Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary health care that concentrates on whole-patient wellness while emphasizing prevention and the process of self-healing through the use of natural therapies. Naturopathic medicine attempts to find the underlying cause of the patient’s condition rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment.
1. You want a doctor who will treat all of you, not just your illness.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to treat the whole person. This requires taking the time to listen and understand the genetic, environmental, and behavioral/lifestyle factors that can affect your health. At your initial appointment, you’ll spend up to an hour or more talking with your ND.
2. You want personalized treatment.
NDs understand there is no one-size-fits-all treatment that works for everybody. After your visit with an ND, you’ll leave the doctor’s office with a treatment plan uniquely tailored to you, your health status, your health goals, and your lifestyle.
3. You want to treat the root cause of an illness, not just the symptoms.
Sometimes having trouble sleeping, aches and pains, strange or hard to treat skin rashes, and indigestion or stomach discomfort are symptoms of an underlying illness. While these symptoms can be managed, it’s more important to understand and treat the root cause—which is the focus of naturopathic medicine.
4. You want to actively participate in managing your own health.
An ND will help you learn what your body needs to get well and stay healthy. Patients have the opportunity to feel empowered and hopeful when they understand and are actively engaged in managing their own health.
5. You have chronic pain and don’t want to use pharmaceutical drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or highly addictive opioids to manage it forever.
Pain that lasts six months or more is more complex than acute pain and requires a holistic, long-term approach to manage. NDs are trained to work with you to determine which combination of therapies will work best for you to heal or manage your pain safely so that you can resume daily activities.
6. You have tried all conventional medical options for diagnosing and treating a health condition.
Certain chronic health conditions that have symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or gastrointestinal distress can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and can benefit from a holistic approach. NDs use diagnostic tools common in conventional medicine, such as detailed health, disease, and prescription drug histories, physical exams, and targeted laboratory testing and imaging. NDs also consider detailed diet history, lifestyle habits and choices, exercise history, and social/emotional factors to assess patients’ needs. These approaches can open doors to new treatment pathways and options.
During your first visit, your licensed naturopathic doctor will take your health history, ask questions about your diet, stress levels, lifestyle habits and exercise, use of tobacco and alcohol, prescription drugs and supplements you are taking, and discuss the reasons you sought out a naturopathic doctor. He or she might also perform a physical examination and order diagnostic tests. Based on findings, the doctor will work with you to set up a customized treatment plan and health management strategy. If necessary, the doctor will refer you to other health care practitioners.
Naturopathic doctors understand conventional medicine and use many of its diagnostic tools and treatments in their practices. They also bring an array of treatments and insights into treatment plans and health management strategies that typically are not taught in conventional medical schools and might not be available from a conventional medical doctor. One example is the use of plant-based medicines (botanicals). Used correctly, these medicines along with lifestyle changes can improve many aspects of a patient’s health.
Be prepared for your naturopathic doctor to focus on understanding the root causes of health symptoms you might be experiencing as well as your overall health and wellness goals. This takes time. As a result, your first visit might last an hour or more and follow-up visits could last 30 minutes or more, although this varies depending on the individual.
Generally many people in Zimbabwe have shown concern over high health care costs and poor health outcomes. It is apparent that prevention is better than cure. To accomplish this, health care professionals from a broad range of disciplines must come together in primary care teams. Licensed naturopathic doctors have been trained as primary care doctors that emphasize prevention and have a central role to play in these efforts.
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct practice of medicine that emphasizes wellness and the self-healing process to treat each person holistically. Licensed naturopathic doctors are known for following a unique Therapeutic Order, an approach that identifies the natural order in which naturopathic therapies should be applied to provide the greatest benefit with the least potential for harm. This approach leads to improved outcomes and lower health care costs.
Here are eight ways naturopathic medicine lowers health care costs:
1. Address the root causes of illness.
By addressing and treating the root causes of disease rather than its symptoms, the need for repeated, expensive, and sometimes ineffective treatment is eliminated. For example, the underlying causes of conditions such as high cholesterol and diabetes is often poor diet and lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise. Changing these lifestyle factors can eliminate the need for one or more prescription medications that would typically be recommended for the rest of that patient’s life.
2. Offer less expensive diagnosis and treatment.
Naturopathic medical diagnostics and treatments are often less expensive than those in conventional medicine. Many treatments incur no cost whatsoever. One example is taking the time to engage patients in ongoing discussions of lifestyle choices, making the connection between these choices and their health condition and guiding patients to healthier options.
3. Reduce the need for expensive surgical procedures, when appropriate.
Naturopathic doctors often suggest less expensive, non-surgical options to patients because some of these expensive surgeries can be avoided. One major study investigating the effects of lifestyle improvement in patients with coronary atherosclerosis found that after only one year of following lifestyle recommendations, about 80 percent of participants were able to bring about plaque regression and avoid surgery without the use of lipid lowering agents.
4. Decrease costs associated with adverse reactions to prescription drugs.
According to a 2014 report from the Harvard University Center for Ethics, there are 2.7 million serious adverse reactions to prescription drugs that have been legally prescribed each year, resulting in 128,000 deaths. This makes prescription drugs a major health risk, ranking fourth with stroke as a leading cause of death. Whenever possible, naturopathic doctors prescribe natural therapies first, turning to prescription pharmacology when they are necessary.
5. Reduce the incidence of illnesses and fatalities caused by hospital errors.
Preventable hospital errors are one of the leading causes of death. Naturopathic medicine focuses on preventative care and patient education, which can reduce the length of hospital stays and hospital readmissions. The power of patient education has been well documented.
6. Offer disease prevention.
Naturopathic doctors emphasize health-building practices such as weight bearing exercise and adequate vitamin D intake to prevent osteoporosis and the importance of eating a nutrient dense diet with healthy fats to help prevent heart disease. These practices can reduce the high future cost of preventable degenerative and chronic health conditions.
8. Reduce insurance costs.
Naturopathic medicine billing is far lower per patient than conventional medical billing.
Naturopathic doctors are educated and trained in accredited naturopathic medical colleges. They diagnose, prevent and treat acute and chronic illness, restore and establish optimal health by supporting the person's inherent self-healing process. Rather than just suppressing symptoms, naturopathic doctors work to identify underlying causes of illness, and develop personalized treatment plans to address them. Their Therapeutic Order™, identifies the natural order in which all therapies should be applied to provide the greatest benefit with the least potential for damage.
Naturopathic medicine emphasizes prevention and the self-healing process to treat each person holistically and improve health outcomes. As a health care consumer evaluating whether naturopathic medicine is safe, you should be aware of the following facts:
Naturopathic doctors follow six guiding principles that serve as a philosophical platform for everything they do. The principles influence how they think about medicine, how they make clinical decisions, and most importantly, how they treat you as a patient. Each principle plays a role in guiding naturopathic doctors in diagnosis and treatment. The healing power of nature is one of these six core principles.
The healing power of nature recognizes the body’s inherent ability to heal itself. This begins at the cellular level. The building blocks of your body—cells—are dynamic, living units that are constantly working to self-repair and regenerate. For example, when your skin is cut or scraped, you start to bleed. Your blood platelets clump together and clot to protect the wound. Blood vessels allow fresh nutrients and oxygen into the wound for healing. White blood cells accumulate on the site of the wound to protect it from infection, and red blood cells arrive to build new tissue. This remarkable process stops when healing is complete. Naturopathic therapies support and enhance the natural healing power of the body.
Self-healing extends beyond the skin level. The body works hard on its own to support recovery from injury and illness. Damaged, destroyed or dead cells are replaced daily and automatically in your major organ systems. When you have a virus, your immune system attacks it. The digestive system consistently replaces old cells that line the gastrointestinal tract with newer ones. When you break a bone, bone cells kick into action to grow back together.
But certain genetic, environmental, and behavioral/lifestyle factors can slow or prevent optimal healing and recovery. These factors, unique to each individual, get in the way of the body’s inherent ability to heal. Naturopathic doctors focus on identifying and removing obstacles to recovery, in order to facilitate the natural healing ability in patients.
For example, food sensitivities or intolerances, unmanaged emotional stress, insufficient physical activity, and an imbalanced lipid profile are a just a few examples of barriers to optimal healing that naturopathic doctors are trained to identify and treat. Naturopathic doctors often spend between one and two hours with patients in an initial appointment to uncover individual hurdles to optimal health.
Naturopathic doctors utilize the Therapeutic Order, a natural order of therapeutic intervention used to help discover and evaluate multiple obstacles to healing, as a framework for diagnosis and treatment. These guidelines are aimed at supporting the body’s health restoring and maintenance processes, as opposed to just reducing symptoms. Naturopathic doctors view symptoms as nature’s attempt to correct imbalances. Consequently, naturopathic treatments are geared toward allowing the body to heal rather than suppressing symptoms, which can lead to a prolongation of the disease.
Naturopathic doctors individualize and prioritize natural, minimally invasive therapies. They are also trained to use pharmacological drugs when necessary. If country license permits, an ND can prescribe medication as a bridge to manage symptoms until the body repairs itself. If not, they will refer patients to a conventional medical colleague.
In focusing on the healing power of nature, naturopathic doctors empower patients both to understand the role their body plays in healing itself, and to engage actively in restoring and maintaining their own health. This kind of empowerment in health care can lead to better outcomes and lowered healthcare costs.
Some FAQs content has been borrowed from The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians