This week is really exciting for me because it is Naturopathic Medicine week! Now that I’m out of my little Naturopathic bubble at school, I’m starting to realize how many people are unaware of what a Naturopathic doctor is. I’m also noticing how many misconceptions exist in the public about our training and scope of practice. I spend a lot of time at coffee shops and it’s crazy how many people ask me what I do. After I answer, 9/10 times their response is either “naturo what???” or “oh a homeopath!”. The more I get asked, the more I realize it might be beneficial for me to write a little post explaining what Naturopathic medicine is. This post is especially fitting because of Naturopathic medicine week. Also, a little exciting bit of news… I found out a little over a week ago that I passed my board exam and will officially be a licensed Naturopathic doctor in the state of California! If you’re interested in learning more about what that means, please read on 🙂
Naturopathic doctors (ND), are trained to serve as primary care general practitioners who focus on preventative medicine and natural therapeutics. We receive our training at accredited, four year post-graduate Naturopathic medical programs and are licensed and regulated at the state level after passing our medical board examinations (NPLEX). While we emphasize the use of natural therapies, that’s not all we are taught. I think that is the most common misconception I seem to come across. We complete courses in anatomy, physiology, pathology, microbiology, immunology, clinical and physical diagnosis, as well as courses on systems like cardiology, gastroenterology, and so on. We receive training in conventional pharmaceuticals, but also have courses such as botanical medicine, and nutrition.
There are 6 principles of Naturopathic medicine that might help you understand what the medicine is really about.
- First, do no harm
- The healing power of nature
- Identify and Treat the cause
- Doctor as Teacher
- Treat the whole person
In terms of treatments, there are a wide variety of both conventional and natural therapies we can use. Common modalities include nutritional and lifestyle modifications, botanical medicine, vitamins and supplements, and counseling. What I love most about this type of medicine is that it fits perfectly into the model of integrative medicine. While, we can act as primary care practitioners, our treatments can also often complement those used by conventional doctors. What also makes Naturopathic medicine unique is its emphasis on individualized medicine, which also goes back to the principle of treating the whole person. We really strive to see each patient as a unique patient, and treat them accordingly.
These 6 principles are what drew me in. I really connected with each principle, and after doing a lot of self reflection I realized that this is my passion and is what I was meant to do. To be honest, some people do give me a hard time about it or are not as open as I wish they were. It used to bother me, but it doesn’t anymore. I really love and believe in the medicine after seeing how it has changed my life as well as the lives of many patients I had the privilege of working with during my 4 years of school and shadowing.
Another common question or misconception I get is the difference between naturopaths and Naturopathic doctors. A naturopath can acquire a certification from a number of different places and often from online institutions, and is not eligible to take the NPLEX or apply for state licensure. The term naturopath is often thrown around to refer to both, but they are actually not the same. A Naturopathic doctor receives training from one of the accredited 4 year Naturopathic medical schools as I mentioned above. After passing the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Exam (NPLEX), they receive the degree of a Doctor of Naturopathic medicine, or ND. A Naturopathic doctor or ND is licensed to order diagnostic tests and prescribe hormones and pharmaceuticals. The specifics of the scope of practice differs slightly by state, as we are regulated at the state level to practice medicine. Before seeing any health care practitioner, it’s important for you to do your research and become informed. All that matters is that you choose the practitioner that is right for you!
To find out more visit:
Feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comments below!