Friday, May 29, 2009

Wait - what is Naturopathic Medicine anyways?

Is Naturopathic Medicine the same thing as Homeopathy? 
What about Herbalism? Acupuncture? 
What do you guys do exactly....?

There are understandably lots of questions when it comes to the scope of practice of Naturopathic Doctors - and indeed we do actually practice medicine.
We are a distinct - specific and different - system of primary care - meaning we are trained in the assessment and diagnosis of disease. We do physical exams, bloodwork, all the same things your traditional medical doctor does - but we approach disease and treatment in a different way. 

This does not mean that we are at odds with the 'allopathic' medical community. Not at all. There is room for both schools of thought - just like there is room for all types of people in the world!
One of the differences between the two lie in the approach to disease. 
Naturopathic Doctors 'treat the cause' vs. a palliative approach where medications are prescribed to ease symptoms.
Naturopathic Doctors ask: why? Why did you develop this problem in the first place? Where is the body out of balance? What is the body attempting to tell you about the state of your overall health? 
That is not to say that we are not trained in Anatomy, Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Minor Surgery - indeed we are. Our education is well rounded in order to be able to work with patients who are concurrently on pharmaceutical medications or other substances in order to 'First do no harm' - one of our guiding principles. 

We approach treatment depending on the individual presentation. Two people can come in for a consultation with the same problem and receive very different treatments. They are 2 different people with 2 different 'whys' and thus, require 2 different treatments. 

As for treatments? What do you do exactly? 
We have 4 main 'modalities' or therapeutic methods. 
Those are: 
  1. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture - diagnosis and assessment based on traditional Chinese tools of tongue and pulse diagnosis and treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs
  2. Botanical Medicine - herbs in their many forms - tinctures (like the very commonly used echinacea which is a herb extracted in alcohol), decoctions (or teas), compresses, salves, poultices, the list could go on. (see the herb of the month posts!)
  3. Nutraceuticals and Lifestyle counselling - supplements and their many forms, dietary changes, stress, sleep and energy management
  4. Homeopathy - A system of medicine based on the administration of minute doses of drugs (could be plant, mineral or animal) which are capable of producing in healthy persons symptoms like those of the disease treated.

In addition to our 4 main modalities we take courses in counseling, massage therapy, spinal manipulation and hydrotherapy. 
Many Naturopathic Doctors incorporate some or all of these additional modalities in their practice, specialize in one, or have separate training in other physical or energetic modalities such as Craniosacral therapy and Bowen therapy.

I hope that helps clarify the confusion!

In good health, 
Dr. Stacey Welton, ND

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