In the Seattle area, many people have either seen a naturopathic doctor or know someone who has. What many people don’t know is what exactly naturopathic doctors are and what they do. My goal is to shed some light on this.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained as holistic primary care physicians that focus on prevention and wellness, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of disease. NDs attend post-graduate training at accredited naturopathic medical schools for 4 to5 years. They learn standards of conventional medical care as well as traditional and innovative naturopathic therapies. The naturopathic principles, therapeutic order and the determinants of health are integrated into their education and guide their practice.
The naturopathic principles include treating the whole person, finding and treating the cause of disease, trusting in the healing power of nature, doctor as teacher, do no harm, and prevention. The therapeutic order is a hierarchy of naturopathic intervention that assists in finding the appropriate level of intervention for each patient. The determinants of health allow one to understand what maintains health and how health is disturbed.
NDs may work in private practices, hospitals, integrative clinics and community health centers. They can be utilized as general practitioners to perform annual wellness exams and provide care for chronic disease and acute illnesses. They can also serve as specialists in area such as pediatrics, women’s health, cardiovascular wellness and diabetes care. NDs are able to prescribe prescription medications and are also experts in natural medicines such as herbs and homeopathy. Nutrition and exercise counseling, stress reduction techniques, and specialized diets are also often used in naturopathic practice.
Many people are surprised by how much time their ND spends with them. You can expect your first visit to last 60-90 minutes and return visits to last 30-60 minutes, depending on the practitioner. Typically, a very thorough family and medical history is taken. You will likely be asked about your diet and exercise, stress and sleep habits. These questions serve many purposes and can help your doctor determine the underlying cause of your complaints.
To find a licensed ND in your area, visit the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website at http://www.naturopathic.org.
— By Lela Altman, ND, LAc, naturopathic doctor and resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.