Naturopathic medicine is the treatment and prevention of disease by primarily natural means. It combines modern, scientific, evidence-based methods with traditional, natural, therapeutic approaches. In Washington State, naturopathic doctors are board-certified physicians who are trained in both conventional as well as alternative therapies.
After completing their pre-med undergraduate degrees, students of naturopathic medicine complete a four- to five-year doctorate program at a naturopathic medical school. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) study and learn the same basic sciences as allopathic doctors (MDs or DOs) and utilize that training as a foundation for diagnosis and treatment.
Naturopathic medical students spend a minimum of two years interning in clinical settings where they see patients under close supervision of licensed NDs and MDs. Like their MD and DO counterparts, NDs must pass rigorous professional board exams before they can become licensed to practice.
Naturopathic medical schools distinguish themselves from allopathic medical schools by emphasizing disease prevention, optimal wellness, and a holistic approach to health. Beyond the standard medical curriculum, NDs are trained in clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, psychology, physical medicine, homeopathy, and counseling.
This gives NDs the unique ability to use traditional western modalities, such as blood analysis and pharmaceutical medications, in conjunction with fundamental naturopathic approaches. For example, an ND may prescribe a pharmaceutical medication along with natural therapies in order to create a well-rounded treatment plan.
The naturopathic approach to medicine is based on a set of guiding principles, each one forming a crucial step in the patient’s path to optimal wellness and healing. The principles are:
Each person is unique and deserves a unique approach to his or her health. Naturopathic doctors assess the whole person, taking into consideration the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of each individual.
Treating a patient’s symptoms does not necessarily treat the cause of an illness. Naturopathic doctors address both the symptoms and the underlying cause in order to truly restore a patient’s health.
There are often different therapies to choose from when considering treatment for a specific illness or health concern. Naturopathic doctors focus on using the least intrusive and safest options first.
At the core of naturopathic medicine is a vast repository of natural therapies shown to be effective in promoting and restoring health. Naturopathic doctors employ these tools on a daily basis in order to provide their patients with effective alternatives that typically have few side effects.
The human body is a complex system with an astounding ability to heal itself. Naturopathic doctors use methods that promote and enhance the body’s immune system, encouraging it to return to a state of balanced health.
The best way to treat illness is to stop it from happening in the first place. Naturopathic doctors strive to promote an environment inside and outside of the body that reduces the patient’s risk for developing new illnesses and can stop the progression of existing chronic disease.
Ultimately, you control your own health. Naturopathic doctors believe in helping you understand cues from your body in order to achieve and maintain health. Learning to live a balanced life is by far the most effective way to realize your optimal health potential.