As many of my patients know, I have been practicing in Columbus, Ohio for over twenty years. Despite the many progresses of complementary and alternative medicine during that time, I am still frequently asked to clarify just what a naturopathic doctor is. Taking a cursory look at the Internet, one is bombarded with many opinions on natural medicine and natural healing practices, so I wanted to clarify for all current and future patients just what the medicine and my practice are all about.
Simply put, naturopathic medicine is a branch of medicine that employs natural resources to allow the body to heal itself naturally. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, there are six major tenants of naturopathic medicine:
- The Healing Power of Nature
- Identify and Treat the Causes
- First Do No Harm
- Doctor as Teacher
- Treat the Whole Person
Some of these principles may seem like common sense. Let’s talk about how each of these apply to my practice and how I can help you.
The Healing Power of Nature: despite how much of a non-technical term this may appear to be, it is actually rooted deeply in scientific understanding of the body: our genes! With rare exception, our genetic makeup is designed to create a healthful body and oftentimes, variations from the norm are a result of the bodyÕs attempt to restore its own health. For example, many of the symptoms of a cold for example, a fever and are a result of normal and natural processes in the body intended to aid in fighting off the infection. Naturopathic medicine seeks aid the body in successfully and efficiently managing its own health. In the case of a fever, a naturopathic physician may utmply put, won’t leave you sick with side effects! There are countless traditional, effective methods of treatment straight from nature that result in no side effects and do nothing but aid the natural process of self-healing.
- When suppressing a symptom is harmful, naturopathic physicians avoid doing so at all costs.
- Understanding that each patient is capable of self-healing and working with the body to accomplish healing.
Doctor as Teacher: I spend a lot of time explaining the medicine to my patients, because this is one of the most important aspects of naturopathic medicine. A patient will not be satisfied if he or she is looking for a quick fix from a naturopath! Each of my initial appointments last at least one hour so that I can truly get to know the individual and explain my practice. You will come to know that I like to explain how it all works so that you are able to take charge of your own health! That way, each patient is able to begin thinking critically about conventional medical practices and considering how diet and lifestyle affect our health.
Treat the Whole Person: There are many factors that make up a person’s health! A naturopathic physician will aim to examine each patient’s complete wellbeing profile and as such will make recommendations about lifestyle factors in addition to suggesting supplements and other treatments. The factors that I will consider when developing your treatment plan include your physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. I will ask my patients about their sleep patterns, daily stressors, and emotional tendenciesÑI am your doctor, so we should be able to discuss anything, and these all contribute to your health! Rather than attempting to treat a very specific ailment, I would like to see your overall health improve and allow your body to overcome whatever ills you. It may sound crazy, but this model of practice has worked time and time again for my profession and in my practice specifically.
Prevention: after we are able to combat any immediate health concerns, the focus of any naturopathic physician will be prevention of any additional conditions or diseases. Using your complete medical history, I will want to utilize our knowledge of your susceptibility to health problems, and we can use my objective testing to determine if you may be at any additional risk for a wide assortment of conditions. At the core of naturopathic medicine, the goal is to not have to treat disease but rather to always be a step ahead.
Understanding the philosophy behind your practitioner’s medicine is a critical step toward taking charge of your own health and wellbeing! The unfortunate reality is that there are many naturopaths whom have not received the appropriate medical training or whom do not follow these critical tenants of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathy, when practiced with good intent and understanding of the medicine, can be incredibly healing and has led to wonderful success for countless patients.
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