Naturopathic medicine is based on six principles that govern the naturopathic approach. When patients come for their first visit, it is usually explained that Naturopaths are very similar to medical doctors in their education and core curriculum. Where Naturopaths differ is their approach to treatment. One of the main areas in the body where diseases and ailments originate is the digestive system. For example, if a patient comes into the office with a primary concern of headaches or migraines often the best place to investigate the cause is by looking at the intestinal health. This is not the most obvious connection when going through conventional medicine but to a trained Naturopath, we know that many ailments can be linked back to inflammation in the gut.
To outline what a Naturopathic Physician is, a look into the six principles is explored below.
#1 - First, Do No Harm. When determining the best treatment protocol to use with a patient, Naturopaths will choose the least invasive and safest options. For example, if a minor infection results from a small wound such as a scrape, herbs such as tea tree oil or calendula may be recommended for topical application. These herbs are safe and effective and do not involve antibiotics, surgery or ointments that require liver function tests before applying. On the other hand, if a more serious infection is present, a Naturopath will recognize when an antibiotic may be necessary to prevent a decline of health. Naturopathic physicians in BC can prescribe a wide range of medications that are dispensed by pharmacists including antibiotics, hormone therapies, anti-hypertensives, diabetic medications and more. Often these options are second-line to more natural therapies such as diet and exercise, herbs, acupuncture, supplements and homeopathy.
#2 - The Healing Power of Nature. The premise that the body has the tools to heal itself is the foundation upon Naturopathic medicine. When a patient presents with a cold, immune support is given so that the body will be supported in it’s fight to regain good health. Our immune systems are very complex and involve hundreds of enzymatic reactions to keep us strong in the face of disease processes. Why do Naturopaths recommend Vitamin C when a patient is feeling under the weather? It is because Vitamin C has a role in the functioning of white blood cells - or the “soldiers”of the immune system. Give the soldiers the right nutrition and they can continue to fight against invasion.
#3 - Identify and Treat the Causes. This is usually the most common reason why someone decides to seek treatment form a Naturopathic doctor. This principle is what we continuously work towards doing - determining the underlying reason for “dis-ease”, removing the cause and healing from the bottom up. Going back to the example of headaches, it is of course important to rule out any red flag ailments that can be the cause of a headache. Once those have been investigated, often patients find that there is no real explanation for their headaches. As Naturopaths, we will work to determine the source of these headaches - be it certain foods, hormones, muscle tension and so on. Pain relief for headaches is often available in the forms of herbs, acupuncture, injections or homeopathy but that is not only goal. Identifying and treating the cause is the main goal.
#4 - Doctor as Teacher In order to promote good health and well-being, Naturopaths take the time to explain why diet, lifestyle and treatments are necessary to optimize health. Empowering and supporting patents to make informed decisions will ultimately lead to long-term wellness and prevention of illness.
#5 - Treat the Whole Person It is well known and researched that the mind and body have both positive and negative effects on each other. When an individual is under high amounts of mental stress, sometimes physical symptoms such as perspiration occurs, or palpitations, numbness and even changes in digestion. Alternatively, if pain is constantly occurring due to a motor vehicle accident, it is not uncommon for irritability, depression and fatigue to result. Naturopaths use a variety of treatment methods to soothe and heal all aspects of health. The most notable mind-body treatments include acupuncture, homeopathy and diet or lifestyle changes.
#6 - Prevention Why wait until a diagnosis of a chronic disease is made? Prevention is the key to health maintenance. This is an area of focus that Naturopaths explore in detail during 30 - 60 minute appointments by inquiring about personal and family medical history, diet, social history and physical examination. Guidance on nutritious foods to consume or unhealthy food choices to avoid can have huge impacts on health in the present and future. For example, if an individual has heart disease in the family but has not had any concerning blood work or findings on exams, prevention with diet will be an area of focus. Decreasing sugar and increasing healthy fats such as avocado, coconut and olive oil, nuts and seeds help maintain strong cardiovascular health.
As can be seen by the governing principles of Naturopathic medicine, Naturopathic Physicians provide primary health care to patients of all ages and in all stages of health. For more information, please use the contact form HERE.