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aturopathic Medicine
 

Naturopathic Medicine

© Michael Alan Morton PhD, Mary Morton

DID YOU KNOW THAT:

  • In 1983 the World Health Organization recommended the integration of naturopathic medicine into conventional health care systems.2
  • In 1994 Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences, a naturopathic medical school, was awarded almost $1 million in research funds from the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine to research alternative therapies for patients with HIV and AIDS.3
  • Graduates of accredited naturopathic medical colleges are required to have more hours of study in basic sciences and clinical sciences than graduates of Yale or Stanford medical schools.4
  • The "anti-cancer" diet recognized by the National Cancer Institute was first published in a naturopathic medical textbook in the 1940s.5
  • Graduates of accredited naturopathic medical colleges receive more formal training in therapeutic nutrition than M.D.'s, osteopathic physicians, or registered dietitians.6
  • The government of Germany now requires conventional doctors and pharmacists to receive training in naturopathic techniques because they have been found to be so cost-effective.7
  • Today there are over one thousand licensed practicing naturopathic physicians (N.D.'s) in the United States.8
  • As of August 1996, twelve states in the U.S. and five provinces of Canada now license naturopathic doctors as primary-care physicians. (It is projected that all fifty states will license naturopathic physicians by the year 2010.)9
  • Three accredited colleges educate and train naturopathic doctors in North America.10
  • The County Council in Seattle, Washington, established the nation's first government-subsidized naturopathic medical clinic.11

The origin of naturopathy can be traced back to the ancient healing arts of a variety of cultures. Still, as a formal system of medicine and healing, it was developed in the United States nearly one hundred years ago by Benjamin Lust.

To heal in harmony with the natural functions of the body — without harm — is the underlying principle of the naturopathic system of medicine. The intent is to support the natural healing potential of the human body as validated by modern scientific research. It is this combination of the healing power of nature and scientific methods that makes naturopathic medicine an important system of medicine for today's health care.

Naturopathic medicine's basic principles are:

1. Utilize the healing power of nature
2. First, do no harm
3. Find the cause
4. Treat the whole person
5. Preventative medicine

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) more fully describes these tenets as:

Utilize the Healing Power of Nature: Vis Medicatrix Naturae Nature acts powerfully through the healing mechanisms of the body and mind to maintain and restore health. Naturopathic physicians work to restore and support these inherent healing systems when they have broken down, by using methods, medicines, and techniques that are in harmony with natural processes.

First Do No Harm: Prinum Non Nocere Naturopathic physicians prefer noninvasive treatments, which minimize the risks of harmful side effects. They are trained to know which patients they can treat safely, and which ones they need to refer to other health care practitioners.

Find the Cause: Tolle Causam Every illness has an underlying cause, often an aspect of the lifestyle, diet, or habits of the individual. A naturopathic physician is trained to find and remove the underlying cause of a disease.

Treat the Whole Person: Health or disease results from a complex interaction of physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, lifestyle, and other factors. Naturopathic physicians treat the whole person, taking these factors into account.

Preventative Medicine: The naturopathic approach to health care can prevent minor illnesses from developing into more serious, chronic, or degenerative diseases. Patients are taught the principles with which to live a healthy life; by following these principles, they can prevent major illnesses.12

Above all, naturopathic physicians respect the natural healing power present in all systems of the human body and they attempt to focus and mobilize that power in their treatment process. N.D.'s have found that this natural healing power, if effectively mobilized, can destroy invading organisms, cast off toxins, as well as rebuild strength and vitality. Dr. Stephen Speidel, an N.D. practicing in Poulsbo, Washington, says, "A good example of how we in naturopathic medicine use the healing force in the body is what we do or don't do when a child has a fever. Often times a fever is a way that the body rids itself of a bacteria that only grows in certain temperatures.

"Most parents say, 'My God, my child has a fever. We have to stop that fever. Give him aspirin or Tylenol.' I tell them, 'Imagine that your child has a helper, which is the immune system.' If you take the aspirin, it's like taking a sledge hammer to your child's immune system and saying, 'Be quiet and sit down!' And it will. You'll win. That helper will be quiet and sit down. But your child will stay sicker longer. There are a number of studies that show antihistamines prolong the course of a cold. But if the fever or cold is allowed to run its course, the body eliminates the problem and the child gets healthy."13

The role of a fever as healing process may seem strange to many health care consumers who are used to using medications to eliminate its presence. Yet, many systems of healing and medicine throughout the world since ancient times have recognized the healing wisdom of letting a fever run its course.

Clearly the principles of naturopathic medicine differ significantly from conventional medicine's. In conventional medicine, relieving symptoms is the primary focus. For example, in conventional medical treatment, in the aforementioned case, the fever would be controlled or stopped by drugs. Actually in most health care situations, the elimination of symptoms is achieved through the use of drugs and, in some cases, surgery.

It may surprise some people to know that N.D.'s and M.D.'s have some areas of common ground, namely their education. M.D.'s are schooled in basic sciences and clinical sciences to prepare them for the various illnesses and emergencies they will face during their practice. N.D.'s are also well trained in all these sciences in their education. But, unlike M.D.'s, they are also trained in a variety of traditional natural therapeutics, including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, hydrotherapy, and naturopathic manipulative therapies.

N.D.'s learn how to integrate this diverse knowledge by combining their conventional medical education with the goal of providing superior health care in their practices. They weave their conventional medical knowledge with the principles of naturopathic medicine and its treatments to create a natural health care program tailored for each individual patient.

In the past few years, naturopathic medicine has won the respect of federal and state government bodies, members of the conventional medical community, educators, celebrities, the media, and an ever-increasing number of American health care consumers. A main reason for naturopathic medicine's rise in popularity is its common-sense use of simple yet tremendously effective natural treatments. These treatments include:

Clinical Nutrition
Clinical nutrition has been one of the main cornerstones of naturopathic medicine since its inception. Studies from around the world, in a variety of medical traditions, have validated the benefits of naturopathic's nutritional principles. A vast number of documented cases of physical problems, including heart disease and diabetes, have been helped by nutrition, without unpleasant side effects or complications.

Naturopathic theory suggests that most illnesses are caused by digestive disturbances, which have led to a toxic environment in the body. As the body is overwhelmed by toxins it cannot eliminate, the health or strength of the body breaks down and symptoms of various illnesses surface. Nutritional changes are a main component to changing the diseased situation because today's processed foods and poor eating habits are the source of many of the body's toxins.

To treat chronic illnesses, many times nutritional changes are the first step toward healing in naturopathic medicine. For example, simple vegetable soups are often recommended because, as they are easy to digest and assimilate, they provide the body with vitamin and mineral nutrients without adding toxins to the body.

Hydrotherapy
If nutritional therapy is the first cornerstone of naturopathic medicine, then hydrotherapy is the second. Hydrotherapy improves digestive function by bringing additional blood (and all of its healing components) to the inner organs. The most common form of hydrotherapy is called the "constitutional," where two towels dipped in hot water, then squeezed, are placed on the front of the patient for five minutes. The hot towels are replaced with one cold towel for ten minutes. The same procedure is done on the back of the patient. During the hot portion of the hydrotherapy, the upper blood vessels are dilated while the deeper ones constrict. The cold portion of the treatment constricts the outer blood vessels but dilates the internal ones. The combination drives more blood to both the inner and outer systems, allowing the body to bring more healing nutrients to its organs and to carry away toxins.

Bernard Lust, considered the founder of naturopathic medicine, was cured of tuberculosis through hydrotherapy. According to Jared Zeff, N.D., L.Ac., former academic dean of the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, hydrotherapy is often used to treat terminal illnesses, such as cancer, as well as simple colds and infections.14

Dr. Zeff shares an example of how nutrition and hydrotherapy can be used together to heal an arthritic condition:

A man came to him with severe arthritis. This gentleman had artificial knees, artificial finger joints, and artificial hip joints, and he still had severe pain and swelling throughout his entire body. Dr. Zeff recommended that he eat nothing in the next week except vegetable soup (no potatoes) and to do hydrotherapy daily. Within a few days, the man's arthritis pain had greatly decreased and his swelling had decreased by 50 percent.

Naturopathic physicians often find that simple dietary changes and hydrotherapy effectively treat many illnesses.

Homeopathy
Homeopathy is used by many naturopaths and is a primary treatment in their practices. Based on the "law of similars," it uses minuscule doses of naturally occurring substances to treat illness. Naturopaths have found that homeopathy fits well into their philosophical principles, since it stimulates the body's own immune system without producing unpleasant side effects. It is also documented to be effective for many illnesses, including migraines, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, acute diarrhea, flu, and allergies.

The history of homeopathy's use spans two hundred years. Many countries embrace it as a viable healing treatment, including England, whose Royal family retains the services of a homeopath for their personal health care.

Herbs
Herbs are used by naturopathic physicians as medicine. As such, they can be extremely powerful and beneficial when used in the right dosage and in the correct combination with other herbs.

Though herbs are the main ingredient for some of the drugs used in conventional medicine, N.D.'s use herbs in a different manner than M.D.'s use them. Most drugs prescribed by M.D.'s are intended to impose an external order on the body. For example, a medicine prescribed to lower blood pressure forces the body to lower the pressure but doesn't correct the reason why the body has increased the pressure in the first place. Therefore, many patients taking blood pressure medicine as prescribed by a conventional medical doctor must continue to take blood pressure medication for the rest of their lives. Regrettably, the patient also endures the probable side effects: impotency, sexual dysfunction, and nervousness.

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