Alternative medicine is the medicine of the new century, and it exemplifies thoughtful thinking about the provision of medical treatment. People’s perspectives on their own health have undergone a paradigm shift, as seen by their growing interest in and use of non-drug and herbal treatments, non-invasive medical procedures, an increased focus on illness prevention, and changes in lifestyle. For the better part of the 20th century, medical care consisted primarily of the diagnosis of infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses, the administration of vaccinations as a form of disease prevention, and the administration of a wide variety of pharmaceutical treatments for conditions ranging from the common cold to the extremely complex illness known as AIDS, the performance of surgical procedures when necessary, and relatively little emphasis on dietary changes, physical activity, and alternative therapies. People are now adopting new perspectives on health care, taking into account what they eat, drink, and breathe, and when they take prescription medications, they are questioning what the potential side effects are and whether or not there are less expensive treatment options available. It is no longer the occurrence or presence of sickness that defines health; rather, health is now a notion that encompasses physical, social, and mental well-being.
This change in thinking has a number of drawbacks, one of which is that there is a large selection of alternative health services, but very little attention is placed on teaching, research, and the efficiency of these services. There is a large number of unregulated and unlicensed alternative practitioners, and there is no guarantee that the employees working in health food stores have any medical training necessary for the prescription of natural treatments. A significant number of individuals have selected naturopathic physicians (NDs) as their main health care provider despite the abundance of other options. In North America, the practice of naturopathic medicine has been around for 100 years, and in certain provinces, it is the health profession with the highest rate of employment growth. In addition, the state governments of several American jurisdictions and health insurance companies have acknowledged NDs on a platform that is equal to that of MDs. This article examines the subject of naturopathic medicine, including how Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) get their education, the conditions they treat, and the procedures that are followed in their clinics.
Patients are presented with a variety of choices when they examine alternatives to conventional forms of medical treatment. The inquiry “What precisely is naturopathic medicine?” is one of the most often asked inquiries. Both “How is a Naturopathic Doctor Different from a Homeopath or Herbalist?” and “What are the Philosophical Differences Between Naturopathic Doctors and Medical Doctors?” are common questions asked of Naturopathic Doctors (NDs). The first distinction is that NDs are required to complete an interdisciplinary four-year degree program that includes coursework in a variety of complementary and alternative medicine modalities. In the same way that the majority of MDs practice family medicine, Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) are generalists in the field of alternative medicine. The second distinction is that the protocols used in naturopathic medicine are founded on research and study. Natural medicine that is grounded on scientific research is referred to as naturopathic medicine. The idea behind naturopathic therapy is three-pronged, which brings us to the third significant distinction.
First, is the concept of vis medicatrix naturae, which states that the human body has the innate ability to cure itself when placed in an appropriate therapeutic setting. NDs have a strong faith in the body’s innate capacity to cure itself if the environment is favorable for recovery. The practice of naturopathic medicine centers on identifying the most appropriate and tailored treatment setting for each patient.
Second, “tollum causum,” which means “to take away the reason.” The goal of natural medicine (ND) treatment is not to alleviate the symptoms of sickness but to find and treat its underlying cause.
Third, Prima non nocere: do not damage. The ND has received the education necessary to apply treatments that will not have unfavorable side effects or result in secondary issues (iatrogenic illness) that are just as significant or even more serious than the underlying condition.
The practice of naturopathic medicine is predicated on the incorporation of these principles within a framework that is founded on scientific research. Lastly, a doctorate is required of NDs in the same manner that it is required of MDs. This is a significant aspect that differentiates NDs from other alternative health practitioners who specialize in a specific field, such as herbalists, homeopaths, and others. NDs are required to finish three years of pre-medical training and four years full-time at a recognized naturopathic institution if the province or state in which they practice has laws requiring this. This encompasses all of the fundamental sciences that are taught to general practitioners, like anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology, among other disciplines. However, the emphasis of a Ph.D. in naturopathy is on seven natural healing actions, as opposed to the chemical and surgical procedures that are the primary focus of an MD. These include acupuncture and oriental medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, naturopathic manipulation, acupuncture, disease prevention, and lifestyle counseling, and naturopathic manipulation. The Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (ND) is undeniably a generalist medical degree.
The provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia in Canada are the only ones that regulate naturopathic medicine. The province of British Columbia, the province of Ontario, the states of Washington and Oregon, the state of Illinois, the state of Connecticut, and the state of Arizona are home to the continent’s six authorized naturopathic universities. Upon completion of their degrees, licensed NDs are required to take board tests that are standardized globally, and in areas where there is law, they are self-regulated in the same manner that MDs are.
The office of education policy and planning in Oregon, which is responsible for regulating all academic degrees in the state, conducted a review of the education and examination procedure of NDs. Based on their findings, they came to the following conclusion: “…it would not be possible for an individual to pass all of the tests—which is necessary for licensure—without having a comprehensive foundation in the biological and biomedical sciences.” To put it another way, Naturopathic Doctors are required to undergo “a biological and biomedical education of the same breadth and depth as prepares an MD to be a primary care physician.” According to the findings of their study, the only point at which naturopathic medicine and allopathic care split are “at that point when experts in the common possession of scientific facts sincerely differ on how best to employ their shared knowledge in treating patients.” This is an essential aspect of patient care when working with an ND. It is essentially basic health care, carried out in the same scientific manner as allopathic treatment, but it does not include the use of medications or surgical procedures.
Can a patient anticipate the same type of treatment procedures from an ND as from an MD, given that the breadth of training for NDs is comparable to that of MDs? Both yes and no Yes, in the sense that NDs are educated to diagnose and treat both acute and chronic conditions like typical family practitioners. A comprehensive patient history, a physical examination, an analysis of any relevant laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging, as well as a study of any drugs the patient may be taking are the cornerstones of naturopathic diagnosis. The focus that NDs place on nutrition and food, changes in lifestyle, and the need for patients to take responsibility for their own long-term health management may be one of the key distinctions between allopathic and naturopathic therapy.
Although many patients see their ND for a wide variety of health issues, the majority of those who seek out naturopathic treatment do so after being told that there is no treatment available for their condition via conventional medicine. These conditions may include the common cold and influenza, food allergies and sensitivities, candidiasis and chronic tiredness, aches and pains in the muscles, sprains and strains, and other similar disorders. Many naturopathic procedures provide outcomes that are comparable to or even better than those of conventional medical therapies, but without the associated negative effects and hazards.
The treatment of rheumatoid arthritis is a good illustration of a common regimen used in naturopathic medicine. Drug therapy is often used in conventional therapies. This helps patients control their pain, decrease inflammation, and delay the disease’s development. The ND will aim to alleviate the patient’s discomfort using non-pharmacological or non-toxic substances, and will also work to instill beneficial lifestyle variables such as decreased body mass, greater physical activity, and better nutrition. The body’s natural self-healing capabilities are stimulated by focusing on the digestive and elimination systems as the primary areas of focus. The majority of allopathic therapies for arthritis include the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines since there is currently no recognized cure for the condition (NSAIDS). Some individuals undergoing pharmacological therapy need more powerful medications, such as methotrexate, penicillamine, and gold injections. Patients using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) have a two to four percent chance of experiencing potentially life-threatening adverse effects from gastrointestinal bleeding. In addition, gastrointestinal bleeding and infections that were brought on by the medication both have the potential to contribute to elevated death risk. The care provided in accordance with an ND is quite different. Following a standard health history, physical exam, laboratory work, and diagnosis, a naturopathic treatment plan may include the following: nutritional analysis; dietary adjustments; food allergy screen; exercise assessments; treatment with natural anti-inflammatory agents such as bromelain, licorice root, and turmeric; hydrotherapy and/or homeopathic treatments; acupuncture, as well as other treatment plans. The effectiveness of these therapies has been established by a variety of randomized, controlled clinical trials as well as other investigations (see: Cleland 1998; Gibson1980; Gibbson 1980; Ruchkin 1987).
Even while many patients have positive outcomes after receiving treatment from NDs, there is a widespread belief that the majority of these positive outcomes are due to the placebo effect. This is a mistake that we hope people will not make. There is a substantial body of research that demonstrates the scientific underpinning and efficacy of naturopathic procedures. These clinical trials include both controlled and double-blind designs. At each of the educational institutions that have been granted accreditation, research is always being conducted. In addition, several naturopathic textbooks provide indexed tests and research data for naturopathic treatments, with Murray and Pizzorno’s Encyclopaedia of Natural Medicine serving as a good example. Research on naturopathic protocols is routinely published in both allopathic and naturopathic scientific publications, as well as in the scientific journals of a wide variety of other fields, such as clinical nutrition, oriental medicine, phytotherapy, pharmacognosy, and psychology, amongst others. The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients is an approachable and comprehensive publication that publishes the most latest research material on a wide variety of illnesses and diseases. The recent double-blind trial on homeopathic therapies for asthma that was conducted by the University of Glasgow and published in the Lancet is another example of alternative medicine being validated in an allopathic setting. In addition, the British National Library compiles articles from over fifty different publications to compile the Complementary Medicine Index. This index is a list of article citations that are relevant to the practice of naturopathic medicine and is released monthly.
Given the comparative efficacy of naturopathic treatments, there is also an interrelationship between naturopathic and allopathic medicine. The treatment of patients by all health professionals who are suitably qualified is included in true complementary medicine. Allopathic medicine is an essential component of the health care system, and NDs do not presumptively believe themselves to be experts in surgical methods or medications. Naturopathic medicine is not in competition with conventional medicine. However, many medical organizations in North America recognize the importance of naturopathic procedures but are against the practice of naturopathy itself. In spite of this criticism, a significant number of NDs accept referrals from MDs, and in the same way, NDs send patients back to specialists when it is clinically necessary to do so. In European countries, allopathic and naturopathic medical procedures are intertwined to a considerably greater extent. A committee in the Netherlands that was appointed by the government to study the regulation of complementary medicine came to the following conclusion after their investigation: “The commission believes that the division between alternative and orthodox medicine is not of a scientific nature and instead owes its origin and its continued existence to both politico-social and scientific factors.”
In a recent piece of writing, a health economist working at the Fraser Institute made the observation that “with constant concern about the rising costs of health care, patients should be encouraged to seek preventive treatments that are less costly and less risky than those that are now readily available to them.” And they need to be able to get these therapies from skilled practitioners of a variety of fields.”