April 9, 2009

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic Medicine has been with us for two hundred years, even longer as our ancestors were wise to the healing properties of plants, herbs and spices. Bloodletting and poor hygiene aside, there was a growing body of wisdom regarding natural treatments evolving along with our ancestors that has been forgotten and discredited in the shadow of modern medicine.

What kind of training does a naturopathic doctor receive?

A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an M.D., but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, the naturopathic physician is required to complete four years of training where they complete coursework in clinical nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling (to encourage people to make lifestyle changes in support of their personal health). A naturopathic physician takes rigorous professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician. (www.naturopathic.org)

How would you describe Naturopathic Medicine?

Complementary because it is not an approach “instead” of conventional American medicine, but one that can compliment the basic health needs that are being met by your MD or PCP, LAc or other health care practitioner. It can also give you a place to turn when you feel that western medicine isn’t offering you the options you seek. Many of the better known conventional medical schools around the country are adding departments of alternative medicine to keep up with the demand from the public.

Alternative because the medicines we use are non-toxic and have no side effects. Although naturopaths are licensed in the state of Oregon to dispense hundreds of pharmaceuticals, we usually opt for the most natural way to stimulate the body to heal itself, either through herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, exercise or lifestyle modifications.

And preventative because you may choose to see a naturopath even when you are feeling well but want to avoid the ear or sinus infections of the winter, the allergies of the spring, or you’re just not feeling like yourself.

What to Expect During a Visit with a Naturopathic Physician?

Your initial visit will last one hour or more. Be prepared to discuss your health history, family history, and your current health complaint in detail. A naturopathic physician will be a good listener, will ask you a lot of questions, may perform physical exams and will seek further information which could include a diet diary, lab testing or medical records. Usually you will be asked to return in 2 weeks when results are ready to receive your treatment plan. A treatment plan may include food and lifestyle modifications, nutraceutical supplementation or herbal prescriptions.

I am committed to keeping my patients’ treatment plan simple so that they can be successful in their healing attempts. After my patients have had 4-8 weeks on a treatment plan I like to see them to assess improvements or to make necessary changes to the plan. After that I expect to see my patients every three months until symptoms resolve, or as needed. My goal is to provide my patients with the support, tools and education to stay in good health so that the need to see a doctor is minimized. Nothing thrills me more as a professional than to watch my patients who have suffered for years start to feel better after a couple visits.

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