In May, we celebrate Naturopathic Medicine Week to spread awareness on how naturopathic doctors (ND) provide safe, effective and individualized health care to our diverse patient population. Naturopathic medicine is a holistic approach to health care that emphasizes prevention and seeking the root cause to promote health and wellbeing. It encompasses modalities from both conventional and traditional health care models, using the six naturopathic principles below and the therapeutic order to guide clinical decision making.
First Do No Harm. NDs apply the therapeutic order (described below) to utilize the least invasive therapies needed for each condition. Doing no harm also means NDs refer to other medical providers when the case is outside their scope of practice.
The Healing Power of Nature. NDs recognize the innate healing force that drives our bodies towards homeostasis and wellbeing. This principle asserts that if we remove offending agents and provide the body with the building blocks it needs, whole health can be achieved.
Identify and Treat the Causes. NDs discover and address the root cause of illness in order to remove obstacles to healing. This can be done alongside symptom suppression, when warranted by severity.
Doctor as Teacher. NDs spend extra time with patients to explain the physiology and pathology of their presentations in order to empower them to take the steps needed to improve their health.
Treat the Whole Person. NDs zoom out and acknowledge the connection between body systems, emotional wellbeing and our environment.
Prevention. NDs seek to optimize lifestyle factors in order to prevent illness and suffering while promoting longevity.
The therapeutic order is a pyramid shaped framework that NDs use to advise the application of these naturopathic principles. This model emphasizes addressing the underlying cause of symptoms while using the least force necessary. The bottom of the pyramid is establishing a strong foundation for health and removing obstacles to cure by addressing core lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. The next tier involves stimulating the body’s innate healing mechanisms by supporting its natural processes through therapies such as herbal medicine and hydrotherapy, which can help to strengthen the body’s immune system and restore balance. The top of the pyramid consists of suppressing symptoms through natural or conventional therapies. These are considered higher force interventions because they work against the body’s healing processes to reduce symptoms.
Simply prescribing supplements and herbs is not a goal of naturopathic medicine. While these are amazing tools, they should only be used as needed to support the body’s healing – as are pharmaceuticals. When your body heals, the goal is to be on minimal supplemental support with the foundation of diet, movement, sleep, digestion/elimination and stress management. Additionally, the economic burden of multiple supplements can be staggering. If patients are still on daily capsule overload for years, our job as NDs is far from done.
As natural health care continues to trend and grow, revisiting the core tenants of the naturopathic model emphasizes why NDs have effectively helped patients restore whole health for over a century.
Drs. Quick and Fung are primary care naturopathic doctors at Live Well Clinic in La Quinta and can be reached at (760) 771.5970 or visit www.livewellclinic.org.