People seek care from a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) because they offer a holistic, individualized approach that addresses the whole person. In conventional medicine, doctors are trained and required to use standards of care, or protocols determined by medical experts, for every disease. This approach works well for urgent conditions, but it may not always allow the flexibility necessary to address the underlying cause of the symptoms. Licensed naturopathic doctors undergo extensive training in individualized, evidence-informed therapies aimed at underlying conditions that balance the least harmful and most effective approaches to help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health.
Why Naturopathic Doctors Practice No Harm First and the Therapeutic Order
Since naturopathic doctors prioritize the use of natural remedies such as herbs, supplements, and lifestyle changes to promote healing, the patient journey is different from conventional medicine. Treatment plans are individualized and emphasize less toxic substances that support the body’s ability to heal, naturally. Though licensed naturopathic doctors are trained to prescribe medications, whenever possible they prioritize less invasive treatments.
Naturopathic doctors evaluate lab results in combination with a clinical presentation, health history, and lifestyle and environmental factors that might prevent optimal health. Typically, a first appointment lasts between one and two hours as the naturopathic doctor learns as much as possible about the history and health of the person. “Naturopathic doctors use the same diagnostic tools as conventional medical doctors, including detailed health histories, medication histories, physical exams, and targeted laboratory testing and imaging. They add another layer of discovery that is often left out, including dietary histories, lifestyle habits, and choices, exercise and movement habits, as well as social and emotional factors to more fully assess their patients,” says Michelle Simon, Ph.D., ND, CEO and President of the Institute for Natural Medicine.
These factors are included in the Therapeutic Order, a unique ranked approach that determines the natural order in which therapies can be applied to maximize benefit and reduce the potential for harm. This approach distinguishes naturopathic treatments from conventional by addressing the underlying cause of disease and by emphasizing lower-force interventions like diet and lifestyle, for example. Whole person care suggests that there is no single magic bullet for any health problem. With this recognition, both patient and doctor can address the interconnected symptoms and behaviors that affect overall health, as seen in this diagram of the Therapeutic Order.
Naturopathic Medicine and Primary Care
The pandemic taught the world a great deal about the role of prevention and how lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can exacerbate COVID-19 symptoms and outcomes. Naturopathic medicine is ideally suited to help treat and prevent lifestyle-related health issues by emphasizing healthy lifestyle habits such as exercise, nutrition, and stress management. Naturopathic doctors are trained to work as primary care providers, which is often a patient’s first entry into the healthcare system at the onset of a chronic health condition. Naturopathic doctors have the expertise to identify and treat risk factors, thereby preventing conditions before they arise, something often missing in conventional primary care settings. In states where insurance covers naturopathic medicine for primary care, patients seeing naturopathic doctors report improved experiences and clinical quality, reduced surgeries and hospitalizations, and lower costs.
Reasons to Use a Naturopathic Doctor
Finally, people use licensed naturopathic doctors because they offer personalized care. Naturopathic doctors take the time to get to know their patients and understand their unique health concerns. They work collaboratively with patients to develop individualized treatment plans that address their needs and goals. This personalized approach to healthcare helps patients feel heard and supported and can lead to better health outcomes.
Here are six reasons to use a naturopathic doctor:
- You want a doctor who will treat all of you, not just your illness.
- You want personalized treatment.
- You want to treat the underlying cause of a disease, not just the symptoms.
- You want to actively participate in managing your health.
- You have chronic pain and don’t want to use pharmaceutical drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or highly addictive opioids to manage it forever.
- You have tried all conventional medical options for diagnosing and treating a health condition.
Naturopathic doctors treat a wide variety of medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. Naturopathic medicine minimizes the risk of harm and helps facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health. Patients seeking a doctor to boost their body’s natural healing ability and to prioritize the least invasive diagnostics and treatments should consider a licensed naturopathic doctor. When seeking medical care from a naturopathic doctor, select a doctor with a naturopathic medical degree earned from an accredited, four-year, in-residence, naturopathic medical college who is licensed or certified. Use our Find an ND directory to find a licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:
- Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
- Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
- Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine
Bradley R, Harnett J, Cooley K, McIntyre E, Goldenberg J, Adams J. Naturopathy as a Model of Prevention-Oriented, Patient-Centered Primary Care: A Disruptive Innovation in Health Care. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019;55(9):603. Published 2019 Sep 18. doi:10.3390/medicina55090603
2020 Graduate Success and Compensation Study, Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, AANMC
Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists, Institute for Natural Medicine.