Whether this is your first introduction to Naturopathic Medicine, or you would like to learn more, this post will serve as a good foundation. I’m so extremely proud of my profession but unfortunately there are a lot of assumptions and misconceptions out there about what exactly Naturopathic Doctors do. I’m here to dispel some myths and shine a little light on the subject. Let's dive in!
Don’t be Afraid to Ask
The other day I was at a family birthday party when I overheard my 14 year old cousin quietly say to his mother, “what’s that?”, while pointing to something on my brochure. She encouraged him to ask me directly, so he looked at me and said “what’s that?” while pointing to the words ‘Naturopathic Doctor’.
Many people are curious about my profession and ask me: “what exactly is a Naturopathic Doctor?” I assure them that they are not alone, and that most people don’t know what I do (especially in the Midwest). I tell them that Naturopathic Doctors work to uncover the underlying causes of disease and help people reach their optimal health through low force interventions such as nutrition, lifestyle management and counseling. When I told this to my young cousin, he paused, then smiled in a way that indicated an ‘ahaa’ moment. “Well that just makes sense!”, he exclaimed.
Naturopathic Doctors are Unique
Naturopathic doctors are uniquely poised in the healthcare industry to offer what many medical doctors simply cannot. For example, I spend 90 minutes with each new client that comes in to my office. We talk at length about their health goals, medical history, family history, medications and supplements, stress levels, mental health, sleep patterns, and on and on. I become each client’s personal detective in the search for the root cause of their ailments. Just the other day, I had a client tell me that she didn’t even care whether I cured her medical problems or not, as long as I listened to her. I assured her that we would get her feeling better in no time, but the sentiment was not lost on me. After all, she is most certainly not the first person to tell me something like this. While there are the exceptions, many medical professionals simply do not take the time to listen to their patients. As a Naturopathic Doctor, this takes top priority.
Another way in which we are unique lies in the tools we use. Medical doctor’s main tools are pharmaceuticals. These tools are absolutely necessary sometimes, but in my opinion, way overused. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I follow the therapeutic order. We were taught in school to address the foundations of health first. Foundations of health are things that we all require to live our healthiest lives such as good nutrition, adequate sleep, decreased stress, getting enough water, and safe living conditions. These are often the most impactful changes we can make to improve our health, yet are often overlooked or only briefly touched upon. But these foundations are of utmost importance and that’s why I spend lots of time working with clients to make these necessary changes. More often than not, people experience relief from their ailments just by making shifts in these areas. And if more is to be done after this, I continue to move through the therapeutic order. You may notice when you look at the therapeutic order (https://aanmc.org/naturopathic-medicine/) that pharmaceuticals are indeed present. However, there are five other interventions to take before reaching this level. It is my goal as a Naturopathic Doctor to cause you the least harm possible on your journey to health.
Tools of the Trade
Besides an ever listening ear and important lifestyle changes, I have been extensively trained to utilize certain substances such as plants, minerals, and other supplements to aid in the healing process. Some people become uncomfortable at this point in the explanation because they are unfamiliar with these things or because they have heard stories about the misuse of certain ‘natural remedies’. Maybe you notice some bias forming in your mind as you read these words, and that’s fine. But I’d like to do my best to help you learn more about these things which you may be unfamiliar with.
As you probably already know, many of today’s most popular pharmaceutical drugs were originally derived from plants. For example, Aspirin was made from the bark of the White Willow tree, and the once popular heart drug Digoxin was made from the flowering plant called Foxglove. These are important drugs that have done a lot of good for advancing modern medicine and reducing risks of stroke and heart failure. I am forever thankful for modern medicine, though we mustn’t forget our roots. We have been evolving with plants for millions of years and medicinal plants are very powerful in their healing potential as well. It is this balance that a Naturopathic Doctor is adept at finding.
I often mix herbs in my office to make individualized medicine for clients. These herbal medicines can be used to help people with anything from high blood pressure to acid reflux and everything in between. Or I may recommend a nutritional supplement to support certain systems of the body like the liver or heart. It all depends on the person sitting in front of me. No two patients are alike and no two visits look alike.
Depending on your background and/or level of skepticism, you may be wondering if there’s any evidence to support what I’m saying. Many people think that non pharmaceutical interventions such as herbs and individual nutrient therapies have no proof of working. On the contrary, there is quite a lot of evidence to show that many of the interventions Naturopathic Doctors use on a daily basis are extremely useful. Compared to pharmaceuticals however, there is indeed a void of research. But this has more to do with money than it does with efficacy.
As part of my training, I was taught how to review medical literature of all types and discern the quality as well as potential bias. All Naturopathic Doctors are trained to do this. I pride myself on my evidence based practice and will review the most recent studies on a regular basis in order to stay up to date on the latest medical news, both alternative and conventional.
There’s More to the Story
As a final note, I want to stress the importance of having a well rounded care team. Naturopathic Doctors have their place in this care team as well as Medical Doctors, physical therapists, acupuncturists, dentists, etc. When we all work together, people can be cared for best. Unfortunately healthcare is more of a privilege than a right in this country and therefore many individuals have trouble accessing even the most basic of healthcare services. Naturopathic Doctors help empower individuals to take charge of their health and therefore rely on drugs and expensive procedures less.
I hope I was able to answer some questions you had about Naturopathic Medicine and what I do. I absolutely love talking about my profession, but there’s so much more to talk about! Do you have any lingering questions? Do you want to know about a certain topic? Message me to let me know what you think. That’s all for now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Healing is an art.
It takes time.
It takes practice.
It takes love”