Naturopathic medicine doctors (NDs) are medical professionals who practice throughout the United States, working in private practice, hospitals, multidisciplinary clinics, community health centers and specialty treatment programs such as the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA). According the Institute for Natural Medicine:
“Twenty-eight prominent health systems, hospitals, and cancer treatment centers now have one or more licensed naturopathic doctors on staff at their facilities. Today there are approximately 6,000 licensed naturopathic doctors practicing in the U.S. Twenty-three U.S. states and territories currently license naturopathic doctors.”
As the demand for this type of holistic care grows, there is a need for more trained naturopathic doctors.
For many, naturopathic physicians offer a new perspective on their health care. NDs treat a wide variety of medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Some of the most common ailments they treat include:
- Chronic pain
- Digestive issues
- Heart disease
- Fertility problems
- Complex chronic conditions
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
The field of medicine, at its core, is the same but branches off in different directions concerning the approach, tools and methodologies used in caring for patients. Allopathic doctors (conventional medical doctors) and naturopathic doctors (doctors that practice natural medicine) share the same basic foundational knowledge while approaching patient treatment in different ways.
On one side of the coin, an allopathic doctor is someone who practices conventional western medicine. They mainly focus on treating symptoms with remedies such as prescription medicines and surgical interventions.
On the other side of the coin is naturopathic medicine, which is a holistic approach to the proactive prevention of illnesses and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of their underlying causes using traditional healing methods, principles and practices. NDs combine the wisdom of cooperating with nature with the rigors of modern science, utilizing gentle treatments that support the body’s own healing power. They practice personalized medicine and consider each patient’s unique situation based on genetics, environmental exposures and lifestyle.
Are naturopathic doctors quacks? Absolutely not. Natural doctors are highly trained and thorough diagnosticians who focus on the least invasive and least toxic therapies when treating patients. Treatment modalities can include:
- Nutritional counseling
- Botanical medicine
- Minor surgery
The solutions may be simple, but they are both significant and impactful when it comes to a patient’s overall health.
Helping Patients Avoid Costly Prescription Drugs and Their Harmful Effects
With the changing political landscape, many Americans are experiencing uncertainty concerning health insurance and the different avenues available to finance their health care needs.
Health care is a significant expense for individuals and families — especially those with chronic diseases. One of the largest expenses people face is costly prescriptions. However, patients who see a naturopathic doctor often can avoid using costly drugs that frequently result in harmful side effects. Instead, naturopathic medicine focuses on treating a wide spectrum of illnesses using nature’s healing power.
Improve Patients' Lifestyles
In today’s world of fad diets, overly processed foods and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), living a healthy lifestyle can be challenging. It can also be difficult for patients to know what they may be doing that’s negatively impacting their health.
Naturopathic doctors look beyond their patients’ symptoms to consider the underlying causes of their conditions and how to prevent the issues from occurring in the first place. For those with recurring conditions, this approach might be especially useful.
In fact, identifying and treating the causes of an illness rather than just the symptoms is one of the six principles of naturopathic medicine. Those who visit NDs who have degrees from Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) accredited programs can rest assured that their naturopathic physicians are trained in these principles.
Another principle doctors of naturopathic medicine follow is to be teachers — not just doctors — to patients. NDs strive to educate patients in ways to achieve and maintain optimal health. That way, patients have the tools to practice healthy living in their everyday lives.
There's a Growing Demand for NDs
More people than ever are seeking natural health care treatments and are choosing naturopathic doctors as their primary care providers. As a result, more states are beginning to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine to their residents.
Pennsylvania and Massachusetts recently joined 17 other states (and Washington D.C.) in recognizing licensure for natural doctors. Licensure ensures that NDs:
- Hold graduate degrees from accredited naturopathic schools — such as National University of Health Sciences (NUHS)
- Have successfully passed national board exams
- Comply with medical practice and professional standards set forth by state legislators
All of this means that patients can trust they are receiving quality care from their naturopathic physicians.
As word about the natural and health-optimizing benefits of naturopathic medicine continues to spread, it is apparent that this alternative health care option is here to stay, and demand for Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine will continue to be on the rise.
About the Author
Dr. Ashley Biscoe