Frequently Asked Questions
Not at all. In reality it is best to have at least 2 or more professionals on your health team. As a naturopathic physician I often collaborate with medical doctors in the best interest of my client. Having been trained and worked as an RN in my first career for 25 years, I know the advantages of western modern medicine. I also know and practice as a whole body healer now, and enjoy seeing my clients reach an even higher level of health.
Well trained health professionals each have a different focus of training. When considering more than one provider giving you advice, you are at a distinct advantage of having more minds to collaborate about your health. In addition to seeing a naturopathic doctor, other health professionals to consider can be an acupuncturist, a body worker like a massage therapist and/or an energy body worker, a chiropractor and a counselor. Having a team is like investing in your healthy longevity. The better care you can give your body, the longer it will last. In comparison to diversifying your financial investments, getting various opinions on staying healthy is similar. Your most important asset is your health right? Why not get several opinions for your best outcome? There is no one practitioner that has all the answers.
We are fundamentally different in how we approach a person who has a disease. A naturopathic doctor approaches health first.
Both professionals through their schooling are trained to deliver primary care, but similar to MD’s, an ND can also specialize in an area of natural medicine. However a naturopathic doctor will often seek to address the basic health of the person such as their immune function, their digestive function and the quality in how they live their life. We believe the body can restore itself if it remains strong, vital and in balance; the body is treated as a whole being. MD’s basically are trained to treat symptoms, alleviating them primarily with chemical drugs and/or surgery. This is their first line of therapy. ND’s can use some drug therapy (depending on the state they practice), but it is not their first line of therapy, more like a last resort. We use support therapies like nutrition, getting more rest/sleep, herbal remedies or homeopathic remedies and stress reduction. We try to learn the circumstances that led to the onset of the disease. The emphasis is understanding what caused the illness and to treat from that perspective.
Often medical insurance covers most services performed by an MD like lab testing and office visits, and will cover a set amount of dollars for naturopathic doctor care. Each insurance policy is different with some policies providing naturopathic coverage the same as MD’s, and some policies having a cap on the amount of money that can be spent on alternative care. As the consumer, you want to know what type of coverage you have ahead of time. it also depends on the type of insurance policy you buy or your employer provides. As more people are requesting care for other types of holistic medicine, insurance policies are expanding coverage.
The answer is – depending. Herbal medicine can interact with drug therapy. However, many of the supplements that are nutritionally based can be used. There are some exceptions however to this like Vitamin K can interfere with blood thinning medications. It is imperative that you consult with a practitioner who has this knowledge. Many times there can be an enhancement using supplements and drugs; sometimes there is danger in using them together. A safer modality is homeopathy. It is a very safe medicine, however, drugs can render these remedies useless in some circumstances.
Working with a knowledgeable practitioner is key to using herbal medicines, vitamin and mineral therapy, and pharmaceutical treatments safely.
Naturopathic treatments work, because they primarily treat the cause of the problem or illness. This type of medicine is being recognized and identified as “functional medicine”. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7Dzz1ewyO8 It works by understanding the various systems within the body and identifying how the body’s physiology has been disrupted.
Here is an example. I have treated cases of IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) where the individual had symptoms for many years. IBS can cause disruptive symptoms like abdominal cramping, diarrhea, constipation, generalized stomach pain, gas and bloating. Some people cannot eat foods without suffering. In these cases, I treat the cause of the problem: an imbalanced normal bacterial count (called flora) and damage to the wall of the intestinal lining. In many of these cases the patients did have colonoscopies that were “normal”, took pharmaceutical drugs without complete relief, and most cases the symptoms come back. With naturopathic care, when the imbalanced flora was corrected and the lining of the intestinal wall was repaired with a natural substance, not only have the symptoms ceased, they have not returned either. I would call that a success. Naturopathic medicine may not be as rapid acting as some drug therapies; functional medicine’s focus is to assist the body’s reparative power which takes longer.
The training an ND receives is on par with an MD. In the rigorous 4 years in medical school, naturopathic doctors learn all the basic sciences, and must pass state board exams in the sciences and in clinical medicine. The major difference is the focus of treatment. Both professions learn the anatomy, physiology and pathology. ND’s learn in their curriculum how to treat using nutrition therapies, herbal therapies, lifestyle changes, water therapies and homeopathy. All these modalities work in sync with body systems. The remedies work to enhance function and restore balance and whole body healing.
Cancer is a systemic illness, not just a problem at the site of the cancer. The answer lies of course on the stage of cancer, the type of cancer and the state of the patient’s health or vitality. Each case should be individually evaluated . It would be wisest to bring in many supportive therapies if diagnosed with cancer; naturopathic care would be very important to support immune function, provide stellar nutrition, and other supportive modalities. Many ND’s are well trained in cancer care via residencies in cancer centers in the U.S. and would be the ideal practitioner. Naturopathic care alone may not be enough. Seek advice and create a health team for best results.
The choice of seeking naturopathic care is individual. A lot will depend on your health goals. Since ND’s are so well trained in optimizing health, it would make sense to consult with one. In today’s world, we want to do more than just avoid disease. Owning a prized automobile or valuable piece of artwork requires special care, often by people who have specialized in that area. I believe you want to consult with a provider who has the credentials to help optimize your health. Naturopathic doctors have the training and credentials for optimizing health and wellness.
My story came about after soul searching. I did not feel fulfilled in my nursing career and after 25 years I knew I needed a change. But I easily found some answers when I personally changed my lifestyle and nutrition. The healthier I became, the more I wanted to learn how to help others. But the back story is more compelling. My own father died at a very young 45 years old. He was a seemingly healthy guy who worked in construction, a big 6 foot muscular man who rarely missed a day of work. He died unexpectedly and the autopsy showed massive artery disease and advanced atherosclerosis. He also had significant cirrhosis of the liver from his years of drinking alcohol. From the outside, however he looked fine, but stress, bad American food, smoking and drinking took its toll. It was a road I wanted to first understand and then avoid.