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Practitioner Directory: How to find a Naturopathic Physician
As published in


What does a naturopath do?
As the word “naturopathy” implies, this type of natural medicine uses our understanding of the natural laws of balance to bring about healing in the body. A naturopathic doctor, or N.D., believes that disease is an outward sign of imbalance within the system. Rather than suppress those symptoms, a naturopath addresses the underlying cause of the illness to bring about homeostasis.

An N.D. usually focuses on preventing illness by suggesting ways for patients to improve their lifestyle, including diet and exercise. However, if you’re currently experiencing health problems, naturopaths have numerous non-invasive, natural ways of treating them. They rely on herbal medicine, nutrition, homeopathy, dietary supplements, acupuncture and counseling to help you make positive improvements in your life.

If you’ve ever felt slighted by a medical doctor who spends less than five minutes examining you before writing a drug prescription, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you visit a naturopath. Your appointment will probably last an hour, during which the N.D. will gather extensive information about your lifestyle, diet, physical condition and emotional state. From this detailed information, along with blood and urine analyses, he or she can devise a customized treatment plan that will lay the groundwork for restoring or maintaining your good health.

Key principles of naturopathy
The underlying naturopathic principle is that the body is naturally able to heal itself. N.D.s commonly use a combination of therapies, including diet, herbs, supplements and massage or other types of therapeutic bodywork to help the body return to health.

Alternative Medicine, The Definitive Guide (Future Medicine Publishing) lists the major tenets of naturopathy as:

1.The body has the power to heal itself. The role of a naturopathic doctor is to facilitate this process using natural, nontoxic therapies.

2.Treat the cause rather than suppressing the symptoms. Naturopathic physicians believe in correcting the underlying cause of an illness. Symptoms such as a fever or inflammation are the way the body heals itself.

3. Do no harm by using safe, natural, non-invasive treatments such as herbs, nutrition and homeopathy.

4. Treat the whole person. Health is complex mix of physical, emotional, spiritual and social factors.

5. Prevention is the best cure. The job of the naturopath is to teach people how to keep themselves from getting sick by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Which types of conditions are best treated by naturopathy?

Naturopaths are the general practitioners of natural medicine. They offer safe, natural remedies that can be applied to cases ranging from pediatric to geriatric. This branch of natural medicine is especially helpful for treating chronic and degenerative diseases — areas for which traditional, or allopathic, medicine has little to offer. Among the best uses of naturopathy are:

• rheumatoid arthritis
• asthma
• heart disease
• high blood pressure
• prostate disease
• ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome
• recurrent ear infections
• skin conditions
• overweight
• chronic pain
• depression

Training/education required
The naturopathic field is committed to some of the highest levels of professionalism and education in natural healing. Accredited naturopathic colleges pattern themselves after conventional medical schools — except with more in-depth study in various holistic modalities.

To become a licensed N.D., a student of naturopathy must complete a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school, which includes rigorous focus on anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, psychology and nutrition in addition to holistic medicine such as homeopathy, herbology and traditional Chinese medicine. To become licensed (required in some states), the N.D. must pass professional board exams.

What to look for when choosing a naturopath
Since you’re entrusting your health to an N.D., you should feel comfortable in their professionalism and training. Working with this person requires you to be partners in your health. In addition, the doctor/patient relationship is different from what you may be used to. The N.D. will direct you to natural ways to improve your health, but you must make the effort to change and manage your lifestyle. To do this, you need to feel supported and encouraged as you make beneficial — but sometimes difficult — changes.

Also, be sure the N.D. you choose is well-educated. One measure is if she or he attended one of the four accredited naturopathic schools in North America:

1. Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington
2. Southwest College in Scottsdale, Arizona
3. National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon
4. Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Ontario.

Another sign of professionalism and educational excellence is if the naturopath is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP). Check the AANP website at for a listing of qualified N.D.s in your area.

Questions to ask a naturopathic doctor
Do you have training in a specific area that might be helpful to my condition?
• Do you work in partnership with conventional doctors in patients’ healthcare?
• Can you tell me about your success in treating patients with a condition similar to mine?
• How much does a session cost?
• How often will I need to schedule follow-up sessions?
• Is this treatment typically covered by medical insurance? Do you accept medical insurance?

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