Naturopathic medicine is one of the oldest licensed forms of medicine in Ontario, yet when asked most people don’t have a clue as to what a Naturopathic Doctor does. Many guess that a Naturopath is just a doctor who uses herbal substitutes for pharmaceutical medicines. This is not just the mindset of the general public but also of many other healthcare practitioners. I hope to offer a little more insight into what a Naturopath actually does and where a Naturopath fits as part of your healthcare team. Since the 1920’s ND’s have been licensed under the Drugless Practitioners Act and have one of the largest scopes of practice in Canada. A Naturopath’s license allows them to perform everything from counseling to minor surgery. We are the Renaissance men/women of the healthcare world, with intensive training in a variety of areas. Many Naturopaths will choose an area in which to specialize so as to be able to provide higher quality healthcare to a specific patient cohort but all are trained as primary care physicians.
What sets a Naturopath apart from other doctors is the focus on underlying cause of a condition or concern. Much of modern medicine is focused on symptom management and disease control, very little is focused on the underlying pathology, disease mechanisms and/or core disturbances. When you go to the doctor and are told you have high blood pressure, you are most likely to receive a drug to try and control your blood pressure. These medicines are designed to bring your blood pressure down and keep it under control while you heal. The key aspect is that the medicine is designed to be temporary and that the patient can heal. Many doctors however, provide no teaching as to how to get your blood pressure back under control. A Naturopathic approach would be to focus on the underlying reason the patient has high blood pressure and coach them through the required changes in order to actually heal. Whether using a pharmaceutical, a herb, or a nutrient to lower blood pressure, if nothing is done to address the underlying cause of the condition, no Naturopathic medicine was performed. If however, a pharmaceutical was used to address the underlying cause of the hypertension then this would still count as a Naturopathic approach, just like exercise, diet or herbal intervention.
Healthcare should actually provide healing and not just management of the disease. A patient should not expect to be on an intervention for life, except in extreme cases. The power of the body to heal and regenerate itself is not some mystic belief, it can be shown with very basic study of physiology and pathology. Healing may take time and support but it can be achieved. In order to do this, an individualized plan must be implemented. It is not the disease a person has, but the person that has the disease that is most important.
In future articles I will be touching on a variety of topics using case examples to explain and demonstrate the principles of Naturopathic Medicine and how they can successfully be used to treat a variety of diseases. I will also spend time discussing current issues facing medicine in Canada and the World.