Naturopathic medicine is a science-based tradition that promotes wellness by identifying the unique aspects of each patient and then employing non-toxic natural therapies to restore his or her physiological, psychological, and structural balance.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) defines naturopathic medicine as:
"A distinct system of primary health care-an art, science, philosophy, and practice of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of illness. Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the principles upon which its practice is based. These principles are continually re-examined in the light of scientific advances. The techniques of naturopathic medicine include modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods" (AANP, 1998).
What are the principles of naturopathic medicine?
First, do no harm
A naturopathic treatment plan uses therapies that are gentle, non-invasive, effective, and do not have adverse side effects. A conscious effort is made to use methods that do not suppress symptoms.
The healing power of nature
The body has an inherent ability to maintain and restore health. Naturopathic physicians facilitate this healing process by removing obstacles to cure and identifying treatments to enhance healing.
Identify and treat the cause
Naturopathic physicians treat the underlying causes of illness rather than just the symptoms of disease. Symptoms are an external manifestation of an internal imbalance due to any combination of physical, mental, or emotional causes. Symptom management may be important, but it is more important not to disregard the underlying cause of disease.
Doctor as teacher (I am not a Dr, but a certified Holistic Practitioner)
The Latin root of doctor is docere, which means "to teach." The primary role of naturopathic physicians is educating, empowering, and motivating patients to assume more personal responsibility for their health by adopting a healthy attitude, lifestyle, and diet. Thomas Edison once said, "The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest patients in the maintenance of the human frame, in diet, and in the prevention of disease." It is more effective to teach than treat patients.
Treat the whole person
Naturopathic physicians identify specific weaknesses or dysfunctions in their patients and tailor treatment based upon the patient's individual presentation. It is the patient that is in need of treatment, not the disease state or symptom. Naturopathic physicians are interested in finding and treating characteristic symptoms that define the patient rather than common symptoms that define the disease. William Osler, MD, once said, "It is more important to know what sort of patient has a disease rather than what sort of disease a patient has."
It is far easier and cheaper to prevent a disease than to treat a disease. Naturopathic physicians evaluate both subjective and objective information necessary to uncover potential susceptibilities to future disease states in their patients. They can discuss specific lifestyle strategies or nutritional supplementation as a means for disease prevention.
How can naturopathic medicine benefit your health and wellbeing?
Many are able to respond to individual needs of patients and that include nutritional supplements, botanical medicine, and diet therapy.
Naturopathic is understand the art of healing, which is more than an herbal remedy or nutritional supplement. To understand the context of a patient's illness, the Naturopath must take the time to listen to the patient's story. Effective naturopathic treatment requires patience and good communication. Most patients know what is wrong and what needs to be done, but they don't know how to translate this into an action plan. The naturopathic can translate the patient's story and assign priorities among the several options that may emerge.
While randomized control trials are effective at testing single treatments, they may not be the best paradigm to judge the use of multiple treatments in patients with more than one disorder 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 expertise and patient preferences (Geyman, 1998). For example, riboflavin, a B vitamin, has been proven in a randomized controlled trial to reduce the frequency and duration of migraine headaches when used for three months. Thus a naturopathic will often use riboflavin as part of a treatment plan, while also including other treatments based on clinical expertise. These treatments may include the use of omega-3 fatty acids to decrease inflammation or an elimination diet to identify possible food or chemical triggers. Individual patients will have different triggers-for some it could be MSG, for others it could be wheat. Noting individual responses is part of taking patient preferences into consideration.
In short, naturopathic medicine is personalized medicine that does not always lend itself to a strict adherence to treatments based on randomized controlled trials alone. It is essential to test the value of individual treatments, but the actual clinical application is much more complex. (And indeed the clinical application of conventional healthcare follows a similar model: according to a recent article in the British Medical Journal, only 13% of standard tests and treatments are supported by strong evidence.)