Definition of a Naturopathic Doctor
According to The Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC), Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct primary health care profession that combines the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science. Naturopathic physicians are trained as primary care providers who diagnose, treat and manage patients with acute and chronic conditions, while addressing disease and dysfunction at the level of body, mind and spirit.
Naturopathic doctors focus on the patient as a whole by promoting overall health and preventing disease. Naturopathic doctors employ botanicals, nutritional counseling, specific nutrients/supplements, hydrotherapy, physical medicine (massage, acupuncture, and naturopathic manipulation), and lifestyle recommendations alongside conventional therapies to help a patient achieve optimal health. This differs from a conventional physician who primarily uses pharmaceuticals to reduce symptoms alone. Together with conventional providers, like DOs and MD, Naturopathic doctors can offer a more comprehensive approach to health.
The scope of practice for Naturopathic Doctors vary by state ranging from purely consultative to primary care physicians. In the state of Colorado, Naturopathic doctors are able to order lab tests, diagnose conditions, and offer treatment through naturopathic therapies.
Myths about Naturopathic Medicine
A common myth about Naturopathic Medicine is that it’s not as scientific or evidence-based as conventional or mainstream medicine. On the contrary, naturopathic doctors go through a rigorous four-year science-based medical education at an accredited institution. A minimum of two years is spent studying the same biomedical sciences that prepare medical students to be doctors. Naturopathic Doctor schools are also leaders in developing and conducting research in natural medicine. Finally, NDs are required to complete the national board examination to be eligible for licensure.
Another big myth is that naturopathic doctors are anti-drug or anti-pharmaceutical. This is plainly false as naturopathic doctors are educated in the safe and effective use of pharmaceuticals as well as minor surgery. It is the job of a naturopathic doctor to treat the individual, meet them where they are, and work as part of the health care team for the best interest of their patient. Prescription medications and more invasive medical therapies can be part of this process. *Therapeutic order
“But shouldn’t I stick to just one doctor for the best, most consistent care for my child?”
It is commonplace in today’s healthcare environment to have a team of wellness professionals of various disciplines assisting patients to achieve total health; the human body is a massive, interworking system afterall. For some patients, this may include utilizing a pediatrician, a chiropractor, a naturopathic doctor and a nutritionist to meet their health goals.
Is Naturopathic Medicine Safe?
According to the Institute for Natural Medicine, significant research shows that lifestyle-change programs that focus on nutritional interventions, exercise, and emotional well-being can sometimes reverse the progression of chronic disease safely and effectively. The Institute goes on to say that very few medical therapies are safe for everyone in every situation in which they are used.
For example, there are 2.7 million serious adverse reactions to legally prescribed drugs each year, resulting in 128,000 deaths. With that said, naturopathic medicine is known for its unique Therapeutic Order, a set of guidelines naturopathic doctors use in clinical decision making to provide the greatest benefit to the patient with the least potential for damage. Naturopathic Doctors may begin by offering minimally invasive therapies aimed at supporting the body and end in more invasive procedures such as chemical therapies and surgery. Naturopathic doctors will help patients achieve optimal health by first removing obstacles such as poor diet, stimulating self-healing mechanisms, strengthening weakened systems, etc. to restore health.
Do Naturopathic Doctors Treat Kids?
Naturopathic doctors receive training in pediatrics including well-child visit, acute care, and managing chronic conditions. During their training, Naturopathic Doctors can choose to receive additional training in pediatric care through internships, pediatric clinic shifts, and advanced pediatric coursework. The Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians offers ongoing continuing education for pediatric-focused NDs as well as board certification in pediatrics. In the state of Colorado, NDs who treat children are required to have continuing education yearly specific to pediatrics and acute illness management.
Naturopathic doctors have a large toolbox of evidence-based therapies to support immune function, balance gut health, and provide nutrients for optimal neurodevelopment.
You can find pediatric NDs in your area through the PedANP site: https://www.pedanp.org/find.html