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How Naturopathic Doctors Treat The Whole Person

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What does ‘Treat the Whole Person’ mean?

Naturopathic doctors follow a guiding principle called “treat the whole person”. This means taking holistic approach to healthcare, looking at all aspects of a person’s health including their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Naturopathic doctors also establish how an individual’s community, work, and home life affect their health – a process better known as the social determinants of health. Multiple factors contribute to your health, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, psycho-emotional makeup, spirituality, socioeconomic position, environmental issues, and more. Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person by:

  1. Identifying the underlying causes of illness
  2. Providing highly individualized care
  3. Addressing behavioral and lifestyle factors

Identifying Underlying Causes of Illness

Sometimes aches and pains, stomach discomfort, trouble sleeping, and numerous other symptoms are indicators of underlying illness. While these symptoms can be reduced or managed, it is more important to understand and treat the root cause, which is the focus of naturopathic medicine. This takes time and comprehensive evaluation encompassing physical, behavioral, emotional, and other key components of your health.

Providing Individualized Care

Treating the whole person involves giving each person tailored and personalized therapies specific to their genetics, nutrition status, lifestyle, and capacity for implementing suggestions, not just a set of instructions to follow.

In order to assess, educate, and inform patients adequately, NDs often spend one hour or more with patients in an initial appointment, and 30+ minutes in subsequent appointments, compared to an average 20 minute appointment with a conventionally trained physician.

Addressing Behavior and Lifestyle Factors

NDs recognize that both psycho-social factors and lifestyle choices are central contributors to illness and chronic disease. Among U.S. adults, 90 percent of Type 2 diabetes, 80 percent of cardiovascular disease, 70 percent of stroke, and 70 percent of colon cancer are potentially preventable by modifiable lifestyle changes. NDs’ rigorous training in areas such as clinical nutrition, behavioral medicine, botanical medicine, and others makes them expert at prescribing and supporting essential, effective, and enduring behavior and lifestyle modifications which impact health outcomes.

Naturopathic Medicine vs Whole-Person Care

Naturopathic medicine and whole person medicine are closely linked as they both emphasize treating the whole person rather than just their symptoms. Naturopathic medicine is proven to address preventable gateway health issues before they reach a chronic state of dysfunction, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic-related health issues. 

Naturopathic and whole person medicine share the same philosophy of treating people holistically rather than just addressing their symptoms. It recognizes that a person’s diet, stress levels, and physical health are closely tied to their mental and emotional well-being and that all aspects of their health must be addressed to achieve optimal well-being.

Naturopathic doctors view the entire body as an interactive system and consider them holistically. Every system, organ, pathway, and function is interconnected and interrelated, which requires a vast level of knowledge and understanding of complex interactions of the human body.

Rather than prescribing drugs or surgeries as a first-line approach, naturopathic medicine starts with the least harmful method first to support the body’s natural healing processes. Naturopathic doctors may employ a variety of treatments, such as dietary supplements and herbal remedies, lifestyle support, stress reduction, manipulative therapies, acupuncture, and nutritional changes to support the body’s natural healing processes. 

Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
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Experience the benefits of personalized natural healthcare with a trusted, licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.
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How Naturopathic Doctors Treat the Whole Person

Licensed naturopathic doctors are trained to uncover, evaluate, and address relevant obstacles to healing. They take extra time with patients and provide highly individualized care.

Guided by the Therapeutic Order, naturopathic doctors focus on identifying the underlying cause(s) of your health concerns and empowering you to engage actively in restoring and managing your own health. Research shows that whole-person care often leads to higher patient satisfaction and improved outcomes.

Because of their focus in these areas and others, naturopathic doctors may be a good fit for people looking for a more comprehensive perspective on health concerns, or for a whole-person approach to health care.

Research shows that whole person care often leads to higher patient satisfaction and improved outcomes.

The Rise of ‘Whole Person Care’

The term whole person care has been getting much attention in the medical community. The National Academy of Sciences recently reported that whole person medicine should be the future of healthcare for the nation. They would like to see a movement to support, scale, and spread the adoption of whole person care across the country. The Institute for Natural Medicine could not agree more. Naturopathic doctors have been practicing whole person medicine for more than a century. 

Naturopathic medicine has been at the forefront of whole person care since its practices were codified in the 19th century. In the intervening 200 years, naturopathic medicine has become a  hub for integrating evidence-supported modern medicine with the body’s innate ability to heal. 

While this philosophy of whole person care may seem new in the medical community, it has been actively practiced in the United States since the early 1900s when medical doctors, osteopaths, and naturopaths launched a movement towards whole person care and a holistic approach to health. 

Western medicine focuses on how to treat ailments symptomatically, which, while successful for acute care, often introduces more problems in the long term. It is time for a multidisciplinary approach that treats the whole person. An approach that includes naturopathic medicine. 

Recent recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences suggest a healthcare system  that addresses “the social and structural determinants at the root of poor health, focusing on the priorities and goals of people, families, and communities.” They recommend whole healthcare centers that promote resilience, prevent disease, and restore health. Yet these  whole person centers already exist as naturopathic medical clinics led by licensed naturopathic doctors across this country. In states where insurance covers naturopathic medicine, clinics see patients who have restored health,  benefit from established preventive health practices, and see lower costs, according to the white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists. 

This article is provided by

The Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. INM’s mission is to transform health care in the United States by increasing public awareness of natural medicine and access to naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic medicine, with its person-centered principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness overwhelming healthcare systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain optimal lifelong health. INM strives to fulfil this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research on this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)

Guest Author

Amy Rothenberg ND, DHANP

Dr. Rothenberg is a contributor to INM and practicing licensed naturopathic doctor in Northampton, Massachusetts. Dr. Rothenberg is the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians 2017 Physician of the Year. Dr. Rothenberg’s writing can be found on, Better Nutrition’s Naturopathic Health Hub, Medium, Thrive Global, and The Huff Post. She is the proud mother of 3 adult children.


Institute for Natural Medicine Staff

Our dedicated content team of professional staff writers represents decades of experience covering essential natural health topics in an accessible, evidence-based, and engaging way. Guided by a shared passion for holistic well-being, each and every one of our writers strives to empower our readers to take charge of their health.

Supported by a rigorous fact-checking and medical editing process from licensed naturopathic doctors that examines the latest in peer-reviewed research, our team brings their in-depth knowledge of natural health practices into every piece of content we produce. We strive to be the gold standard for evidence-based natural medicine, providing trustworthy information and inspiring narratives to help you live your best health, naturally.

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