What is Naturopathic Medicine?
The practice of naturopathic medicine is founded on six principles of healing, based on the objective observation of the nature of health and disease and continually evaluated by the rigors of scientific analysis.
1) The healing power of nature - the body has the inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician’s role is to facilitate and augment this process, to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to support the creation of a healthy internal and external environment.
2) Identify and treat the cause - illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Naturopathic medicine is focused on addressing the underlying causes of disease, rather than the symptoms only. The physician must evaluate potential causes which may occur on many levels, including physical, mental-emotional, and spiritual, directing treatment at root causes as well as seeking relief of symptoms.
3) First do no harm - therapeutic actions should be complementary to and synergistic with the healing process of nature. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize such actions; therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing underlying causes are considered harmful and are avoided or minimized.
4) Treat the whole person - health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, involving a complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social factors. The physician must treat the whole person by taking all of these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of all aspects of the individual is essential to recovery from and prevention of disease, and requires a personalized and comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
5) The physician as teacher - beyond an accurate diagnosis and appropriate prescription, the physician must work to create a healthy, sensitive interpersonal relationship with the patient. A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for his or her own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates or accomplishes healing. The physician must strive to inspire hope as well as understanding. The physician must also make a commitment to her/his personal and spiritual development.
6) Prevention - the ultimate goal of naturopathic medicine is prevention. This is accomplished through education and promotion of lifestyle habits that foster good health. The physician assesses risk factors and hereditary susceptibility to disease and makes appropriate interventions to avoid further harm and risk to the patient. The emphasis is on building health rather than on fighting disease. Because it is difficult to be healthy in an unhealthy world, it is the responsibility of both physician and patient to create a healthier environment in which to live.
Clinically, naturopathic medicine investigates the following biological processes which are predominantly responsible for determining whether we are healthy or sick:
environmental factors (toxins),
digestive, absorptive, and microbiological imbalances (poor diet, intestinal ecosystem, and more),
hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances (too much insulin, a low thyroid or adrenal exhaustion),
inflammation (swelling, tissue dysfunction or hyper-reactivity),
immune system imbalances (leading to infections and other disorders),
impaired metabolism (any breakdown in the way our bodies make energy),
oxidative stress (the “rusting,” broadly speaking, of our own tissues),
impaired detoxification (any inability to rid our bodies of toxins), and
the damage that comes from high levels of stress where the mind harms the body.
Why Naturopathic Medicine?
Our doctors take the time to carefully and fully assess a patient’s root problem, using the common language of conventional medicine, and diagnose the way conventional MDs do—yet, we bring to our patients a whole new arsenal of treatments and insights. Instead of waiting for a disease to emerge, our doctors work to head it off before it happens. Our doctors are also committed to educating and empowering our patients, and to utilizing natural treatment options whenever possible, in order to “do no harm”.
What to Expect
Our physicians are committed to spending the necessary time with you to optimize your well being. During your first appointment, your doctor will take your health history, find out about your diet, stress levels, use of tobacco and alcohol, discuss why you’re there, and identify your health goals. He or she may perform an examination and order diagnostic tests, then work with you to set up a customized health management strategy.
Our practitioners may use any of the following modalities to treat any number of health needs: clinical nutrition, botanicals, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, body work, supplements, lifestyle counseling, and more.
Why haven’t I heard of, or experienced, this form of healthcare before?
Contrary to what you might think, chances are that you have been exposed to naturopathic medicine before. Many people are at least somewhat familiar with Dr. Mehmet Oz “Oprah’s doctor” or Dr. Andrew Weil; or have encountered the topics of the importance and benefits of vitamin D, gluten sensitivity (not celiac disease), bioidentical hormone replacement, adrenal fatigue, colon cleansing, or the benefits of balancing the intestinal bacterial ecosystem (eg with probiotics), among other matters. While these people or subject matters are not exclusively representative of naturopathic medicine, they certainly are commonly associated with this realm of healthcare more often than with conventional medicine.
We believe that much of the reason why naturopathic medicine is less mainstream is the fact that the pharmaceutical industry has become so tightly integrated into the traditional healthcare system – so much so that conventionally trained physicians are taught to reflexively treat patient conditions with either (pharmaceutical) drugs or surgery. It is unfortunate that physicians are not taught to spend the time or effort to investigate and address the root causes of such conditions, which can often be treated naturally – or, at least without pharmaceutical medication.
A number of other reasons may exist for the discrepancy in familiarity between conventional and naturopathic medicine. However, needless to say, we at The Sante Center do not put any value or judgment into decisions toward either end of this spectrum, and thus are more representative of an Integrative Medicine center in philosophy, but as we do not prescribe pharmaceutical medications by license, we are more of a Naturopathic Medicine center in practice.
This sounds great – so what then are the benefits of conventional medicine?
Conventional medicine is more equipped to address urgent/emergent and critical conditions. Naturopathic medicine is more equipped to address more chronic (often metabolic), less critical, though oftentimes more frustrating and dysfunctional, conditions.
Naturopathic Medicine is effective and without side effects or other potential dangers but it is not a quick fix. While patients can indeed obtain symptomatic benefit in just a matter of days at times, it usually takes quite a while to normalize and regulate body chemistry, and especially where we are usually dealing with chronic conditions that have taken months to years to develop (and as such, it may similarly take an equivalent time to “undo”). For some patients, this is more of an entire lifestyle modification program. No doubt, that can take some time, as this is accomplished in a step-ward progression.
Again, we at The Sante Center do not put any value or judgment into decisions toward either end of the spectrum of healthcare approaches, and thus are more representative of an Integrative Medicine center in philosophy, but as we do not prescribe pharmaceutical medications by license, we are more of a Naturopathic Medicine center in practice. However, should we discover an urgent or critical condition that requires immediate attention with an integrative approach, we will unhesitatingly work with your traditional physician(s) to obtain the necessary care for your needs.
Can I request any suggested testing or treatments from a conventional medicine physician?
Theoretically, you can, as any licensed conventional physician can obtain an account with various labs or supplement companies that we use. However, it is quite rare that conventional medicine doctors involve themselves with this form of healthcare, or assist patients with this pursuit, for a variety of reasons.
Similarly, conventional physicians rarely direct patients toward treatment options which they are less than fully familiar with, perhaps in part to avoid being in a position of responsibility for, or being unfamiliar with, a process they are untrained in, or often in part out of liability concerns.
You mentioned the term “Integrative Medicine” above (or alternatively, you’ve heard this term before) – more clearly, what is the difference between this and naturopathic medicine?
Integrative Medicine and Naturopathic Medicine are similar in that they both adhere to these similar philosophies:
Patient and practitioner are partners in the healing process.
All factors that influence health, wellness and disease are taken into consideration; including mind, spirit, and community as well as the body.
Effective interventions that are natural and less invasive should be used whenever possible.
Alongside the concept of treatment, the broader concepts of health promotion and the prevention of illness are paramount.
However, as the name implies, Integrative Medicine is generally more inclusive of all spectrums of healthcare - appropriate use of both conventional and alternative methods are used to facilitate the body's innate healing response, and Integrative Medicine neither rejects conventional medicine nor accepts alternative therapies uncritically. As such, Naturopathic Medicine could be perceived as a subset of Integrative Medicine, as this approach is less concerned with how conventional medicine might be utilized in any given patient or circumstance.
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