Conventional medicine is effective, but for some patients it may feel as though their symptoms prevent them from being seen as a whole person. Additionally, the use of chemical testing and medication may conflict with their lifestyle. Some of these patients turn to alternative medicine for their medical care, particularly naturopathy.
Naturopathy is a system of alternative primary care that uses a healthy environment and natural substances to help the body heal itself from illness and injury. Originating in 19th century Europe, naturopathy emphasizes healthy living and the prevention of disease. Naturopaths may treat all kinds of illnesses, but the treatments can be especially helpful for chronic or long-term ailments.
One of the most important facets of naturopathy is that it is holistic medicine, which is treatment based on the idea that illness does not occur in a vacuum. Naturopaths don’t only examine or treat the part of the body where symptoms show up -- they seek to make the whole person healthier. To this end, they may ask about or make adjustments to a patient’s family history, mental state, emotions, diet, lifestyle, or environment.
When the problem is fully understood, a naturopath may provide a variety of treatments to bring the body back into a healthy state. Some examples of treatments that naturopaths may provide include:
- Nutrition and dietary changes, including detox diets
- Behavioral changes and adjustments to lifestyle, such as reducing stress or getting more sleep
- Herbal medicine
- Homeopathic medicine
- Traditional Chinese medicine
In addition, licensed naturopaths can prescribe certain medications, order blood tests, and perform simple surgeries such as the placement of stitches or removal of warts.
There are three basic levels of education and licensing within naturopathy. In fifteen states, naturopaths can be licensed. A licensed naturopath must attend four years of naturopathic medical school as well as pass an exam. Some naturopaths are unlicensed but have studied naturopathy and feel capable of providing safe and effective health care. Finally, some medical providers refer to themselves as naturopaths because they offer one or more alternative healing techniques.
For patients who are interested in using alternative or holistic medicine, naturopaths may be a good choice. They can help you create a healing environment and remove barriers that stand in the way of good health.