For the millions of Americans with chronic conditions, naturopathic doctors are offering new perspectives and treatment options that are quickly becoming a first line of care. This growing popularity has led to more support among legislators to license NDs in states across the country.
Like chiropractic physicians, naturopathic physicians operate in outpatient, non-emergency facilities. Naturopathic doctors also work alongside medical doctors at health facilities including Cancer Treatment Centers of America, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Centers, and Oregon Health and Science University Hospital.
Combining the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science, NDs are highly trained as thorough diagnosticians. Utilizing the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health, NDs treat patients with the least invasive and least toxic therapies. These noninvasive and gentle modalities are among the several reasons why naturopathic medicine is safe for you and your family.
1. Naturopathic physicians treat patients using conservative and noninvasive modalities.
Naturopathic doctors specialize in preventative medicine and are experts in clinical nutrition and dietary interventions. They believe diet and lifestyle is the foundation to health.
According to a 2014 National Health Report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, seven of the top ten leading causes of death are chronic diseases that could have been prevented or delayed, and quality of life could have been improved through lifestyle changes, including healthy diet, physical activity, avoidance of tobacco, and other types of risk reduction. Naturopathic doctors help treat many chronic diseases including heart disease and cancer, which account for about half of all deaths each year.
Research studies on naturopathic medicine treatments for the prevention of cardiovascular disease and anxiety show that treatments are not only safe but effective. The randomized controlled study regarding naturopathic care for anxiety involved the treatment of 75 participants who received dietary counseling, deep breathing relaxation techniques, supplements, and herbal medicine. According to the study, significant differences between groups were observed in mental health, concentration, fatigue, social functioning, vitality, and overall quality of life. The treatments also resulted in no adverse reactions in any group.
In addition to lifestyle and nutrition recommendations, naturopathic medicine utilizes other noninvasive modalities such as hydrotherapy, manipulative therapy, botanical medicine, and homeopathy. Each of these modalities is effective, safe, gentle, and based on the healing power of nature.
2. Malpractice claims in naturopathic medicine are rare.
Because naturopathic physicians treat their patients through conservative and noninvasive methods, malpractice rates are much lower for naturopathic doctors compared to conventional doctors. Annual premiums for NDs are about $3,800 compared to medical doctors with annual premiums of about $18,600, according to NCMIC, the largest malpractice insurer for NDs.
Low insurance rates are due to the low incidences of malpractice claims made against NDs. According to 2014 report from the California Naturopathic Doctors Association, since licensure was granted in California in 2005, nearly 500 practicing naturopathic doctors have a pristine safety record with no cases of patient harm. The same report states that in Washington State where NDs have a broad scope of practice, there have only been 25 disciplinary actions against naturopathic doctors in ten years, from 2004-2014, compared to over 20,000 disciplinary actions for MDs.
3. Naturopathic physicians are well trained within the level of care they provide.
Naturopathic physicians attend accredited, four-year, on-campus, naturopathic medical schools where they study the latest advances in science and natural approaches to illness prevention and management. Students gain a thorough knowledge of biomedical sciences by taking anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, and pharmacology courses.
Before graduation, students must complete a minimum of 4,100 hours of class and clinical training, which includes over 1,200 hours of hands-on, supervised, clinical training. To become a licensed practitioner, naturopathic physicians must also pass rigorous board exams.
NDs are trained to work in conjunction with medical doctors. In addition to spending the first two years of their education in basic and clinical science didactic coursework, students spend 100 hours studying pharmaceuticals. NDs know how to safely use their treatments integratively with conventional medicine and they understand their limitations.
4. NDs are trained to treat a wide variety of populations and conditions.
NDs are rigorously trained to practice in a primary care setting where they encounter conditions of all types in all age groups. A significant part of an ND’s education is diagnostic training so they can appropriately treat or refer patients to other medical specialists when necessary. This training involves diagnostic tools common in conventional medicine, such as detailed health, disease, and prescription drug histories, physical exams, and targeted laboratory testing and imaging, according to American Association of Naturopathic Practitioners.
NDs consider diet, lifestyle habits and choices, exercise history, and social/emotional factors to assess patients’ needs. These approaches often open doors to new and effective treatment options.
Some of the most common ailments NDs treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility issues, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
5. More states are recognizing and licensing NDs.
Currently 20 states, the District of Columbia and two U.S. territories license naturopathic doctors with three states gaining licensure approval in the last year alone: Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. However, more legislators are beginning to acknowledge the value of the growing naturopathic medicine profession.
“[Naturopathic medicine] has helped many people suffering from chronic diseases get relief without chemicals and pharmaceuticals that may have unintended side effects,” Pennsylvania State Reps. Bryan Cutler and Steve Mentzer said in a statement.
The new laws create ND licensing boards in each state, requiring that those who set up practice as an ND hold a graduate degree from an accredited naturopathic medical school. NDs must also pass national board exams, which cover basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects and clinical sciences.
At the NUHS Whole Health Center in Lombard, Ill, naturopathic medicine doctors offer a variety of safe and gentle treatments including hydrotherapy, nutritional counseling, homeopathy, botanical medicine, and more.
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About the Author
Dr. Fraser Smith