What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic Medicine is a system focusing on the prevention of disease and treatment of the person as a whole, and as such is appropriate for a wide range of health conditions. It is based on the belief that the human body has an innate healing ability. Naturopathic doctors teach their patients to use diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and cutting edge natural therapies to enhance their bodies’ ability to ward off and combat disease. Naturopathic Doctors view the patient as a complex, interrelated system (a whole person), not as a clogged artery or a tumor. Naturopathic physicians craft comprehensive treatment plans that blend the best of modern medical science and traditional natural medical approaches to not only treat disease, but to also restore health.
History of Naturopathic Medicine
As a distinct health care profession Naturopathic Medicine is almost 100 years old. Its philosophy and therapies have their origins in the philosophy of Hippocrates and the healing wisdom of many cultures and times. At the turn of the century, practitioners of a variety of medical disciplines combined natural therapeutics in a unique way. They joined together to form the first Naturopathic medical societies.
Naturopathic medical conventions in the 1920’s attracted more than 10,000 practitioners. Early in the 20th century there were more than 20 Naturopathic colleges, and Naturopathic physicians were licensed in a majority of the states.
Naturopathic Medicine experienced a decline in the 1940’s and 50’s with the rise and popularity of pharmaceutical drugs, technological medicine, and the widespread belief that these therapies could eliminate all disease. It has experienced resurgence in the last two decades, as a health conscious public seeks out alternatives to conventional medicine. As a body of knowledge, Naturopathy continues to grow and evolve. As an organized profession, Naturopathic Medicine is committed to on-going research and development of its science and incorporates elements of scientific modern medicine.
The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
First Do No Harm – Primum Non Nocere
In naturopathic medicine, “first do no harm” means a doctor first should listen to and observe a patient before deciding on a treatment option and also treat patients with the least invasive therapy possible to avoid adverse effects. Furthermore, illness is a purposeful process of the organism. The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms which are, in fact, an expression of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician's actions can support or antagonize the actions of the vis mediatrix naturae -- the healing power of Nature. Therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing the underlying causes are considered harmful and to be avoided or minimized
The Healing Power of Nature – Vis Medicatrix Naturae
The body has an inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician's role is to facilitate this process, to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to establish or restore a healthy internal and external environment.
Identify and Treat the Cause – Tolle Causum
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms are the body’s way of dealing with diseases; they are not the diseases themselves. Therefore, treating only the symptoms without treating the disease itself does not lead to a cure. Causes of diseases often are multi-factorial and can involve many organ systems. The underlying causes of diseases can be physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes rather than at symptomatic expression.
Treat the Whole Person – Tolle Totum
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, a whole involving the complex interaction of many factors. An insult to one factor can lead to complications in other factors. Treating only one or two factors does not usually lead to a complete cure. The naturopathic physician must treat the whole person by taking these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are essential to recovery from and prevention of disease. This requires a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Doctor as Teacher – Docere
A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician's major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for their own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates/accomplishes healing. Teaching with hope, knowledge, and understanding, the physician acts to enable patients to heal.
The ultimate goal of any healthcare should be prevention of chronic and degenerative diseases. This is accomplished through education and promotion of life-habits that create optimal health. If a person has optimal health then he or she is not only able to deal with the occasional acute disease, such as a common cold or an injury, he or she is also able to prevent chronic and degenerative diseases. By promoting healthy dietary and lifestyle habits, understanding each patient’s individual healthcare needs and educating each patient of these needs, naturopathic doctors provide the foundation for preventing more serious diseases.