New to Naturopathic Medicine?
Sep 03, 2018
I remember the first time I heard of Naturopathic Medicine, my mind drew a complete blank. Growing up in Michigan, I had very little exposure to natural medicine. In my college years I had come across oriental medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, but what was this Naturopathic Medicine?
If you are confused as to what exactly Naturopathic Medicine is, you are not in the minority! Although Naturopathic Medicine has gained popular recognition in many west-coast states such as Oregon, Washington, and California, the majority of citizens in the U.S. and the rest of the world have never heard of this unique branch of medicine. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to the field of Naturopathic Medicine, and hopefully open you up to some new (but actually quite old!) ways to address your health.
What is Naturopathic Medicine?
To pack it into one short definition…
Naturopathic medicine is a field of medicine that utilizes minimally invasive and nature-based therapeutic modalities including but not limited to: botanical medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, and hydrotherapy to support an individual’s innate ability to heal themselves.
Let me elaborate on what this means by giving an overview of the six principles of naturopathic medicine.
The six principles of naturopathic medicine include:
The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Nature)
Naturopathic medicine is based on the understanding the all of nature, including human bodies, are moving in a constant direction towards health, wholeness. This means that all beings are in fact self-healing. This self-healing power can be attributed to what some call, the Vis, or vital force. Regardless of what we call it, our main role as Naturopathic Doctors is to support and strengthen this vital force in each patient to allow the self-healing mechanisms to function optimally.
Identify and Treat the Causes
Although our bodies are always moving towards a state of health, various obstacles or stressors may limit the body’s ability to heal itself. It is therefore, our responsibility as naturopathic doctors to act as detectives to identify and remove any obstacles to cure. It is interesting to note that these obstacles, sometimes very hidden and elusive, are often the underlying cause of one’s dis-ease.
Do No Harm
Each and every licensed doctor in our world today takes the Hippocratic Oath, which among other things, states that doctor will “first, do no harm.” In today’s world it is too common to see health conditions treated unnecessarily with invasive or suppressive therapies that may eliminate a symptom, but can harm the body in another way. In our treatment plans, we uphold the vital principle of doing no harm by following the naturopathic therapeutic hierarchy (seen below) and employing the least invasive therapy as possible for the highest overall benefit to the patient.
Doctor as Teacher
There are three really important ingredients to healing. First is knowing what is wrong, Second is knowing what to do about it. Third is doing it! Naturopathic doctors will take the time to educate patients on what is going on in the body (i.e. the underlying cause) and provide safe and effective therapeutic strategies. The third ingredient to healing is up to each individual. At Alter Health we like to say that “Information + Inspiration = Transformation.” We love to provide the information and inspiration, and we leave the transformation up to you.
Treat the Whole Person
We all know how the song goes, “the hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone, the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone.” We recognize that the body is full of vastly intricate interconnections. We understand that your head pain may be related to your gut health, or that your shortness of breath may be related a recent grief in your life. We also see that human beings are multi-layered spiritual being with emotional, mental and spiritual realms that influence the health of the physical body. In our approach to supporting one’s health we make sure to factor in each of these aspects that make you who you are.
Preventing dis-ease is always easier than reversing dis-ease. Although most of us reliably bring our cars to the shop every 3,000 miles for an oil change to ensure ongoing function of the vehicle, we often overlook what important yet simple measures we can take to support the ongoing health of our most important vehicle in life, our body! The easiest way to experience radiant health is by maintaining what your had the first place. For this reason, preventative health is one of our favorite areas to work in with patients. We provide numerous tools that make it easy and enjoying for people to maintain their health and youthful energy and prevent future dis-ease.
What kind of therapies can you expect?
Many of the therapies in our naturopathic toolbox include nature-based modalities that are minimally invasive. Because naturopathic doctors receive a 4-year medical training in primary care medicine comparable to MD and DO schooling, we are as intimately familiar with the anatomy, physiology, and pathology as our conventional counterparts. We also have a deep understanding of pharmaceutical medicines and how they impact your physiology. What’s unique to our training is a deep philosophy that is structured upon what we like to call a therapeutic order, or hierarchy of healing. This template is intended to guide the application of naturopathic medicine to achieve the best health outcomes.
As you will see in the image below, we start on the bottom level with the least invasive approach and work upwards as the severity or emergent nature of dis-ease increases. Levels 1-5 employ natural therapies including botanical medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, physical medicine, lifestyle coaching, mental-emotional-spiritual counseling, and hydrotherapy. The top 2 levels employ pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures. Even though working within the first 5 levels is ideal, sometimes we do need to address pathology (ie, severe pain or life threatening illness), with a stronger intervention that falls within the higher up levels.
What do we specialize in at Alter Health?
At Alter Health we provide adjunctive naturopathic support focused on the first 3 levels of the therapeutic hierarchy, though sometimes go up to levels 4 and 5 when necessary. We focus on establishing the foundation for optimal health with each person by engaging with lifestyle and nutritional counseling. We to stimulate with body’s self-healing mechanisms with hydrotherapy, homeopathy, and mindfulness training. We support weakened or damaged systems with additional nutritive support and/or botanical medicine. On occasions, we look to directly address structural integrity or pathology with natural therapies such as targeted supplements or herbs. When doing so, we always recognize that we are, in essence putting a band-aid on the wound, so that we can control symptoms and effectively address the root cause of the issue. If we ever feel a more invasive intervention is necessary, we will redirect to you to your primary care provider or a specialist.
Why do we aim to stay within these three levels?
Quite simply, we provide health care, not disease management. At Alter Health we follow your history and symptoms to discover the root of the issue, and we address the cause. In doing so, we are able to establish a path that is truly healing, not just managing disease. We envision a world full of vibrantly healthy people as opposed to people who are simply managing their dis-ease.
For more information, please visit our services page to get a little more depth into our specialties at Alter Health.
Blessings of Health,