The Quick and Dirty:
Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. It is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment, and prevention using a vast array of natural therapies including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, spinal adjustments, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, lifestyle and spiritual counseling, and health promotion/disease prevention. It is based on the philosophy that the human body has a remarkable, innate capacity to heal itself – and will indeed do so once healing barriers are removed. Naturopathic Doctors support and stimulate the body’s natural wisdom and ability to heal, using treatment plans uniquely tailored to the individual.
How does it differ from conventional medicine in North America?
The primary differences between Naturopathic Doctors and conventional Doctors such as family GPs or hospital doctors for example, are the types of therapies used and the philosophical approach to care. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs for short) treat each patient as someone with unique goals and concerns, and spend much more time with their patients to truly address the physical, environmental, lifestyle, attitudinal and emotional aspects of a person’s health. This allows NDs to find and treat the root cause of the disease or discomfort, and to bring the body back into its natural state of balance. Conventional medicine uses pharmaceuticals or surgery to remove the symptoms of disease, but whatever was causing the disease typically remains within the individual, and true healing does not take place. I once heard someone wise say “Conventional medicine keeps you alive – naturopathic medicine keeps you well”.
What can it do for you?
There is no health-related concern that naturopathic medicine can’t aim to improve – from pediatric to geriatric, from physical to psychological, from simple irritating complaints to chronic illnesses. These are the types of people who typically seek naturopathic care:
- Patients that are looking for disease prevention and health promotion strategies – those who are interested in keeping their health in good status as they age
- Patients who have health concerns and symptoms that they have been unable to address on their own or with other doctors and health professionals
- Patients with an illness who would like to do more for themselves other than take medications or have surgery to treat their condition
- Patients experiencing unwanted side effects of medications and would like to be less reliant upon sed medications. Naturopathic medicine can often be safely combined with medications in order to help restore health to an individual
- Patients interested in cleansing and detoxification
- Patients seeking a second opinion – a fresh set of eyes to add to their health care team
- Patients who simply want to look and feel better than they currently do
What can Naturopathic Doctors do in Ontario?
Naturopathic Doctors have the ability, with their extensive training and licensing, to be a person’s primary health care provider. However, naturopathic services as well as any lab testing ordered by an ND, for example routine blood work such as a Complete Blood Count, are not covered by OHIP. NDs are part of the province’s private health care system – the government pays for basic care for its residents with OHIP, but those who would like additional health care services beyond the basics must pay out of pocket. Most countries have this two-tiered type of health care system to varying degrees. Luckily, most private workplace insurance plans offer coverage for Ontarians and their families for naturopathic services. Health care regulators are beginning to realize that naturopathic care takes a lot of burden off of the public health care system – people who use naturopathic services are typically healthier and do not use the publicly funded services as much.
Naturopathic Doctors can do many things that the public may not realize. NDs can:
- order many basic lab tests for their patients – Vitamin D levels, Vitamin B12 levels, cholesterol panels, thyroid and other hormone panels, urinalysis, stool cultures, etc. NDs are able to draw blood from a vein (phlebotomy)
- order more advanced testing such as IgG food sensitivity testing, hair element analysis, environmental pollutant exposure testing, and many, many more
- perform gynecologic, genital, and digital rectal exams, which many patients prefer to have done with their naturopaths
- perform IV therapy, B12 shots, and prescribe some hormones for their patients (after completing an additional prescribing exam)
- perform spinal adjustments for their patients, similar to chiropractors
NDs cannot refer patients directly to specialists, but often work in conjunction with their patient’s conventional doctor if a specialist’s opinion is required.
More information on the regulation of Naturopathic Medicine in Ontario:
Government of Ontario: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/07n10
College of Naturopaths of Ontario: http://www.collegeofnaturopaths.on.ca/CONO/Public/New_Public_Landing_Page_2.aspx
Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors: http://oand.org
Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors: http://www.cand.ca