Naturopathy, or Naturopathic Medicine, is a system of medicine based on the healing power of nature. Naturopathy is a holistic system, meaning that Naturopathic Doctors (N.D) strive to find the cause of disease by understanding the patient as a totality of body, mind, and spirit. Most Naturopathic Doctors use a wide variety of therapies and techniques such as nutrition, Botanical Medicine, Counselling, Homeopathy, and Acupuncture.
There are two areas of focus in Naturopathy: One is supporting the body’s own healing abilities, and the other is empowering individuals to make lifestyle changes necessary for the best possible health. While Naturopathic Doctors treat both short bouts of illness, acute and chronic conditions, their emphasis is on prevention of disease and patient education.
The History of Naturopathy?
Naturopathy can be traced to 18th and 19th century natural healing systems. Such systems include hydrotherapy (water therapy), which was popular in Germany and nature cure developed in Austria and based on the use of food, air, light, water, and herbs to treat illness.
In 1902 Benjamin Lust, a German immigrant first introduced Naturopathy to the United States when he founded the American School of Naturopathy. The school emphasized using natural cures, proper bowel habits, and good hygiene as essential tools for health.
In the mid 1920’s to 1940 while allopathic medical training, pharmaceuticals and medical technologies gained notoriety, the use of Naturopathic Medicine declined. It was not until the 1960’s that Naturopathic Medicine regained popularity. Today, Naturopathic Doctors are licensed care providers offering information along with a variety of alternative and complementary therapies, including Homeopathy, vitamin and mineral supplements, Traditional Chinese Medicine, relaxation techniques, and herbal remedies.
What to Expect From a Visit to a Naturopath?
A visit to a Naturopathic Doctor will be similar to visiting your family doctor. Usually during your first visit a thorough history is taken, including questions about diet, lifestyle, stress, and environmental exposures. Next, the N.D. will perform an appropriate physical examination which may require laboratory tests.
Naturopathic Doctors treat the whole person, this means they consider a variety of factors before diagnosing and treating an illness. Some of the more common treatments used by a Naturopathic Doctor include:
- Nutritional counselling
- Herbal medicine
- Homeopathic medicine
Hydrotherapy – Therapies in this category include drinking natural spring water, taking baths, alternating hot and cold applications, and exercising in water, all of which are thought to stimulate and support healing and strengthen the immune system.
Physical Medicine – This natural approach to healing involves using touch, hot and cold compresses, electric currents, and sound waves to manipulate the muscles, bones, and spine.
Detoxification – This therapy removes toxins from the body by using techniques such as fasting, enemas, and drinking water in large amounts.
Spirituality – Personal spiritual development is encouraged as an important part of an overall health program.
Lifestyle and Psychological Counselling – An N.D. may use hypnosis, guided imagery, or other counselling methods as part of a treatment plan.
Naturopathic Doctors consider patients to be participants in their health care, so you may be asked to make lifestyle changes (such as changing your sleeping, eating, and exercise habits).
What Illnesses and Conditions Respond Well to Naturopathy?
Because Naturopathic Doctors combine many therapies it is difficult to single out specific illnesses for which Naturopathy is recommended. In fact, Naturopathic Doctors treat both acute and chronic conditions from arthritis to ear infections, HIV, asthma, congestive heart failure, hepatitis and more. N.D.s treat the whole person rather than just treating a disease or its symptoms. Because of this holistic approach, chronic conditions may be well suited to an N.D.’s care.
Should I Share Information Between My Doctors?
Always share details of your treatment with your Medical Doctor and let your Naturopathic Doctor know of any conventional medications you are taking. By doing this your healthcare practitioners will be better able to treat you if they are aware of therapies you are using.