What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is an integrative and holistic approach to primary health care that combines the latest scientific knowledge with traditional and natural remedies.
While a person is literally made up of atoms, cells, and organs and we are much more complex than sum our parts. This means that along with medical signs and symptoms, history and lab analysis, the many other aspects of a patient’s life, including diet, lifestyle, environmental, social and spiritual factors are also taken into consideration when assessing and addressing your health concerns. Treatment options are considered without applying “alternative” or “conventional” labels. Rather, decisions are based purely on the best treatment indicated for that particular person. This allows for the development of personalized plans that can address the issues in the most effective way. Symptoms are seen as warning signs of improper functioning of the body. Rather than suppress them only to have them return, naturopathic medicine aims to address the root cause of the issue so that a return to optimal function can be reached.
Why should I see a naturopathic doctor?
Naturopathic doctors can help with:
- Treating acute conditions with a natural approach. This includes cold/flu, allergies, digestive concerns etc.
- Preventing and managing chronic disease. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, have a significant lifestyle component. Naturopathic care can help to identify and correct risk factors at all stages.
- Navigating the vast (mis)information on natural health products. From miracle cures to horror stories, the internet is full of contradictory information. Just because something is natural does not mean that it is safe and just because it’s on the internet does not make it true. What should you believe? Naturopathic doctors can help sift through the mess and find the best plan for you.
- A functional and integrative approach. Naturopathic doctors aim to optimize the body’s natural functions. This includes removing obstacles to health, replacing vital nutrients and working with other health care providers including conventional medical doctors.
- Optimizing health and performance. Health and disease exist on a spectrum. Naturopathic medicine doesn’t just focus on treating disease, its aims to promote optimal wellness.
Raising healthy families. The best way to treat illness and disease is to prevent it. Promoting healthy habits in children goes a long way to creating healthy adults.
More specific reasons to see a naturopathic doctor are to increase energy, assess food sensitivities, balance hormones, investigate digestive concerns, treat migraines, manage pain and injuries, relieve tight muscles.
“If you’ve been hit by a truck, go to the emergency room. If you feel like you’ve been hit by a truck, see a naturopathic doctor”.
Is naturopathic medicine scientific?
Naturopathic medicine utilizes the best evidence and information available to inform the diagnostic and therapeutic decision making process. This includes scientific studies, traditional and historical evidence of use, and clinical experience.
What training and education do naturopathic doctors have?
Naturopathic doctors undergo exhaustive graduate-level training in the biomedical sciences and natural medicines. They begin their training with an undergraduate education that includes specific pre-medical prerequisites. Applicants must have a four-year bachelor degree and a competitive grade point average in order to be considered for naturopathic medical school.
Naturopathic medical training consists of a four-year post-graduate program. The first two years are based in basic medical sciences; anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology etc. and are comparable to conventional medical education in both subjects and hours of training.
In addition, naturopathic students also study therapeutic modalities including clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy, physical medicine, hydrotherapy, and counseling. In the 3rd and 4th years, along with advanced courses in naturopathic modalities, students undergo 1500 hours of clinical training. Students see patients under the supervision of a licensed naturopathic doctor in a family practice clinical setting.
Following graduation from an accredited school, naturopathic doctors must successfully complete the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEx) board exams, a set of internationally standardized tests. Only graduates from schools accredited by the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) are able to write the NPLEx exams. There are currently two accredited schools in Canada: “The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) in Ontario and the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) in B.C.. There are five accredited schools in the United States.
How is a Naturopathic doctor different from a homeopath?
Naturopathic medicine is different and distinct from homeopathy, yet they are often confused. Homeopathy is a system of natural medicine and healing that may be part of a naturopathic doctor’s therapeutic repertoire. In contrast, a homeopath is trained only in homeopathy and does not necessarily have knowledge of biomedical medicine. Naturopathic doctors have a biomedical background and utilize a variety of treatment options in order to best match the treatment to the patient.
How is a naturopathic doctor different from a conventional medical doctor?
In many ways these two professions are quite similar. The differences mainly lie in philosophy and treatment options. A medical doctor’s main treatment options include pharmaceuticals and surgical interventions. Naturopathic doctors focus on more natural and low-force interventions. They use dietary changes, supplementary nutrients, herbal medicine, and other therapies to promote healing and wellness. Philosophically, naturopathic doctors believe in treating the root cause and removing obstacles to cure. They focus on prevention and are fortunate to have sufficient time to educate and inform their patients.
Naturopathic medicine is not a replacement for conventional medical care. Rather, it provides a different lens from which to view your health concerns specifically and your health and wellness in general. Naturopathic doctors collaborate with medical doctors and other health care providers to provide complete patient care.
How is naturopathic medicine regulated in Alberta?
Naturopathic doctors in Alberta are now a regulated health profession, with associated title protection. This ensures that all Naturopathic doctors in Alberta have undergone extensive training and education at accredited institutions and are able to safely and effectively provide a high standard of patient care. In unregulated jurisdictions, unlicensed “naturopaths” may exist and it is often difficult to ensure what sort of training they may or may not have undergone.
In Alberta, the College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta (CNDA) is charged with ensuring that Naturopathic doctors continue to meet all educational and licensing requirements as well as continued professional education and practice standards. They also host a list of licensed and registered Naturopathic Doctors. Visit www.CNDA.net for more info. Nationally, the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) acts on behalf on registered naturopathic doctors to promote the profession.
Alberta joins BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia as regulated provinces in Canada.
Is naturopathic care covered by health benefits?
Naturopathic care is not covered by the Alberta provincial health care plan. However, many extended benefit plans contain full or partial coverage for treatment by naturopathic doctors. Please check with your provider to see what your plan covers.
What can naturopathic doctors treat?
Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care providers and treat a variety of conditions in general practice setting.
Common conditions that naturopathic doctors treat include, but are not limited to:
- Acne and other skin conditions
- Back pain
- Digestive issues: IBS, Crohn’s, celiac disease, reflux etc.
- Healthy aging
- Heart disease, hypertension and other cardiovascular conditions
- Hormone balancing – PMS, menopause, etc.
- Immune support
- Men’s health
- Pregnancy support
- Pain management
- Surgical recovery and wound healing
- Women’s Health
- And much more…
What treatments do naturopathic doctors use?
Treatments include the use of clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, diet and lifestyle counseling and other therapies as indicated. At East Meets West Health Centre intravenous (IV) nutritional therapy and prolotherapy are also utilized to provide a wide range of treatment options.
Depending on the province or state, the scope of naturopathic medical licensure covers everything from dietary counselling to minor surgery to pharmaceutical prescribing. In Alberta, Naturopathic doctors do not currently possess prescription rights.
Do I continue with medications prescribed by my medical doctor if I see a naturopathic doctor?
Yes. It is not advisable to discontinue or adjust any medication dosage without consulting the prescribing doctor. Naturopathic doctors will communicate and work with your medical doctor to adjust any medications during the course of treatment. In many cases naturopathic care can result in a reduction of the required dose of medications and minimized side-effects.
What can I expect on my first visit?
The first visit is about 75–90min in which a detailed health history will be taken. This entails an in-depth investigation into your chief concerns, as well as a thorough review of other aspects of your life related to your overall health. A focused physical exam may be performed in order to further clarify the concerns and tests may be ordered if indicated. This process provides for a thorough understanding of your concerns and enables more effective treatment. A preliminary plan will then be discussed and implemented.
The second visit is 50–60min in length and involves a review of findings from the initial consultation and the implementation of a detailed treatment plan.
Please download, print and complete the NEW PATIENT FORM and bring it with you to your first visit.
How frequently do I need to see my naturopathic doctor?
As each person is unique there is no set pattern for treatment plans. Frequency of visits is largely dependent on the stage, severity and type of concerns for which you are seeing the naturopathic doctor. Response to treatment and compliance to the treatment plan will also affect the frequency of follow-up visits.
Initially visits are often spaced more frequently as a diagnosis and treatment plan are formed. This may be anywhere from weekly to monthly. As progress and improvement is seen, visits become more spread out.
Periodic follow-ups for continued maintenance and preventative care are also encouraged. This can include plans for seasonal allergy, fall/winter immune boosting, injury repair or prevention, travel health, and others.
Do I need a referral to see a naturopathic doctor?
No referral is necessary. Naturopathic doctors are licensed primary care providers.