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Why and How do Naturopathic Doctors Focus on Prevention?

In this article:

Amy Rothenberg, ND with INM & AANP

Naturopathic Doctors Focusing on Prevention as a Guiding Principle

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) follow six guiding principles that serve as a philosophical platform for all of naturopathic medicine. The principles influence how NDs think about medicine, make clinical decisions, and most importantly, how you are treated as a patient. Prevention is one of these six core principles.

Half of all Americans live with at least one chronic disease, like heart disease or diabetes. Chronic conditions are the leading causes of death and disability and a leading driver of health care costs in America. But 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.

The right preventive care at every stage of life helps Americans stay healthy, avoid or delay the onset of disease, and keep diseases they already have from becoming worse or debilitating. However, Americans use preventive services at about half the recommended rate.

Building Optimal Health

Licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) proactively focus on prevention both to benefit individual patients and to improve public health. Beyond reactively treating disease, naturopathic doctors emphasize and help individuals build optimal health by:

  • Spending extra time with patients to identify the determinants of health and disease
  • Approaching health through the lens of the whole person—body, mind, and spirit
  • Educating about and promoting healthy lifestyle choices
  • Assessing and addressing risk factors and implementing early interventions
  • Determining genetic and hereditary susceptibility to disease
  • Evaluating and addressing environmental and other external impacts on health
  • Determining the impact of social relationships and community on health, and working to improve them, when relevant

Gentle Evidence-Based Treatments

NDs are educated and trained to use pharmacological drugs when necessary and can prescribe medication to manage symptoms if their state license permits. However, because naturopathic doctors focus on supporting the body’s health restoring and maintenance processes, they offer the gentlest, least toxic, evidence-based treatments first.

Non-drug approaches offer effective prevention strategies that can improve health outcomes. Studies have found a 40 percent average reduction in LDL (i.e., comparable to statins) in patients who were asked to consume a whole foods plant-based diet low in both fat and refined carbohydrates (along with moderate exercise, meditation/yoga, and social support).

In addition, studies have shown that proper testing, treatment, and lifestyle changes such as losing weight, adopting a healthy diet, and physical activity have beneficial effects on people with Type 2 diabetes and are the cornerstones of diabetes prevention for at-risk individuals.

Chronic Diseases

For those with an established disease that is not going away—such as chronic arthritis or permanent disabilities—naturopathic doctors use prevention strategies to strengthen health and improve quality of life and life expectancy. NDs’ rigorous training in areas such as clinical nutritionbehavioral medicinebotanical medicine, and other natural treatments makes them expert at prescribing and supporting essential, effective, and enduring behavior and lifestyle modifications.

Naturopathic Medicine: Frequently Asked Questions

A service for consumers from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM). The AANP and INM would like to acknowledge Amy Rothenberg, ND, for her contributions to the content of this FAQ.

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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 natural 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 healthcare 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 evidence-based natural medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

About The Author(s)


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.

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.

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