What Do Naturopathic Doctors Do Anyway?

In my last post I talked about the differences between conventional and naturopathic medicine. If you didn’t get a chance to check it out, take a look!
While comparing treatment philosophies, I mentioned that the conventional model mainly relies on pharmaceuticals while the naturopathic model has multiple treatment options.  Was anyone curious on what those “multiple treatment options” are exactly? In this follow up post I’ll give you a run through on some of the most common and reliable treatment modalities. When you walk into a ND's clinic these are the main tools that will be used to help treat a condition or to aid in the maintenance of good health.
Asian Medicine and Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been around for centuries and is what is referred to as eastern medicine.  It looks at health, wellness as well as different disease states from a completely different perspective. It focuses on the energy or the Qi that flows through channels in our body. The organs of Asian medicine all represent different aspects of a person’s health and mental state. If the flow of Qi becomes obstructed a disease state may appear and can be treated with acupuncture or herbs to redirect the flow of energy. It is interesting to note that there exists many parallels between Asian medicine and conventional medicine.  For more information visit the recent post from guest blogger James Yoon.
Clinical Nutrition
Many people often underestimate proper nutrition. It is such a powerful modality and often many presenting conditions can be treated with nutritional changes alone, such as hypertension, high cholesterol or type 2 diabetes. NDs will guide you on a path to better eating that fits within your individual case. Clinical nutrition also involves the prescription of supplements, which in many cases can give the body the tools it needs to heal itself.  Supplementation becomes important when a person's diet, lifestyle (ie. athletes), or genetic factors require higher intakes of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. 
Botanical Medicine
Did you know that many pharmaceutical drugs originated from plants and herbs? Active constituents in herbs have varying physiological effects in the body and can be extracted into an alcoholic mixture called a tincture. NDs can create a tincture formulation, which contains active compounds from various herbs that are specific to your individual case.  Tinctures are the main form in which NDs will prescribe botanicals but they may also be taken in other forms such as teas, pills or ointments.  Botanical medicine is much gentler on your body than traditional pharmaceuticals while producing far less side effects.
Physical Medicine
Physical medicine involves the treatment of any musculoskeletal issue. Many different techniques can be used such as ultrasound, hydrotherapy, massage, manipulations and acupuncture. Exercise or stretching prescriptions may be given to work on specific issues or can even be designed for the maintenance of general health. Physical medicine also involves the therapeutic effect of simple human-to-human touch. Simply being massaged or touched by someone else can have great relaxing and calming effects. The power behind simple touch is often underestimated.
 Homeopathic Medicine
Homeopathy is by far the most controversial modality taught in accredited naturopathic medical colleges. It has been around for centuries and involves dosing patients with remedies, which usually come in the form of little white pills. Homeopathic remedies can also come in other forms such as creams or sprays.  The remedy contains the essence from whatever its source may be, which can include anything from a common herb to the light of the North Star.  Simply put this modality involves treating like with like. In other words a homeopath would prescribe a remedy to a sick patient who is presenting with the same symptoms that a healthy patient would produce if they were given that same remedy.  My co-blogger Nadia has a great affinity for homeopathy and I am hoping she will post a more in depth description in future posts. I will give you one word of advice: do not mistake a naturopathic doctor for a homeopathic doctor--we tend not to respond well that.  Homeopathy is just one of many modalities NDs are trained in, while homeopathic doctors specialize in homeopathy.
Lifestyle Counselling
NDs receive a great amount of training in health psychology. Lifestyle counseling can involve anything from implementing current psychological theories to strategies to quit smoking. There is a big focus on the mind-body connection, as NDs believe that the body and mind work together as a whole and that the emotions and feelings you are experiencing can have a profound effect on how your body manages health and disease.
          As you can see, the tool belt that NDs possess to aid their patients is quite extensive. NDs are more than well enough equipped to act as primary health care givers and can even perform your yearly physical exam, including PAP smears and digital rectal exams. We are fully trained to do it all! It is also quite common for a ND to specialize in a certain area. Even though we all receive training in the core 6 modalities mentioned above, often NDs develop an affinity or a skill in a certain specialty. Specialties could include anything from naturopathic oncology or gynecology to mental disorders or homeopathy. 
          It is a good idea to discuss with your potential ND what their strengths are and if their form of practicing matches up with what you will expect from their services. Additional modalities do exist and are currently practiced by Naturopathic Doctors, but the naturopathic academic community doesn’t necessarily find them relevant or useful enough to teach to students.
          If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment! We would also love to hear what you think our next topic should be!
Jamie Smellie


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N. Kumentas said...


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Thanks for reading!

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