What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is specialty of medicine that bridges the gap between conventional medicine and traditional medicine, giving patient safe and effective treatment options beyond just pharmaceuticals. Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care providers who diagnose, treat and manage patients with both acute and chronic conditions. The medicine centers around the following 6 principals:
- First, do not harm
- Identify and treat the cause
- Treat the whole patient
- Support the body's natural healing ability
- Doctor as teacher
Treatments and Modalities
Naturopathic doctors work with their patients to provide unique and individualized treatment plans. When developing these treatment plans they follow the naturopathic therapeutic order and use the least invasive treatments possible to help support the body's natural ability heal and avoid causing any harm. They also use evidenced-base medicine which takes into account three things; patient preference, practitioner experience and peer-reviewed literature. It is a common misconception that naturopathic doctors are against pharmaceuticals. All naturopathic doctors are trained in pharmacology, and in the states where it is permitted they prescribe medications when necessary. When working with a naturopathic doctor you can expect them to use a combination of the following treatment options:
- Lifestyle counseling
- Herbal medicine
- Physical medicine
- Therapeutic exercise
- Natural supplements
- Pharmaceuticals (In states where NDs have prescription rights)
Licensed naturopathic doctors attended one of eight accredited naturopathic medical schools. Each program is 4 years which consists of 2 years of basic science education (biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology, philosophy, etc.) and 2 years of clinical science which includes classes (pharmacology, cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, endocrinology, etc.) and clinical rotations where students see patients under the supervision of licensed doctors.
The first 2 years of school is very similar to conventional medical school, with the addition of training in hydrotherapy, physical medicine, herbal medicine, homeopathy, counseling and considerably more credits in nutrition. The last 2 years of naturopathic medical school is spent seeing patients in an outpatient, primary care setting. This differs from convention medical schools where they (MDs and DOs) do different rotations in more of a hospital setting. Conventional medicine requires graduates to do at least a 3 year residency program. At this time naturopathic doctors are not required to do a residency, yet some do.
Students complete their training by sitting for the national licensing exam (NPLEX).
To learn more about naturopathic medicine visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians' (AANP) website at https://www.naturopathic.org/natfaqs.
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