The Basics of Naturopathy
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
I get questions all the time about what naturopathic medicine is or what it means to be a naturopathic doctor. We’re often called holistic doctors, homeopaths, alternative doctors... even quacks! The title is not important, however.
It is our principles and how we practice that are critical.
Our principles are our roots.
As naturopathic physicians, we abide by 6 principles:
First Do No Harm – primum non nocere This is so important! Whenever we consider various treatment options for patients, we must consider whether the intervention might cause more harm than good. For example, let’s say you have a cold or the flu. It may seem easy to reach for antibiotics, but is that really the best option? Colds are often caused by viruses so antibiotics will not only be ineffective, they will disrupt the gut bacteria which can cause a whole host of symptoms. Instead we can support the immune system through botanical tinctures, homeopathic remedies, hydrotherapy, hydration, and even fasting. In some cases it may even be best to do nothing and let the body naturally respond.
The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae There exists several translations of this principle and the one with which I resonate includes the individual’s nature as well as the universe. The healing power of the individual is a recognition that we all have an inherent ability to heal, that our bodies are intelligent and ordered. In light of this, naturopathic physicians act to remove obstacles that get in the way of healing- lack of dietary nourishment, poor sleep hygiene, etc- and support the body’s innate capacity to return to vitality.
Discover and Treat the Cause- tolle causam Have a headache? Take Excedrin! Have PMS? Take Midol! Have an upset tummy? Take Tums! This approach to medicine is merely treating symptoms, but what about the cause? Maybe you have a headache because you need new glasses or are dehydrated. Your PMS is probably the result of a hormone imbalance. The tummy ache may be the result of stress, food allergies, or dysbiosis. There’s nothing wrong with symptom management initially, but the end goal should always be to find & treat the cause of your symptoms...symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something is “off”.
Treat the Whole Person – tolle totum I frequently talk about treating the whole person, or the 4 pillars as I like to call them- the physical, the mental, the emotional, and the spiritual. Leave one stone unturned and you may settle short of achieving your wellness and vitality goals. Think of it this way, if you’re stuck in a job or relationship that you hate it won’t matter how many vitamins you take or green smoothies you drink, you may never fully heal because you’re not following your heart.
The Physician as Teacher - docere
One of the most important roles of the physician is as an educator. Naturopathic physicians empower their patients to get involved in their health because it is ultimately the patient that accomplishes healing. However, unless one knows why they need to eat a certain way or why they need to take a particular medicine, the doctor’s efforts to guide towards healing may be futile.
Prevention is the best cure - praevenire
Many patients go years without seeing a doctor. Even in my extremely healthy patients, I recommend coming in 1-2 times per year for a check up and at least once a year for labs. Doing so ensures that any imbalances are caught early and corrected before disease develops.
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