Naturopathic Medicine (Naturopathy) is a non-invasive and holistic method for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease with a focus on the promotion of wellness via patient education and partnership. Naturopathic Doctors are trained primary health care practitioners who combine a modern evidence-based approach along with varied traditional and natural therapies including:
- Botanical Medicine (herbs)
- Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Homeopathic Medicine
- Clinical Nutrition
- Lifestyle Counseling & Stress Management
- Physical Medicine (hydrotherapy, spinal manipulation & massage)
As Naturopathic Doctors, we seek to restore and maintain optimum health in our patients by supporting nature’s innate self-healing process – the “vis medicatrix naturae”. We view the individual as an integral whole via physiological, biochemical, psychological, physical, social, emotional, spiritual, environmental, and behavioural factors that affect health. We treat each being as unique and complex, where no two individuals are alike. Naturopathic Doctors take time to listen to each patient, and provide an individualized treatment plan in order to reach personal health goals.
Naturopathic Doctors complement and enhance treatments provided by other health care professionals. We cooperate with other health care providers, and refer patients for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. Naturopathic Medicine provides individuals with a truly integrative form of health care.
- First, to do no harm
- Support the healing power of nature
- Address the fundamental causes of disease
- Physician as teacher
- Heal the whole person
- Emphasize prevention
Naturopathic Training & Regulation
In North America, licensed Naturopathic Doctors obtain comprehensive and rigorous training in an educational context similar to that of conventional medical doctors. Naturopathic Doctors must have a minimum of 7 years post-secondary academic education.
Q: How is Naturopathic Medicine different from conventional (allopathic) medicine?
A: The primary differences between Naturopathic and conventional medicine is the philosophical approach to health and the therapies used. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) treat patients as individuals by addressing the lifestyle, mental emotional and environmental aspects of health. This allows your ND to find and treat the cause of the disease using natural, non-invasive therapies. In contrast, conventional doctors generally address and treat the symptoms of disease, rather than the source of the illness, and use pharmaceutical therapies or surgery. Medical doctors receive little training in nutrition and lifestyle counselling and are proficient at treating acute and emergent conditions; however, due to time restrictions and current doctor shortages MDs are unable to spend as much time with you as your ND. The ND visits range between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours which contrasts the average MD visit which is between 7-18 minutes.
Q: How are naturopathic and conventional physicians alike in training?
A:Naturopathic and allopathic (conventional) physicians are required to study the biomedical sciences at a four-year accredited graduate medical school. Included in this rigorous curriculum are biomedical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, neurology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, cardiology, minor surgery, and others. Both are required to complete a University undergraduate degree before completing further training at either a naturopathic college or medical school. Both kinds of physicians can diagnose a disease, predict its course, and prescribe treatment. The difference is in the methods of treatment prescribed. Naturopathic and conventional medicines are complementary and can co-exist.
Q: What treatments do Naturopathic Doctors use?
A: Through evaluation of the whole person, Naturopathic Doctors treat each patient individually using naturopathic treatments that may include nutritional recommendations and supplementation, homeopathy, botanical medicine, physical manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture, and other modalities. NDs use these treatments to support and cleanse the body returning it to a state of health and balance.
Q: Is Naturopathic Medicine scientific?
A: Yes. The effectiveness of Naturopathic Medicine is backed up by solid, controlled studies. Naturopathic Medicine has evolved and been refined over centuries and continues to grow and incorporate scientific advances. It is important to keep in mind that there can be a difference between clinical effectiveness and scientifically proven effectiveness. It is interesting to note that less than 20% of procedures used in allopathic medicine have never been clinically verified. This does not mean that they are not good but simply that they have not yet been studied. In fact, the effectiveness of many naturopathic treatments reflects many decades of positive clinical results. Modern scientific studies are now validating the use of a variety of dietary supplements used by NDs, including fibre and probiotics for proper gastrointestinal health and essential fatty acids for the skin and menstrual irregularities. The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine along with the many other accredited naturopathic institutions continue to perform state of the art studies that are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals to further research in Naturopathic medicine.
Q: Is Naturopathic Medicine cost-effective?
A: Yes. Because NDs utilize a preventive approach that reduces the incidence of high-cost chronic conditions, naturopathic medicine reduces long-term health care costs.
Q: Is Naturopathic Medicine safe?
A: Yes. Safety records are monitored by State review boards. NDs most often use gentle therapies with low risk for side effects. A core principle of Naturopathic Medicine is to “first do no harm.”
Q: How do Naturopathic Doctors interact with other health professionals?
A: NDs have an understanding of their limitations, and refer patients to other healthcare providers such as MDs, MD specialists, Psychotherapists, and Chiropractors and Massage Therapists when necessary. Most Naturopathic practices have extensive cross-referrals with other practitioners. Both clinics are integrated health centres comprising of many healthcare professionals.
Q: Is Naturopathy the same as homeopathy?
A: No. Homeopathy is an energetic healing method that stimulates the body’s vital force to improve health – it is only one aspect of Naturopathic Medicine. Naturopathic Medicine is a coordinated healthcare approach that uses recognized methods of diagnosis and several treatment methods – including homeopathy – to treat the causes of disease and support the body’s innate healing ability. Because of their qualifications, treatments by licensed NDs are covered by many health insurance plans.
Q: How is a Naturopathic Doctor different from a homeopath?
A: Naturopathic Doctors use a variety of treatment modalities and must complete a University undergraduate degree as well as an accredited four-year full-time Naturopathic Medicine Program. NDs in Ontario must be registered and licensed through the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy and are governed under the Drugless Practitioners Act. They must also carry malpractice insurance. Homeopaths use homeopathy as the treatment of choice to treat their patients. They must have completed high school as well as a minimum of two years at either college or university. They are not required to have a university degree. The Toronto School of Homeopathic Medicine offers three- or four-year programs that consist of 18 weekend classes each year. Homeopaths are not licensed and regulated in Ontario, and do not fall under the governing of the Drugless Practitioners Act.
Q: Do Naturopathic Doctors perform physical and other examinations?
A: Yes. NDs take an extensive history and perform physical examinations using standard diagnostic instruments and laboratory tests. Additional information related to lifestyle including diet, emotions, stress, exercise, and exposure to environmental hazards may be requested.
Q: How is Naturopathic Medicine different from other “holistic” treatments?
A: Holistic centres often consist of a variety of therapists working together. Some of these therapists may be recognized and licensed (for example, Massage Therapists are regulated and Acupuncturists have just recently been regulated). Other types of therapy (reiki, herbalists, energy healers, medical intuitives, aura balancers, psychics, reflexology, iridologists etc.) are not regulated in Ontario; therefore the quality of care and level of education and training of these individuals can vary greatly. When looking for a professional in natural therapies, it is important to know whether your practitioner is licensed and regulated under either the Drugless Practitioners Act (DPA) or the Regulated Health Practitioners Act (RHPA). This guarantees that these professionals have been well educated and extensively trained in their field, and are recognized by the government and the healthcare community.
Q: How are Naturopathic Doctors educated?
A: After completing a standard premedical undergraduate program at an accredited university, students enter into a four-year full-time naturopathic medical program. The first two years of Naturopathic medical school consist of education in the basic biomedical sciences similar to that of conventional medical school. The second two years emphasize clinical education in natural therapeutics. Upon successful completion of the four-year program, graduates receive the degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
Q: What is the typical ND-patient relationship like?
A:Naturopathic physicians encourage patients to take personal responsibility for their own health. They support patients in this by teaching them the steps necessary to create and sustain optimal health. Naturopathic physicians strive to find the underlying cause of a patient’s illness, rather than treat only the symptoms. Recognizing that each body is unique, NDs tailor their treatments to meet the individual needs of each patient.
Q: What conditions can my Naturopathic Doctor treat?
A: Naturopathic Doctors see a wide variety of patients of all different ages and are recognized as primary care practitioners, similar to family medical doctors. As such, NDs are able to treat a range of conditions from acute conditions such as ear infections or chronic conditions such as arthritis. For those individuals who choose to have a MD for primary care, a ND can provide complementary care.
Q: What should I expect on the first visit?
A:The first visit to a ND may take an hour or longer because it includes a comprehensive medical history, physical examination, possible laboratory tests, and discussions about nutrition, lifestyle, emotions, exercise, stress and other significant health factors. Your particular concerns will be discussed. At the end of the visit, your ND will discuss treatment options, and develop an individualized course of therapy that is focused on addressing your health concerns.
Q: Do I continue to see my medical doctor and other health practitioners?
A: Yes. You can continue to see your other healthcare providers, as needed. It is also important to coordinate your care with other healthcare practitioners by communicating with them as appropriate. It is best to work as a team with other practitioners in order to give you the best possible healthcare. For example, if surgery is necessary, NDs can provide guidelines for pre- and post-surgical supplementation to prepare you better for a positive surgical outcome and a speedy recovery.
Q: Is Naturopathic Medicine covered by OHIP health insurance?
A: Although Naturopathic services are not covered by OHIP, many private health insurance plans will provide coverage. Since NDs use alternatives to costly techniques and drug therapies, more insurance companies are beginning to investigate expanding coverage of this cost-effective healing method. Check your benefits package or contact your health insurer for details.