A naturopathic physician is a doctor who blends modern scientific medical practice and knowledge with natural and traditional forms of medical treatment. The practice is sometimes referred to as complementary medicine or naturopathy. It has a long history, beginning with some of the earliest doctors who used botanical medicine, herbs and natural treatments. In the late 19th century the tradition became more formalized with the opening of the American School of Naturopathy.
With increased globalization came greater awareness of alternative and eastern-style medicine. The established medical community viewed many of these treatments with suspicion initially, and for a time naturopaths were seen as dangerous quacks. Laws were even passed preventing their practice in many places. As modern medicine and scientific knowledge increased, however, physicians began to realize the value and credibility of the naturopathic approach, and natural medicine has been incorporated into conventional medical practice.
Over the past few decades, naturopathy is again evolving into its own distinct form of medical practice. Although acceptance is growing, resistance among some members of the traditional medical community still prevails. Evidence-based research is being conducted in an effort to validate herbal remedies and alternative medicine and enhance the credibility of naturopathic practices.
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The naturopathic physician is a primary health care provider of naturopathic medicine. He or she uses complementary and alternative therapies along with mainstream medical practice, with the goal of treating underlying causes of disease while stimulating the body's own healing abilities. Natural remedies are generally chosen in favour of pharmaceuticals, but a holistic approach is used and many physicians advocate conventional treatments alongside naturopathic ones.
Some of the key philosophies of naturopathy include:
the idea that patients should take individual responsibility for their own health
a holistic focus on how the structural and physiological, psychological, social, spiritual, and environmental and lifestyle factors contribute to overall health
diagnosing from a naturalistic perspective, viewing disease as being caused by physiological imbalance, lifestyle deficiencies, stress, or environmental influences
treatment with a wide range of natural therapies
an emphasis on disease prevention and promotion of good heath
Some of the underlying causes of disease that are considered include exposure to chemicals or toxic substances; impurities of air, water or food; physical and psychological stress; poor nutrition; and lifestyle factors. The naturopathic physician designs an individualized treatment plan and prescribes natural treatments such as:
homeopathic or botanical medicine
acupuncture and other oriental remedies
massage therapy, hydrotherapy, and other physical activities
nutrition and diet
A naturopathic physician will refer patients to other practitioners if treatment is outside the naturopathic scope of practice.
Many naturopathic physicians are self-employed in private practice and set their own schedules and hours. These often include evenings and weekends to accommodate patients. Others join private clinics with other health care practitioners, and spend much of the day examining and treating patients. Completing paperwork and patient documentation is also part of the work day. Some find employment in research and development, marketing, teaching and consulting.
A naturopathic practice takes time to build, and achieving success depends on many factors, including individual talent, experience and initiative.
Although I am a naturopathic doctor and follow naturopathic principles in my every day practice, I have great respect for the life saving techniques of ‘modern’ (or allopathic) medicine.
The practice of Naturopathic Medicine includes six underlying principles of healing. These are based on the observation of health and disease.
Naturopathic doctors are highly-educated primary care providers who integrate standard medical diagnostics with a broad range of natural therapies. Naturopathic medicine plays an important role in integrative health care, and treatments can be used on their own or together with conventional medicine.
My profession is rather small, and we're yet to be licensed in every state. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are currently licensed to practice as medical professionals in 16 states, and two U.S. territories, and five provinces in Canada.
Like many doctors, Chris pursued this career path because he wanted to be involved in science and healthcare.
Naturopathic doctors are licensed medical doctors who integrate the best of conventional medicine with botanical, nutritional and homeopathic therapies.