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Naturopathic medicine week

To your good health, naturally

May 9 – 13 is Naturopathic Medicine Week. It’s a great time to talk to a naturopathic doctor about how naturopathic medicine and traditional medicine can work together to keep you healthy.

Do you take natural herbs and vitamins? See a chiropractor on a regular basis? Use massage therapy to ease sore muscles and joints? If so, you’re one of the millions of Canadians who successfully integrate naturopathic practices into their lives.

Expanding access to health information and a growing awareness around alternative treatments have led many Canadians to be proactively involved in their own healthcare. Many seek the advice of naturopathic practitioners to improve their health or heal specific ailments. While naturopathic medicine and alternative treatments shouldn't replace conventional healthcare, they can work in complementary ways to ensure a more effective course of care.

What is the difference between naturopathic care and traditional care?

Naturopathic care is based on the needs of the individual. Naturopathic doctors look at a patient holistically to find the root cause of the disease, treat the whole person, and suggest treatments that encourage the body to heal itself, without causing harm. Treatments may include modifications to diet and lifestyle along with a wide range of natural therapies such as herbal remedies, acupuncture and chiropractic care.

Although they, too, are great proponents of lifestyle and diet changes, traditional medical doctors diagnose disease and treat the symptoms - often with drugs and/or surgery. In many cases, this course of treatment is necessary, and can mean the difference between life and death.

Are naturopathic doctors real doctors?

Naturopathic doctors are gaining recognition as healthcare practitioners and experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine. In order to become a naturopathic doctor, they must undergo extensive training that is similar to medical doctors.

To obtain the naturopathic medical credential (ND) that qualifies them to sit for a licensing exam, students must:

  • Have three years of pre-medical sciences at a University
  • Successfully completed a 4-year, full-time program in an accredited school of Naturopathic Medicine that includes more than 4,500 hours of classroom training and 1,500 hours of supervised clinical experience
  • Pass NPLEX board exams, which are written after the 2nd and 4th year of study
  • Meet the Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits as required by the provincial regulatory boards on an ongoing basis

Guiding principles form the foundation of naturopathic care

Naturopathic doctors follow these guiding principles, which are emphasized throughout a naturopathic doctor’s training:

1. Do No Harm

The doctor chooses remedies and therapies that are safe and effective, to increase health and decrease harmful side effects.

2. The Healing Power of Nature

The doctor works to restore and support the healing ability of the body, mind and spirit and to prevent further disease from occurring.

3. Identify and Treat the Cause

Naturopathic doctors determine and treat the underlying cause rather than managing or suppressing symptoms. Symptoms are viewed as expressions of the body's attempt to heal.

4. Treat the Whole Person

Disease affects the entire person, not just a specific organ or system. Your nutritional status, lifestyle, family history, feelings, environmental stresses, and physical health are all carefully evaluated and addressed.

5. Doctor as Teacher

Naturopathic doctors provide an understanding of the factors that affect your health and help you balance and become more capable of maintaining your own health.

6. Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

All of the above principles are applied in a proactive form of disease prevention and health promotion.

Are alternative treatments covered by insurance plans?

Canadians enjoy one of the finest healthcare systems in the world, but most provincial plans do not cover alternative treatments.

However, many companies recognize the value of alternative treatments to keep their employees mentally and physically healthy. Review your EAP (Employee Assistance Plan) to see if alternative therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology, naturopathic care, and even midwifery are covered by your group benefits plan.

Is naturopathic medicine right for you?

If you’re not sure whether naturopathic treatment is right for you, take the time to speak openly with a naturopathic doctor. Ask about education, experience and results with other patients. Trust your instincts. If a prescribed treatment doesn’t sound right or makes you nervous in any way –don’t do it. Remember that naturopathic doctors are educated professionals who are committed to doing no harm to their patients - making outlandish claims and promises of easy cures goes against their code of ethics.

May 9 – 13 is Naturopathic Medicine Week. It’s a great time to talk to a naturopathic doctor about taking control of your health naturally.