An Introduction to Naturopathic Medicine

Naturopathic medicine is a comprehensive system of care that combines our modern understanding of health and disease with traditional, natural healing techniques. It is aimed at improving health and addressing illness in people of all ages, with a focus on prevention and whole-patient care. In addition to prevention, the true essence of naturopathic medicine is to seek out and treat the underlying cause of disease rather than focus solely on symptomatic treatment. Naturopathic doctors are trained to practice evidence-based medicine while simultaneously adhering to its underlying philosophy. The practice of naturopathic medicine is defined by its principles rather than its methods or modalities. Where methods are chosen upon the basis of patient individuality, principles act as the cornerstone guidelines of any naturopathic practice. Naturopathic doctors work to restore balance in a gentle and effective way, minimizing the potential for side effects. Above all, naturopathic medicine honors the body’s innate wisdom to heal. Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

  • First Do No Harm: Naturopathic doctors follow three guidelines to ensure their patient’s safety: 1) Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat; 2) Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; 3) Acknowledge, respect, and work with the individual’s self-healing process.

  • The Healing Power of Nature: Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in each person. Naturopathic doctors work to support this by recognizing and removing obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.

  • Identify and Treat the Cause: Naturopathic doctors seek to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness. They understand the importance of treating the root cause of disease, rather than suppressing symptoms.

  • Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathic doctors take the time to understand each person’s unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors that contribute to one’s state of health. This allows naturopathic doctors to tailor individual treatment protocols to each patient.

  • Doctor as Teacher: Naturopathic doctors educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship.

  • Prevention is the Best Medicine: Naturopathic doctors emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, and recommending appropriate interventions to maintain health and prevent illness.

Naturopathic Doctor Education and Training Licensed naturopathic doctors have scientific medical training and are required to complete an undergraduate degree as well as an intensive four-year medical program at an accredited institution. Naturopathic medical students receive training in the same basic sciences as conventional medical students with additional coursework in holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy. The curriculum includes in-depth training in diagnosis and treatment of disease, with an emphasis on disease prevention and wellness optimization. Graduates from naturopathic medical schools are additionally required to pass a comprehensive Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX). Successful completion of this exam allows naturopathic doctors to become licensed or registered in the jurisdiction which they practice. There are currently 19 states that have laws regulating naturopathic physicians, including Minnesota. Naturopathic doctors are trained in primary care and are experts in the field of natural medicine. Their training prepares them to treat all aspects of family health and wellness, from pediatrics to geriatrics. Many individuals choose to further specialize by taking additional continuing education coursework or completing a residency program. Naturopathic doctors use a holistic, individualized approach to assessment and treatment with a focus on prevention and self-care. Therapies used by naturopathic doctors are tailored to meet individual needs, factoring in the physical, social, emotional, and spiritual aspects of each patient. Depending on the state, therapeutic modalities used by a naturopathic doctor may include any of the following:

  • Botanical Medicine

  • Clinical Nutrition

  • Homeopathy

  • Lifestyle Counseling

  • Hydrotherapy

  • Physical Therapies

  • Pharmacology*

  • IV Therapy*

  • Minor surgery*

* Not currently practiced in Minnesota Naturopathic doctors work in conjunction with all other branches of medical science, and will refer patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment on a case-by-case basis.

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