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 body to heal and treat the underlying cause of disease.
In naturopathic medicine symptoms of disease are seen as warning signals of improper functioning of the body and/or unfavourable lifestyle habits.
Treating both acute and chronic conditions, naturopathic treatments are chosen based on the individual patient through analysis of their physiological, structural, psychological, social, mental, environment and lifestyle factors.
In addition to diet and lifestyle changes, natural therapies prescribed could also include botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation and acupuncture.
In regards to training, naturopathic medical students have very similar entrance requirements (bachelor’s degree, required science courses, grade point average minimums) to conventional medical students.
In fact, the first two years of naturopathic medical school are comparable to conventional medical school.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) get similar core science training to our conventional medical counterparts, but where we differ is where conventional medical students spend more time in surgical training, specialty fields and in a hospital setting, NDs learn about the naturopathic modalities.
In the third and fourth years of naturopathic medical training, advanced courses in various modalities are taken and clinical training is obtained in a family practice, out patient setting, with supervision from licensed doctors (mostly NDs).
In Canada, the naturopathic medical profession’s infrastructure includes accredited educational institutions, professional licensing, national standards of practice and participation in many federal health committee initiatives.
In British Columbia, NDs are required to pass the North American board exams and the provincial licensing exams before applying for their naturopathic medical license.
This regulation ensures that the public’s safety is first and foremost protected, but also to up hold the standards and training of anyone calling themselves an ND or naturopath.
Some people assume that naturopathic doctors are against conventional medicine, but this isn’t true. Health care is best provided as a team, and NDs are only one part of the team.
The naturopathic medical license covers everything from dietary advice to pharmaceuticals and suturing wounds, but when a condition is beyond the ND scope of training, the patient will be referred to the appropriate physician.
What makes a naturopathic doctor different?
What most people notice first is the amount of time NDs spend with their patients.
Initial visits are usually about an hour and follow up visits are usually up to a half an hour.
This time gives NDs the ability to really get to know their patients and treat them as a whole with an individualized treatment plan.
Since NDs have one of the widest scopes of any health care practitioners in Canada, there are a variety of NDs regarding treatment styles, modalities used and advanced training.
If you are considering naturopathic medicine, or have tried it in the past and would like a different experience, do try to meet with an ND before you start a therapeutic relationship to ensure you are getting the care that best suites you.