedies are available as dry herbs, teas, powders, capsules, tablets, tinctures, among other preparations. Your ND can help you determine the right herbs, forms, and dose to use and can advise you on safety, side-effects and interactions of these herbs with your health state and other treatments you may be receiving.
• Clinical Nutrition
Clinical nutrition can range from something as simple as making changes to your daily diet to more complex treatment with nutritional supplementation in therapeutic doses for health promotion and disease treatment.
• Homeopathic Medicine
Homeopathy uses dilute doses of plant, animal and mineral substances functioning at an energetic level for treatment of health concerns. This system of medicine is very safe and gentle and is therefore ideal for use in children and presents little risk for interactions with other medications.
Hydrotherapy uses hot and cold water in different combinations and applications for their healing properties. Hydrotherapy techniques are often recommended for use at home but some therapies can be administered in-office.
• Naturopathic Manipulation and Physical Medicine
Manipulation and physical medicine is the use of manual techniques and exercises for the correction of musculoskeletal and neurological conditions. This can incorporate combinations of exercises, stretches, skeletal adjustments as well as techniques that employ the use of devices such as TENS and ultrasound.
• Lifestyle Counseling
Lifestyle counseling involves the assessment of risk factors and modification of lifestyle factors to promote optimal well-being. This can include counseling on poor habits such as smoking and alcohol use, level of physical activity, and environmental toxin exposure. It also involves the assessment of an individual’s health risk factors based on their personal and family medical history.