What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of primary healthcare that addresses the root causes of illness and promotes health and healing using natural therapies. Naturopathic physicians integrate standard medical diagnostics with a broad range of natural therapies.
What education and training do naturopathic doctors have?
Naturopathic physicians have a minimum of 7 years of post-secondary education including:
- At least three years of university including prerequisites in biology, psychology, English, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and biochemistry. Most naturopathic physicians have an undergraduate degree.
- Four years of naturopathic medical education from one of six recognized schools in North America. These schools are carefully regulated to ensure a high quality, standardized education. The education required to become a licensed naturopathic doctor is rigorous and includes four intense years of theoretical learning and clinical training. Upon completion of this education, naturopathic physicians are qualified to work as primary care physicians. As an example, Dr. Hsu and Dr. Lee’s education at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine was divided into academic and clinical streams.
- Academics – 3500 classroom hours divided amongst:
- Health sciences: Much like the curriculum at a conventional medical school, the first two years of naturopathic medicine are spent gaining an in-depth understanding of physiology, biochemistry, anatomy, pathology, microbiology, neuroanatomy, physical clinical diagnosis, differential diagnosis, laboratory diagnosis, and diagnostic imaging.
- Therapeutic modalities: Throughout the four years, there are courses in botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, psychology, Traditional Oriental Medicine, and physical medicine.
- Clinical sciences: Building on the foundation of basic medical sciences, third and fourth year students take courses necessary to be primary care physicians such as pharmacology, dermatology, environmental health, gynecology, oncology, obstetrics, pediatrics, and geriatrics.
- Professional development: This includes courses in ethics, personal wholeness, jurisprudence, and practice management.
- Clinical training – 1200 hours in the teaching clinic, treating patients under the supervision of a licensed naturopathic physician and 300 hours observing naturopathic doctors in their own offices.
How are naturopathic doctors regulated?
To be licensed to practice naturopathic medicine in BC, you must:
- Have completed at least three years of liberal arts or sciences at a university.
- Have graduated from a recognized naturopathic medicine education program. There are currently four schools in the United States and two in Canada.
- Have successfully completed rigorous professional board exams, both written and oral.
- Have your application accepted by the CNPBC.
When would someone go to a naturopathic doctor?
Naturopathic doctors are unique in healthcare because their training combines conventional medical sciences and diagnostic tools with a broad scope of therapies. The ability to integrate different philosophies and practices gives us many tools to work with. This allows greater flexibility and creativity when approaching complex subjects like health and disease.
Common reasons people visit a naturopathic doctor:
- They experience a major health crisis and want to explore their treatment options.
- They are fed up with being sick or in pain.
- They are overwhelmed by the growing mountain of health products they think they should be taking and want a professional to help them prioritize.
- They want a comprehensive disease prevention program.
- They choose to have a naturopathic doctor as their family doctor.
We encourage people to see an ND before their health is in crisis. Minor health problems are symptoms of imbalance – a warning sign from your body that it is not functioning as well as it could. The earlier you address a health concern, the easier it is to treat.
What is the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a specific system of medicine that uses diluted potencies of natural substances to stimulate the body to heal itself. Naturopathy is a medical practice that integrates a wide variety of therapies, including homeopathy, to treat the cause of an individual’s symptoms.
Why would I see a naturopathic doctor when I can get good advice about natural products from my health food store?
Naturopathic doctors are primary care physicians. This means they base recommendations on a diagnosis or probable cause of a problem, rather than symptoms.
For example, fatigue can be caused by hundreds of different factors – from sleep disturbance to anemia to cancer. A naturopathic doctor considers medical history, physical exams, and appropriate laboratory testing in their assessment to determine what treatment will be the most appropriate, safe and effective. Treatments are individualized and take into account your whole history. A further benefit of consulting a naturopathic doctor is that your response to therapies are monitored and adjusted as needed.
Do you work with other healthcare professionals?
Quality health care involves teamwork and communication. We refer patients to other professionals when we feel their experience or training would be beneficial. We are happy to work with your other healthcare providers at your request. Because naturopathic medicine has so many tools, your treatment can be individualized to complement other therapies you may be receiving. An example of complementary medicine is pre- and post-surgical support to help reduce your chance of complications and help you heal faster.
It is important to recognize that all systems of medicine have their strengths and weaknesses. During a life-threatening event, like a major trauma or meningitis, there is no question that conventional medicine has powerful tools and resources that will save your life. Specialists like oncologists, endocrinologists, or gynecologists have a focused body of knowledge that allows them to be experts in a specific area of medicine. Similarly, doctors of Chinese medicine, chiropractors, and medical herbalists are all trained to be experts in their chosen philosophy and therapy. Naturopathic doctors are trained to be primary care doctors that can integrate a number of different philosophies and therapies. By understanding both conventional and alternative treatments, we can help our patients combine the best of both worlds.
What diseases do you treat?
We treat people rather than diseases. There is no cookbook protocol or magic natural bullet that will cure all IBS, osteoarthritis, or cancer because everyone is an individual with different factors that need to be addressed. The therapies we choose are targeted at removing a person’s unique obstructions to healing, and adding things that promote optimal health. This treatment approach can be applied to anyone who would like to improve his or her health.