Today, there is a growing interest in the use of safe effective natural remedies and treatments. People are realizing that many drugs have unwanted side effects and that some surgeries are unnecessary.
Many people are interested in the natural approach to health care, but often don’t know where to begin or are unsure of the qualification of wholistic practitioners. One alternative, naturopathic medicine, is a government approved medical profession dedicated to the treatment and prevention of illness using natural therapies.
The name, naturopathic medicine, was coined in the late 19th century to describe the growing coalition of physicians and healers who believed that treating the person and promoting health were more important than simply alleviating the symptoms of disease.
While the profession is over 100 years old, the practice of naturopathic medicine has been alive as long as people have used food, plants, water, thought, air, light; the forces of nature, to heal themselves. Hippocrates said, “Let your food be your medicine, and medicine be your food”, and “Do no harm”. Naturopathic physicians (NDs) still subscribe to these principles combining them with the latest scientific research into nutrition, plant medicines and other non-invasive therapies.
NDs employ a variety of natural methods to stimulate and enhance the body’s own innate ability to heal itself and maintain optimal balance. At the heart of the naturopathic approach is the recognition of the central role that diet and nutrition play in both the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases that have become epidemic in our society: heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and strokes. NDs are expert in the field of human nutrition and spend hundreds of hours in their training learning about the appropriate use of diets and nutritional supplements.
Naturopathic physicians also utilize various forms of herbal and homeopathic medicines to promote the healing process. Homeopathic medicine is a specialized system of natural medicine using ultra-dilutions of plant and other natural substances to stimulate healing from within.
Before healing can occur, naturopaths believe that one must detoxify the body which has accumulated toxins from environmental pollution, food additives, pesticides, chemicals drugs, tobacco and other contaminants.
Detoxification methods include: herbal cleanses, special diets, homeopathy, fasting, supplements, hydrotherapy, saunas, and colonic irrigation. The ND selects the method that is most appropriate for the individual’s situation, and often several are employed concurrently.
NDs are also trained in physical medicine utilizing a comprehensive approach to problems involving the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons. Methods that are incorporated into a system program include spinal manipulation, physiotherapy, massage, acupuncture, and therapeutic exercise.
Recognizing the role that stress and lifestyle play in the development of most ailments, the naturopathic integrates a stress management perspective into the treatment plan. The patient is advised on the best way to deal with stress which may include: counseling, exercise, breathing techniques, meditation, hypnosis, acupuncture and biofeedback.
While no ND is an expert in all these therapeutic modalities, he or she is familiar with the role that they can play in a comprehensive and individualized program for each person. A naturopathic physician is not a chiropractor, herbalist, nutritionist, acupuncturist or psychologist but a synergist, weaving the elements of each modality into a complex whole. Most human problems are complex and require a broad strategic approach rather than a narrow singular one. This is why the naturopathic approach is so effective in the treatment of human ailments while single, non-integrated methods do not achieve the long-lasting results one would hope for.
NDs treat the whole person not just the disease. They spend time with their patients educating them on ways to optimize their health and prevent further illness. Simply removing the symptoms of the illness is not the goal of the naturopathic physician. The treatment program selected is individualized to the person not the disease. Therefore, the treatment plans for five people suffering from headaches will all be different because the causes are all unique.
The most common misconception is that naturopathic treatments will bring results as quickly as drugs. It takes time to treat the underlying causes of disease and bring the body back to a state of harmony. If one is patient and follows the treatment program described, then the expected results will follow. In general, therapy for a particular problem can last one month for every year a person has had that condition. It may take a 10 year problem at least 10 months to resolve.
Dr. Stefan Kuprowsky