Naturopathy was developed by Benjamin Lust about one hundred years ago in the United States. Although the formal practice has only been around for the past one hundred years, the principles that it was developed from has been tracked back to ancient times (Morton, 1997). Naturopathic Medicine uses methods from a variety of other alternative medicine models.
Naturopathy is made up of 5 basic principles. First, it is believed that everyone has a natural healing power within themselves. This model believes that one can tap into these healing powers by living by the laws of nature. Healthy eating habits, exercise, positive lifestyle choices, spiritual awareness, and positive thoughts are all a part of its philosophy. Secondly, treatments and preventative medicine should not cause harm to oneself or others. Thirdly, it focuses on finding the cause of the illness or disease and then helps the patient resolve it by using what ever alternative therapy that is appropriate for the condition as well as what is best for the particular patient. The fourth principle is treating the whole person, and not just the illness or disease. The mind, spirit, and body are all treated as it is believed that they all are equally important in treating and preventing illness and disease. The mind, body and spirit all must be in balance. The fifth principle is the belief that all illnesses and diseases can be prevented. The naturopathic doctor is responsible for the education of their patients in preventative practices. Teaching patients about healthy lifestyle choices and helping them achieve their goals in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a very important step in healing and preventing illness and disease (Naturopathic Medicine Network, 2007).
Naturopathic doctors, or NDs, are trained in all aspects of medicine that a medical doctor is trained. The difference is that NDs are trained to use a variety of natural therapies including acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, and others (Morton, 1997). It also focuses on treating the whole patient and not just the illness, so the treatment is individualized.
Although NDs are trained like medical doctors, they are not trained to deal with emergency illnesses. Emergencies are referred to a medical doctor, hospital, or specialist. Some NDs can perform minor surgery, but most of the time, surgery is performed by a medical doctor if it is absolutely necessary. The philosophy of the ND is not to do harm, so surgery is always avoided if possible.
NDs can practice medicine within a private practice as a primary health care practitioner. Although, only a handful of states license naturopathic doctors, naturopathy can be practiced in any state. Certain laws prohibit NDs from diagnosing disease, but do not prohibit ND practices.
Naturopathy could be integrated into western conventional medicine very easily. Most people are aware that nutrition and exercise are essential in staying healthy. Most of the practices that are included in this model of medicine are already being implemented by western conventional medicine. The thing that is lacking in western conventional medicine is the fact that physicians fail to recognize that the body, mind and spirit all need to be taken care of in order for optimal health. Also, physicians fail to recognize that illness is not the cause of only one factor, but a variety of factors, that need to be addressed instead of taking medication to treat the symptoms. The cause needs to be identified and dealt with in order for health to be regained. I feel that every doctor should have a trusted ND to refer patients to for education and prevention of illness and disease.
Stress related illnesses should be referred to an ND, because modern medicine does not offer any type of cure for these types of illnesses. This is especially helpful when the ND has the philosophy of educating the patient on how to develop a healthier lifestyle. Since medical doctors do not have the extensive knowledge in nutrition that a ND has obtained, it would be in the best interest of the patient to have a consultation with the ND to treat stress related disease and illness.
Another way that naturopathy could be integrated into western conventional medicine, would be to have one staffed at a hospital to give consultations to patients that are admitted or being dismissed to educate the patients on preventative measures they can take to get healthier during and after their recovery.
Also, medical doctors could refer patients who may have a high risk of developing a certain illness or disease because of lifestyle, genetics, or disposition to an ND for preventative care. Because naturopathic doctors use a variety of healing techniques, they would be better suited to develop an individualized program for each patient.
Everyone has experienced the rushed 10 minute consultation of a doctor visit. Here is my other idea for integration of naturopathy into the western conventional medicine model. Doctor offices would benefit from an ND being on staff by involving them in the consultations. The medical doctor would see the patient, give the patient file to the ND with his recommendations, and then the ND would then decide the mode of treatment that should be issued as well as the medical doctor’s recommendation. Let the patient decide which mode of treatment they would prefer to pursue. This way the patient has several options available to them, and the ND would be available for questions as well as the time to educate the patient.
This idea may seem far fetched since most medical doctors feel threatened by the alternative medicine models. But, in the future as holistic medicine is more widely accepted, it may be a way that conventional medical doctors and holistic medicine practitioners can work together for the greater good of society. Each and every patient would be able to make their own decision on what is best for them as far as treatment options, and both the conventional doctor and the holistic practitioner could develop a trust and understanding of each others role in treating and preventing illness and disease.