Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct system of medicine that combines modern science and traditional healing practices. It is based on six fundamental principles and treatment is guided by the therapeutic order, both of which are outlined below. Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) have been trained as primary care doctors who are experts in the prevention, diagnosis, management, and treatment of both acute and chronic health conditions. Rather than suppressing symptoms, NDs work to identify underlying causes of illness and develop personalized treatment plans to address them.
The Healing Power of Nature
Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in each person which is ordered and intelligent. The role of the doctor is to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process.
Identify and Treat the Cause
Illness does not occur without cause, and it is these underlying causes of illness and disease that must be identified and removed before complete recovery can occur.
First Do No Harm
Naturopathic medicine acknowledges that all interventions that have the power to heal also have the potential to harm. Our goal is to utilize the least possible force or intervention necessary to diagnose illness and restore health.
Doctor as Teacher
The meaning of the word “doctor” comes from the latin word docere, meaning teach. A principal objective of naturopathic medicine is to educate each patient, empowering them to take responsibility for their own health and take steps towards achieving and maintaining optimal health.
Treat the Whole Person
Naturopathic Doctors recognize that health and disease are a result of complex interactions between physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors. It is the harmonious functioning of all aspects of an individual that allows for optimal health, and it is the doctor’s job to treat the whole person, taking all of these factors into account.
The best treatment is stopping the illness from ever occurring in the first place. Naturopathic medicine emphasizes disease prevention while promoting health and wellness activities that allow for a world in which humanity may thrive.
The therapeutic order is a guideline for NDs to help patients resolve their symptoms and address the underlying cause while using the least force that is safely possible. It is listed from the most foundational and least invasive, starting at level 1, up to the most targeted and most invasive, at level 7.
Level 1 - Establish the Foundation for Optimal Health
The first step towards health is to remove the entities that disturb it and replace them with the key building blocks for a healthy life, such as good quality food, appropriate physical activity, adequate sleep, nourishing relationships, and others. Naturopathic doctors work with patients to develop a healthy regimen based on each individual’s obstacles to health in order to change and improve the terrain in which the disease developed. This allows additional therapeutics to have the most beneficial effects possible.
Level 2 - Stimulate the Self-Healing Mechanisms
NDs use therapies to stimulate and strengthen the body’s innate self-healing and curative abilities. These therapies include modalities such as clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, low-dose herbs, and other gentle therapies to help stimulate the vital force and guide it back towards health.
Level 3 - Support and Restore Weakened Systems
This level of treatment is aimed at the restoration of damaged organ systems. Therapies may include some of the previously mentioned modalities, but also implement high doses of vitamins, minerals, supplements, food prescriptions and botanicals to target the healing of specific organs or organ systems.
Level 4 - Correct Physical Structure
Proper structural integrity has profound effects on our well-being, as our alignment contributes to the way we feel by affecting our circulation, our nervous system, the correct placement of our organs, and the amount of tension carried in our musculature. Physical therapies such as spinal manipulation, massage therapy, exercise, stretching, and other forms of bodywork, can be utilized to improve and maintain skeletal and musculature integrity.
Level 5 - Natural Symptom Control
When a specific pathology must be addressed, NDs seek to employ safe, effective, natural substances that will not add further burden to an already ailing body. For example this might entail using antimicrobial herbs to treat an infection, or managing hypothyroidism with thyroid hormone.
Level 6 - Synthetic Symptom Control
At times, pharmaceutical medications may be required to suppress symptoms, treat pathology, and take over bodily functions that are no longer functioning properly. All licensed NDs in California have received thorough training in pharmacology, however given the current scope of practice for Naturopathic Medicine many will choose to refer to a more conventionally trained doctor if a patient requires this level of intervention.
Level 7 - High Force Interventions
When life, limb, or function are endangered NDs refer to specialists who are expertly trained in surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or other highly invasive interventions. While such treatments may be the best option in certain scenarios, there are also complementary, supportive therapies that NDs can provide to help decrease side effects and improve outcomes from these invasive procedures.
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