Naturopathy is a medical system based on a collaboration of health care approaches and traditional healing practices that were popular and commonly used in the European region during the 19th century.
There are several reasons why individuals elect to be seen by naturopathic practitioners, such as the treatment of disease or illness, primary care, and overall well-being. In regions such as the United States, traditional naturopaths, naturopathic physicians, and other providers of health care practice naturopathy.
Examples of specific approaches commonly utilized by naturopathic practitioners include lifestyle and dietary changes, reduction of stress, homeopathy, exercise therapy, psychotherapy, dietary supplements, herb supplementation, manipulative therapies, practitioner-guided detoxification, acupuncture, massage, and counseling.
Common health problems that bring patients to visit naturopaths include all types of allergies, issues with fertility, obesity, chronic pain, frequent headaches, digestive problems, hormone imbalances, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
What Is Naturopathy?
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How It Works
The ultimate objective of naturopathy is to treat a patient as a whole, including healing the body, mind, and spirit. Naturopathy also focuses on the healing of the underlying causes of a patient’s symptoms instead of just trying to heal the symptoms themselves.
An initial examination by a naturopathic practitioner may take a couple of hours. They will inquire about a patient’s stress, lifestyle habits, medical history, diet, and other aspects of their life.
A naturopath may order lab tests to look for nutritional deficiencies or other clues to the underlying cause of a patient’s symptoms. They then put together a personal health plan for the patient, focusing on the aspects of prevention and education.
The naturopath may offer the patient tips on how to manage their stress properly, what to include in (and exclude from) their diet, and what kind of exercise regimen to follow.
Naturopathic physicians are also referred to as doctors of naturopathic medicine and naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic physicians have an accredited four-year degree and learn the same standard principles of science conventional doctors do.
However, doctors of naturopathy study further into psychology, nutrition, herbal medicine, and homeopathy. In some states, naturopathic physicians have to become licensed to practice.
Comparison to Traditional Medicine
The comparison between naturopathy and traditional medicine is disputed among the medical and naturopathic communities and their practitioners. It costs money to see both types of practitioners, and medical insurance rarely covers naturopathy.
Although the topic is controversial, it is clear naturopathy focuses on using natural and self-healing forms of treatment with priority over forms of treatment that involve medications and medical procedures to treat a patient.
In other words, they are not against using traditional forms of treatment, but they believe in trying naturopathic methods first. This principle is called the therapeutic order, where the safest and most natural treatments available are given priority.
Traditional medicine tends to give more urgency to treatments that involve the use of medical procedures and medications if it is clear based on the physician’s medical training and expertise, that changes in lifestyle and diet cannot independently treat the patient’s illness.
Traditional medicine takes a weighted approach when choosing how to treat patients, considering the safety of treatment while also giving great consideration to its efficacy by weighing out the risks and benefits of a treatment.
Both traditional medicine and naturopathy draw from scientific ideas, so the comparison between the two ultimately comes down to a patient’s personal preference and beliefs.
Benefits of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine has many benefits when it is not used by itself. The use of naturopathy, in addition to traditional medical care, has shown to be beneficial for millions of individuals.
When a patient’s traditional medical doctors and naturopathic practitioners work as a team to treat them, it is referred to as integrated care. Integrated care is becoming more and more prevalent in the medical community.
Naturopathic practices encourage a patient to be more involved and actively understand the underlying causes of their illness. Many therapies utilized by naturopathic practitioners help promote an individual’s overall health and decreasing their stress.
For example, exercising routinely, getting enough sleep, practicing yoga, eating a nutritious and balanced diet, and getting acupuncture can improve an individual’s overall wellness and prevent future illness.
Naturopathic practitioners also tend to spend a little more time talking to and getting to know the patient and numerous aspects of their life. Naturopathic practitioners are also known to help patients feel they have more power or control over their health and well-being.
Safety of Treatments
One of the most prevalent issues brought up about the safety of naturopathic treatments is that they are used in the place of proven medical treatments and care.
Some naturopathic practitioners may advise individuals to stop taking their medications, forego other medical treatments, or avoid vaccinations.
One safety argument about naturopathy is that practitioners of naturopathy know the difference between serious illness and something less sinister, and know when to initiate traditional medical therapy such as antibiotics.
However, the safety flaw here is that traditional therapy like antibiotics is not solely purposed for the elimination of the infection-causing bacteria, but functions further to prevent post-infection complications like rheumatic fever.
When traditional medicine encounters a flaw or presents a danger, legislation and regulations ensure this information is available to the public and thoroughly investigated.
This is not required for naturopathic treatments. Safety can become a complex element of naturopathy because a patient may receive conflicting information from their medical doctor and a naturopath.
Where the risks of a prescription medication are publicly and clearly identified all over its label, the risks of a naturopathic treatment are not presented in such a way, nor are the risks studied to the same extent.
Where It Falls Short
There are several aspects where naturopathy falls short. In terms of education, some naturopathic practitioners do have a four-year degree from an accredited institution but are not required to undergo a three-year residency like primary doctors are.
Most naturopathic practitioners go directly into practice rather than utilizing several years of on the job training and supervision. The point of view in naturopathic medicine is that maintaining body balance should be prioritized over the precise medical treatment of acute conditions.
This point of view gives rise to the idea that only patients with a weak immune system, are already sick, have a toxic body, or are unbalanced contract infections and develop diseases, despite documented and proven scientific research.
Naturopathy rarely acknowledges the fact some diseases develop as an inevitable result of certain genetic abnormalities that cannot be altered or inhibited.
Many individuals who turn to naturopathic medicine over traditional medicine have done so because of a bad experience with a doctor, and not because traditional medical treatments have not been effective enough for their problems.
When naturopathy is combined with and does not oversaturate a patient’s primary medical care by their traditional physician, it can be very helpful.
However, basic science principles are easily able to reveal that naturopathic medicine is not an adequate replacement for traditional medicine and should not be used in such a manner.