Health Insights column: Naturopathic Medicine Week was Oct. 10-16; learn more about these practitioners
Naturopathic doctors are primary-care practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. They treat disease and restore health using therapies from the sciences of clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, exercise therapy, counseling, acupuncture, natural childbirth and hydrotherapy. They tailor these approaches to the needs of a patient.
Naturopathic medicine is effective in treating most health problems, whether acute or chronic. Naturopathic doctors get to the cause of the problem instead of treating the symptoms with drugs. Many naturopathic doctors have a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration number and can prescribe pharmaceuticals, but most of the time these are not needed.
In practice, naturopathic doctors perform physical examinations, laboratory testing, gynecological exams, nutritional and dietary assessments, metabolic analysis, allergy testing, X-ray examinations and other diagnostic tests. They are the only primary-care practitioners clinically trained in the use of a wide variety of natural therapeutics. They combine and tailor these treatments to the needs of the individual based on a cogent philosophy that acknowledges the patient as a participant.
The naturopathic doctor has a degree from a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical university. Naturopathic doctors must pass either a national or a state-level board examination, and their actions are subject to review by a State Board of Examiners. Because the course work in natural therapeutics is added to a standard medical curriculum, naturopathic doctors receive significantly more hours of classroom education than the graduates of many leading medical schools, including Yale, Stanford, John Hopkins and Mayo medical schools.
According to a study by the National Institutes of Health patients are increasingly seeking out naturopathic doctors for many reasons, including wanting a holistic approach that addresses the root of the problem, wanting more time and attention, having not been helped by conventional care and having had a previous positive experience with a naturopathic doctor.
According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health, the conditions for which patients see licensed naturopathic doctors are many of the same conditions for which they see conventional physicians. Naturopathic doctors are trained in potential drug and herb interactions and can provide educational support to patients and physicians.
The article also stated that naturopathic care may reduce the need for some prescription drugs, and collaboration between the prescribing physician and the naturopathic doctor would be critical in determining medication dosing. Additionally, naturopathic doctors can offer nutritional support around surgery and other procedures in order to reduce recovery time and potential complications.
Learn more about naturopathic medicine by visiting the Riverwalk Natural Health clinic or pharmacy or my website at http://www.healthref.com.
Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician who has had a family practice at The Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic & Pharmacy for 18 years. She can be reached at 970-926-7606. Learn more at riverwalknaturalhealth.blogspot.com or follow twitter.com/riverwalk.