Read below for some answers to your most burning questions regarding naturopathic medicine.
*This is an "ask the experts" column I wrote for lifesmarketplace.ca
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
A Naturopathic Doctor is a health professional whose goal is to identify and manage the root cause of a disease or disorder, not simply its symptoms. The emphasis of naturopathic medicine is on the prevention and treatment of illness through stress reduction and a healthy diet and lifestyle, in addition to using minimally invasive methods such as nutritional supplements, herbal medicine and acupuncture. NDs take the time to complete a full history and screening of each patient and work collaboratively with other professionals in the patient’s health care team to get to the root of health concerns. An ND’s bottom line is to help patients achieve an optimum level of health.
In line with conventional medical training, training in naturopathic medicine requires a minimum of seven years of post-secondary education from a recognized school before being allowed to register as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) in Ontario. She or he must have an undergraduate degree, have completed premedical undergraduate coursework, and have completed a four-year, accredited, naturopathic medical education. Graduates must pass two sets of provincial licensing board exams and are required to keep their registration current throughout their career by completing at least 70 hours every three years of approved continuing education.
Why should I use a Naturopathic Doctor?
1) If you want to improve your overall health, but don't know where exactly to begin.
- An ND can identify the most important areas of concern, and guide you through the changes you can make for prevention of future illness, as well as improving vitality NOW.
2) If you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, and want to explore diet and lifestyle options that will complement any current medications or other treatments you are receiving.
- ND's are trained to treat in such a way that is safe and does not cause harmful interactions with medications.
3) If you have concerns with digestion.
- ND's recognize that digestive health is the most important factor in overall health. When you are properly absorbing and processing nutrients, all other systems in your body are better able to function.
- Poor digestive health is often the root cause for many other concerns such as skin conditions, headaches, low energy and chronic pain.
4) If you've been told you are "healthy" but things "just don't feel right".
Unfortunately, our medical system in Ontario does not always allow for MD's to spend much time investigating a patient's concern beyond standard blood work. Often there are many factors in a person's life - diet, sleep habits, stress, hormonal health - that can combine and lead to a feeling that is "just not right". An ND is able to spend time investigating these factors, and coming up with a treatment plan for improved well-being.
Should I stop seeing my regular doctor?
The best plan is for a Naturopathic Doctor to work in conjunction with your MD, in order to properly support you. MD's are able to run tests and refer to specialists, which is covered by OHIP. ND's are able to spend time with you, working on a treatment that caters to your individual needs. These two approaches are very complementary when working together.
I AM ON HEART MEDICATION... WHAT NATURAL REMEDIES SHOULD I AVOID?
If you choose to treat yourself "naturally", without guidance beyond the internet or health food/supplement stores, it is recommended to stick to dietary interventions only. For example, increase garlic and onions in your diet, eat more celery, decrease your salt intake. It is best to speak with a trained medical professional to ensure the specific combination of medications you are taking will not interact with any natural supplements. This also ensures that you are taking the right natural remedies, at a dose that will be beneficial to you.