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Naturopathic medicine treatments are highly individualized. Each patient has a special narrative, history, genetics, dietary habits, lifestyle and related health concerns.

What is naturopathy or naturopathic medicine?

There are reports that indicate that Naturopathy was first introduced by Hippocrates, The Father of Medicine, wherein, he coined the term ‘physician’ which in Greek meant Nature. He stated that the physician should be in tune with nature and should realize the importance of food, drinks, and the patient’s occupation while treating the patient (Jarvis 2001). However, the term ‘Naturopathy’ was coined by John Steele (AMA 1997). Later on, Benedict Lust spread the awareness of this form of therapy all over the US and he described naturopathy as a discipline that comprised of diet, homeopathy, herbal, Chinese therapy, acupuncture, massage, and other natural therapies for the treatment of patients.

Naturopathy - also known as naturopathic medicine - is a medical system that has developed from a combination of standard practices and medical care approaches popular in Europe during the 19th century. A holistic view of patient care is paramount to naturopathic medicine. People visit naturopathic professionals for various health purposes, including primary care, overall well-being, and treatment of disorders.

In the USA, naturopathy is practiced by naturopathic doctors, traditional naturopaths, and other healthcare providers who also provide naturopathic services.



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What do naturopathic medicine practitioners do?

The major philosophy behind this form of treatment is that it tries to stimulate the natural healing power of the body and helps the body treat the underlying disease by itself.  Naturopathic medicines try to blend the available scientific knowledge with natural forms of medicines. It is a non-invasive holistic approach that tries to cure the patients using diet and lifestyle changes and disregards the usual evidence-based medicinal approach.

Naturopathic physicians are primary care providers who treat the entire person. The naturopathic scope of practice includes clinical and laboratory investigation, botanical medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, and other traditional healing methods.

Naturopathic doctors tailor their treatment to match each individual and put a strong emphasis on preventative care and self-care. The dependence on naturopathic medicine is on disease prevention and optimizing wellness.

There's absolutely no one special major required for entry to a naturopathic medicine program. Pre-naturopathic medicine is a career goal that contains a set of course requirements that prepare you to succeed as a naturopathic doctor. You should pick a major you like, and one where you will excel.

A naturopathic medical education requires four decades after the undergraduate level. While naturopathic doctors can practice in most states, they aren't fully licensed to do all their treatments in most states.

Naturopathic Practitioners utilize a variety of treatment approaches. Examples include:

- Dietary and lifestyle changes

- Stress reduction

- Herbs and other dietary supplements

- Homeopathy

- Manipulative therapies

- Exercise therapy

- Practitioner-guided detoxification

- Psychotherapy and counseling.

Some practitioners use other methods as well or, if appropriate, may refer patients to traditional medical care providers.

See: Integrative Homeopathy and Chinese medicine approach to ailments

What are the benefits of Naturopathy?

Naturopathic medicines are patient-specific and depend on the mental, physical, psychological, environmental, and lifestyle factors that affect the patient. Naturopathy is able to cure a wide range of diseases ranging from chronic to acute disorders. It can be used in conjugation with allopathic medicines to cure all conditions. There are many benefits of naturopathic medicine over other options.

- Optimal health promotion

The attention of naturopathic medicine is health promotion and the understanding that the body has an innate ability to heal itself. By identifying and eliminating obstacles to heal, the body can heal and move toward optimum health. The objective of naturopathic practice is to deal with underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by improving the body's own healing abilities.

- Disease prevention

Disease prevention and preventing the development of disease are principles inherent to naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic doctors work with patients to identify the root causes of illness and to address all of the things which are affecting a patient's health.

- Ailments treatment

Naturopathic doctors are primary healthcare practitioners. They're trained to deal with virtually all health issues from acute to chronic, pediatric to geriatric, and bodily to psychological. Naturopathic physicians work with individuals that may have different requirements such as:

- patients that are searching for disease prevention and health promotion

- patients with a range of health issues and no clear identification

- patients with chronic and acute illnesses

- Individualized treatment

Naturopathic treatments are highly individualized. Each patient has a special narrative, history, genetics, dietary habits, lifestyle, and related health concerns. A naturopathic physician will work to ascertain the underlying cause(s) and create an individualized treatment plan to stimulate an individual's innate healing ability. Patients are also involved in their wellness program and learn how to make successful, educated, self-care decisions that could prevent future health issues.

Working with traditional medicine

Naturopathic doctors can, and in fact, work with traditional medical physicians. NDs are trained to refer patients to other healthcare professionals, where appropriate. Most naturopathic physicians cross-refer extensively to other healthcare professionals.

Safe remedy

The objective of naturopathic practice is to deal with underlying disorders and to restore normal body function by improving the body's own healing abilities. Therefore, naturopathic physicians must focus their efforts on understanding the special needs of each individual. Because of this, naturopathic remedies are highly individualized. Patients participate in their therapy programs and learn how to make successful, educated self-care choices, which may prevent future health issues. Naturopathic diagnosis and therapeutics are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from many disciplines, such as naturopathic medicine, traditional medicine, European complementary medicine, clinical nutrition, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, homeopathy, psychology, and spirituality.

Research

Information technology and new concepts in clinical outcomes and evaluation are especially well-suited to evaluating the efficacy of naturopathic treatment protocols and are being used in research, both in naturopathic medical schools and at the offices of practicing naturopathic physicians. Clinical research into natural therapies has become an increasingly important focus for naturopathic doctors.

Cost-effectiveness

Naturopathic medicine can lead to resolving the expensive epidemic of chronic illness. The cost-effectiveness of naturopathic medicine is now being researched in Canada. Research conducted in the USA on the cost-effectiveness of naturopathic medicine has shown the important savings to be realized by individuals, insurance companies, and the health-care system generally.

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What medical conditions does naturopathy treat?

Naturopathic physicians are often effective at treating chronic conditions that don't respond to traditional medicine. This includes, but isn't limited to exhaustion, pain, sleep disturbance, and digestive disorders. They have the ability to respond to the individual needs of individuals and create a treatment program that includes nutritional supplements, botanical medicine, and diet therapy.

Naturopathic physicians understand the art of healing, which is more than dispensing an herbal remedy or supplement. To understand the context of a patient's illness, the doctor must take the opportunity to follow the individual's story. Powerful naturopathic treatment requires patience and great communication.


Most patients know what's wrong and what has to be done, but they do not know how to translate this into an action plan. The naturopathic doctor can interpret the patient's narrative and assign priorities among the many options that may emerge. They also take the time to answer the individual's questions.

Naturopathy strives to treat many conditions like asthma, osteoporosis, mid-ear infections, menopausal discomfort, fertility problems, respiratory conditions, adrenal fatigue, digestive issues, cardiovascular disorders, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, cervical dysplasia, arthritis, chronic pain, hormonal imbalances, chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia. Naturopathic medicine is used for many health difficulties. Some of the more common ones include:

- Allergies

- Headaches

- Fertility problems

- Digestive problems

- Obesity

- Hormonal imbalances

- Persistent pain

- Chronic fatigue syndrome


See: How To Manage Fibro Fog Or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

What training do naturopaths have?

Naturopathic practitioners are trained as general practitioners specializing in natural medicine. They cooperate with all other branches of medical science, referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate (AANP, 1998).

Naturopathic practitioners have a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) degree from a four-year graduate medical school with entrance requirements comparable to traditional medical schools. The ND degree requires graduate-level research in traditional medical sciences, such as cardiology, biochemistry, gynecology, immunology, pathology, pharmacology, pediatrics, and neurology.

In addition to the standard medical curriculum, naturopathic students must do extensive coursework in natural therapeutics. This includes therapies in the sciences of clinical nourishment, botanical medications, homeopathy, physical medicine, exercise therapy, lifestyle counseling, and hydrotherapy, that are using water to treat a disease or disease.

Education And licensing differ for the three kinds of naturopathic practitioners:

- Naturopathic physicians generally complete a 4-year, graduate-level program at one of the North American naturopathic medical schools accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, an organization recognized for accreditation purposes by the U.S. Department of Education. Some U.S. states and territories have licensing requirements for naturopathic physicians; others do not. In those jurisdictions that have licensing requirements, naturopathic physicians must graduate from a 4-year naturopathic medical school and pass an examination to be given a license. They have to also meet annual continuing education requirements.

- Traditional naturopaths, also known simply as "naturopaths," may get training in various ways. Training programs vary in length and content and aren't accredited by associations recognized for certification purposes by the U.S. Department of Education. Traditional naturopaths are often not eligible for licensing.

- Other healthcare providers (such as Physicians, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, dentists, and physicians ) occasionally provide naturopathic treatments, practical medicine, and other holistic treatments, having pursued additional training in these areas. Training programs vary.

Remember that regulations, permits, or certificates don't ensure safe, effective treatment from any health care provider--complementary or conventional. For More Information, see the NCCIH fact sheet Credentialing, Licensing, and Education.

Tell all your medical care providers about any complementary or integrative health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you would like to handle your health. This can help ensure coordinated and secure care.

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Precautions

A good naturopath works along with the patient’s other doctors ensuring maximal patient-comfort. You need to inform your allopathic doctor about the various supplements prescribed by the naturopath. Remember, naturopaths are not licensed to perform surgeries and prescribe antidepressants or narcotics (Boughton and Frey 2005).

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Side effects

Some of the supplements or herbal extracts have trace amounts of lead or arsenic, hence; always buy these products from a well-known producer. Also, herbal drugs are categorized under supplements and do not undergo the same vigilance as drugs. Thus, you need to practice caution while using these medicines.

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Science & Research

Initially, naturopathy was not a favored form of medicine, however, in the last 2 decades, this therapy has gained wide acceptance worldwide. In a study, the authors suggested combining the naturopathic medications with the traditional allopathic medicines to fight deadly diseases like cancer (Ahmad et al., 2015).

Evidence-based medicine (EBM) is considered the paradigm in traditional healthcare and has been indicated as the methodology for natural medicine. The underlying foundation of EBM is the randomized controlled trial, which is quite valuable in assessing single remedies for individual diseases. There are randomized controlled trials that indicate that naturopathic treatments, such as botanical medicine, supplements, acupuncture, and physiotherapy are good at treating some conditions, such as fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, anxiety & depression, asthma, hypertension, and type II diabetes.

While randomized control trials are good at analyzing single treatments, they might not be the best paradigm to estimate using multiple therapies in patients with more than one disease or disease. For this and other reasons, some scientists have suggested that an evidence-based approach should include not only research evidence but also clinic experience and individual preferences (Geyman, 1998). Riboflavin, a B vitamin, has been shown in a randomized controlled trial to decrease the frequency and duration of migraine headaches when employed for three months. Thus a naturopathic doctor will frequently use riboflavin as part of a treatment program, while also including different treatments based on clinical experience. These treatments may include using omega-3 fatty acids to reduce inflammation or an elimination diet to determine potential food or chemical triggers. Individual patients may have different triggers-for some it might be MSG, for others, it could be wheat. Noting individual responses is part of accepting individual preferences under the account.

Naturopathic medicine is personalized medicine that doesn't necessarily lend itself to rigorous adherence to therapies based on randomized controlled trials. It's essential to check the value of individual remedies, however, the true clinical application is far more complex. (And really the clinical application of traditional health follows a similar model: according to a recent article from the British Medical Journal, just 13 percent of conventional tests and treatments are supported by strong evidence)

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References

1. Ahmad A, Ginnebaugh KR, Li Y, Padhye SB, Sarkar FH. 2015. Molecular Targets of Naturopathy in Cancer Research: Bridge to Modern Medicine. Nutrients, 7(1), 321-334.

2. Boughton B, Frey RJ. 2005. Naturopathic Medicine. Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine (2nd ed.). Gale.

3. Jarvis WT. 2001. NCAHF Fact Sheet on Naturopathy. National Council Against Health Fraud. Retrieved on 28th Nov 2015 from: http://www.ncahf.org/articles/j-n/naturo.html

4. Report 12 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A-97). American Medical Association. 1997. Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association: Summaries and Recommendations of the Council on Scientific Affairs.

5. University of Minnesota  https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu 

6. Myers SP, Vigar V, J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Feb;25(2):141-168. doi: 10.1089/acm.2018.0340, The State of the Evidence for Whole-System, Multi-Modality Naturopathic Medicine: A Systematic Scoping Review.





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