What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate the healing power of the body and treat the underlying cause of disease. Symptoms of disease are seen as warning signals of improper functioning of the body, and unfavourable lifestyle habits. Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes disease as a process rather than as an entity.

In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, natural therapies including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation and traditional Chinese medicine/acupuncture, may also be used during treatments.

In Canada, the naturopathic medical profession’s infrastructure includes accredited naturopathic medical programs, standardized North American Board Exams (NPLEX) and jurisdictional exams, national standards of practice and, regulation in five provinces to date.

What can Naturopathic Medicine do for you?

Naturopathic medicine treats all forms of health concerns — from pediatric to geriatric, from irritating symptoms to chronic illness and from the physical to the psychological. It is the approach, philosophy and training of naturopathic doctors that sets it apart from other forms of health care.

The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate the healing power of the body and to treat the root cause of disease. For many patients, this difference in approach to health provides them with a new perspective and awareness. By addressing the root cause(s) of disease and through the appropriate use of natural therapies many patients with chronic illness have found tremendous benefits.

History of Naturopathic Medicine

Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2400 years ago, first formulated the concept of “the healing power of nature”. This concept has long been at the core of medicine around the world and remains one of the central principles of naturopathic medicine. In North America, naturopathic medicine traces its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust. He used the term “naturopathy” to describe a clinical practice, which integrated such natural healing methods as botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, manipulative therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling.

The American School of Naturopathy was founded by Dr. Lust in New York and graduated its first class in 1902. Naturopathic practitioners formed the Naturopathic Society of America and established naturopathic colleges and large health centres throughout North America. By 1920, naturopathic practice was well established in Canada. Laws regulating naturopathic practice were enacted in Ontario by 1925, British Columbia in 1936, Manitoba in 1943 and Saskatchewan in 1952. The CAND has been representing the profession’s interests in Canada since 1955.

After the Second World War the trust of health care was placed on the advances in surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and growth of the pharmaceutical industries. The more traditional healing practices lost ground. This was an era of scientific reductionism and an almost blind faith in the medical ‘miracle’. This approach continued through the 1950s.

In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in their health care process and a growing dissatisfaction with high tech solutions to health problems has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.

Naturopathic Medicine Today

Today, more people than ever before are seeking and benefiting from naturopathic medical care and the number of naturopathic doctors is growing at record rates to accommodate this increased demand. Currently there are naturopathic doctors practicing in every province and all but one territory in Canada. The more than 2,400 naturopathic doctors across the country continue to be an emerging answer to Canadians’ health-care concerns.

Naturopathic doctors are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners and as experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine. They provide leadership in natural medical research and are politically active at the federal, provincial and territorial levels. Positions for naturopathic doctors are opening up in hospitals, multi-disciplinary clinics and specialized health centres across Canada.

In Canada there are five provinces that regulate the practice of naturopathic doctors: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. The Naturopathic Doctors Act of 2008 grants title protection for naturopathic doctors in the province of Nova Scotia. All of the other provinces and territories in which there are naturopathic doctors actively engaged in the process of seeking regulation.

Currently, the naturopathic profession finds itself well positioned in health care. With more research emerging that supports the therapies used by naturopathic doctors, and the public demand for greater choice and increased access to more natural approaches to health care, naturopathic medicine is meeting the health needs of an ever increasing number of Canadians.

If you haven’t experienced the benefits of naturopathic medicine yourself, take the time to get a second opinion on your health by making an appointment with a naturopathic doctor in your area.

Guiding Principles of Naturopathic Medicine:

Do No Harm, (Primum Non Nocere)

Naturopathic medicine follows three principles to avoid harming the patient:
  • Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects;
  • Acknowledge and respect the individual’s healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness.
  • Avoid, when possible, the harmful suppression of symptoms
  • Naturopathic doctors choose remedies and therapies that are safe and effective, to increase your health and decrease harmful side effects.
The Healing Power of Nature, (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
Naturopathic doctors work to restore and support the powerful and inherent healing ability of the body, mind and spirit and to prevent further disease from occurring. Naturopathic doctors identify and remove obstacles to recovery, facilitating and augmenting this ordered and intelligent healing ability.
Identify and Treat the Cause, (Tolle Causam)
The primary goal of a naturopathic doctor is to determine and treat the underlying cause rather than simply managing or suppressing their symptoms. The underlying cause may be due to diet, lifestyle habits, life events, posture or environment. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body’s natural attempt to heal.
Treat the Whole Person
Each person is unique and requires individualized care. In treating the cause of any condition a naturopathic doctor takes into account not only your physical symptoms, but also mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, spiritual and other factors. Disease affects the entire person, not just a specific organ or system. Your nutritional status, lifestyle, family history, feelings, environmental stresses, and physical health are all carefully evaluated and addressed.
Doctor as Teacher, (Docere)
Naturopathic doctors will assist you in understanding health and illness. He/she will provide with an understanding of the factors that affect your health and help you balance and become more capable of maintaining your own health. Naturopathic doctors also acknowledge the therapeutic value inherent in the doctor-patient relationship.

 

Diagnostic & Assessments

Naturopathic doctors use conventional and Naturopathic diagnostic tools for assessing health concerns and determining the most appropriate treatment program.

Thorough Health History
The initial intake with a Naturopathic doctor is typically one-and-a-half to two hours in length and includes a detailed history. A naturopathic doctor will take the time to find out about your family history, your lifestyle, the stressors in your life, past medical history, history of accidents or injuries and the significant events in your life that may have affected your health or well being. Often naturopathic doctors will use questionnaires to ensure that they are aware of the factors that may be affecting your current health status.
Clinical Nutrition
Understanding your nutritional status, eating habits and patterns and the type of food that you eat regularly is an important part of the naturopathic assessment. Naturopathic doctors will often take the time to assess the effect that diet is having on health and the body’s ability to process and tolerate the foods a patient may consume.