Naturopathic medicine is a distinct system of medicine that combines scientific knowledge with traditional wisdom in order to offer effective, patient centred care using natural therapies.
First, do no harm.
This is the first principle in all forms of medicine. It is part of the oath you must take if you want to practise medicine. It doesn’t necessarily mean that a doctor should never provide treatment that has potential to do harm. It is important to take into consideration the benefits and risks of all treatments. Additionally, the patient should always provide input (i.e. informed consent) into their treatment.
What I love about naturopathic medicine is that we guide our treatment plans based on therapeutic order. This means we aim to provide the safest, least invasive treatment plan first. Then, use increasingly potent (but with more potential for harm) medicine only as needed. With that being said, the patient’s well-being is always priority. We have the skillset to assess if emergency care or more specialized medical care is needed, and will always refer when needed.
Treat the whole person.
Many people don’t realize that the word “holistic” simply means “whole”. To treat someone holistically means a couple different things. Firstly, it means that our physical body is made up of many organs and tissues that all work together to keep us in health. Our digestive system affects our nervous system, which affects our hormones, which affects our immune system and so on.
To treat you properly, we must consider the functioning of all systems. In order to properly treat your mental health, I have to know how your digestion is doing. The second aspect of holistic healthcare is that the physical and the mental body are intricately connected. I cannot emphasize this enough. Our thoughts, feelings and beliefs can directly affect our health and can therefore be major factors in physical disease. Treating the whole person means that your whole system, mental and physical, are taken into consideration when making a treatment plan.
Treat the root cause.
This means that as naturopathic doctor, the goal of our assessment and treatment is not to mask your symptoms, but to actually find out why the symptoms are happening in the first place, and treat that. Symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. If we address these underlying issues, the body can often return to its natural healthy state.
Utilize the healing power of nature.
Our bodies are intrisicially designed to be healthy and our bodies have an incredible capacity to heal. Additionally, nature has provided exceptional tools for healing in the form of plants, water, sunshine and air. By giving our bodies the right tools and environment, we can guide it back to health. If we treat your body as if it is not a self-regulating, intelligent organism, we aren’t doing it justice.
There is a common misconception that our paths are laid out for us by our genes, and that we have no control over what diseases we get. The amount of diseases that are strictly genetic and are completely independent of lifestyle/environment is very low. Your genes are actually highly influenced by the food we eat, our experiences (e.g. trauma) and our lifestyle. True prevention does not mean screening tests for disease – that is early detection. Prevention means taking your health in your hands before disease starts.
Doctor as teacher.
Did you know that “doctor” comes from the latin word “docere”, which means teacher! Being a doctor is about more than making a diagnosis and giving medication. It is about educating patients so that they can be actively involved in their health care. This could mean teaching patients how to pick out better food for their health condition, teaching patients about anatomy and physiology so they can understand their condition, or discussing the risks and benefits of any given treatment so they can make an informed decision.