Naturopathic Medicine is a distinctively natural approach to health and healing that recognizes the integrity of the whole person. Naturopathic Medicine is heir to the vitalistic tradition of medicine in the Western world, emphasizing the treatment of disease through the stimulation, enhancement, and support of the inherent healing capacity of the person. Methods of treatments are chosen to work with the patient’s vital force, respecting the intelligence of the natural healing process. The practice of Naturopathic Medicine emerges from six underlying principles of healing. These principles are based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease and are continually reexamined in light of scientific analysis. It is these principles that distinguish the profession from other medical approaches:
* The healing power of nature. vis medicatrix naturae
The body has the 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 and augment this process, to act to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation of a healthy internal and external environment.
* Identify and treat the cause. tolle causam
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 expressions of the body’s attempt to heal but are not the cause of disease. Symptoms, therefore, should not be suppressed by treatment. Causes may occur on many levels including 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.
* First do no harm. primum no nocere
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 complimentary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize the actions of the vis medicatrix naturae. Therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing underlying causes are considered harmful and are avoided or minimized.
* Treat the whole person. The multifactorial nature of health and disease
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, a whole involving a complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. The physician must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease and requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
* The physician as teacher. docere
Beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription, the physician must work to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal relationship with the patient. 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 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. The physician must strive to inspire hope as well as understanding. The physician must also make a commitment to his/her personal and spiritual development in order to be a good teacher.
* Prevention. Prevention is the best “cure”
The ultimate goal of any health care system should be prevention. This is accomplished through education and promotion of life-habits that create good health. The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and makes appropriate interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The emphasis is on building health rather than on fighting disease.
Naturopathic philosophy serves as the basis for naturopathic practice. The current scope of naturopathic practice includes, but is not limited to:
* Clinical Nutrition
That food is the best medicine is a cornerstone of naturopathic practice. Many medical conditions can be treated more effectively with foods and nutritional supplements than they can by other means, with fewer complications and side effects. Naturopathic physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in practice.
* Botanical Medicine
Many plant substances are powerful medicines. Where single chemically-derived drugs may only address a single problem, botanical medicines are able to address a variety of problems simultaneously. Their organic nature makes botanicals compatible with the body’s own chemistry; hence, they can be gently effective with few toxic side effects.
* Homeopathic Medicine
Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle of “like cures like.” It works on a subtle yet powerful electromagnetic level, gently acting to strengthen the body’s healing and immune response.
* Physical Medicine
Naturopathic Medicine has its own methods of therapeutic manipulation of muscles, bones, and spine. N.D. also uses ultrasound, diathermy, exercise, massage, water, heat and cold, air, and gentle electrical pulses.
* Oriental Medicine
Oriental medicine is a complementary healing philosophy to naturopathic medicine. Meridian theory offers an important understanding of the unity of the body and mind and adds to the Western understanding of physiology. Acupuncture provides a method of treatment which can unify and harmonize the imbalances present in disease conditions, which, if untreated, can result in illness.
* Naturopathic Obstetrics
Naturopathic physicians provide natural childbirth care in an out-of-hospital setting. They offer prenatal and postnatal care using modern diagnostic techniques. The naturopathic approach strengthens healthy body functions so that complications associated with pregnancy may be prevented.
* Psychological Medicine
Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counseling, nutritional balancing, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal on the psychological level.
* Minor Surgery
As general practitioners, N.D.’s do in office minor surgery including repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies, cysts, and other superficial masses