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 Naturopathic Medicine: Naturopathic Medicine 
 
Michael Morton Alan PhD, Mary Morton ©

I admitted to him that I had seen him on the Strand and noticed his psoriasis. I said that I guessed that it covered his body. He hung his head as if he were responsible for some crime and sadly replied, "I am in such pain. I cannot live a normal life. Can you help me?" I said, "No more poi! That's what you have on your skin!"

After I examined the irises of his eyes, I gave him the following treatment:

Herbs: Cascara Sagrada, Hops, Valarian, Scullcap, Mullein, Bayberry, Goldenseal, Juniper, Capsicum, Burdock, Comfrey, Black Walnut, Horsetail, Sage.

Supplements: Liquid Dulse, Calcium, Selica, Niacin, 2 - 4 cups of Oat Straw tea daily, carrot and celery juice with liquid chlorophyll.

Treatments: Hydrotherapy, massage and dry skin brushing; aloe vera juice - topically and orally.

Dietary Changes: no pork, no poi, lots of vegetables and fruit, a few complex carbohydrates and a little chicken.

Exercise: Moderate.

In two to three months, his skin was completely clear. He now wears shorts, sandals, and short-sleeved T-shirts. He looks like a healthy, slim Hawaiian with beautiful skin and I hear from his friends that he is happily enjoying the beach. After his skin recovered, I never saw him again. However, he has sent me dozens and dozens of patients over the years. Most recently, three good-looking construction men with bad diets!23

Finding a naturopathic practitioner who is not an "N.D." and yet is also well trained and experienced like Yvonne is unusual, but not impossible. Again, if you are interested in trying naturopathic medicine but do not have an N.D. in your area, ask other respected alternative providers if they know of a good naturopath. Be sure to investigate the naturopath's training thoroughly.

The third type of practitioner:

  • Has not graduated from one of the accredited naturopathic medical schools
  • Received his or her degree from a correspondence school
  • Has not gained enough training and experience to competently treat you in naturopathic medicine

    We do not recommend that you work with practitioners in this category.

    The fourth type of practitioner:

  • Has no formal educational training
  • Has voluntarily designated him- or herself a "Naturopath" or an "N.D."
  • Has little or no training to competently treat you

Working with someone in this category can be dangerous. We do not recommend practitioners in this category.

Take extra screening precautions before agreeing to treatment with any practitioners of naturopathic medicine who are not graduates of one of the three accredited naturopathic medical colleges.

Additions to Step Four: Interview the Candidate
During an interview with a naturopathic physician, find out the personal philosophy of the naturopath. "I would need to know that I could trust the doctor and if they were well trained," Dr. Zeff suggests. "I would talk to them about what their ideas are about the nature of disease, the nature of my problem, and what approach they would take to improve it. I would ask how long I could expect improvement to take and what kinds of costs are involved. The most important thing is to get a sense of who this person is, what they have to offer, as well as their credentials. You are an individual. So choose someone who fits with you."24

If you're looking for an N.D. who is caring and capable, you may find your search fairly easy since naturopathic physicians value the healing power that can happen in the relationship between doctor and patient. Most take the time and effort to develop a good rapport with their patients.

What to Expect During a Naturopathic Medical Appointment
Naturopathic physicians use specific treatment(s) that can include homeopathy, Ayurveda, and Chinese medicine, or the traditional naturopathic approach of nutrition, herbology, and hydrotherapy in their practices. These "specialties," in addition to the specific health condition of the patient, make a session with each naturopath a unique experience. However, there are some standard procedures that all naturopathic physicians use.

The Office Visit
Most N.D.'s send questionnaires to new patients that ask many personal health history questions. During a first visit, which usually lasts about an hour and a half, these questionnaires are reviewed. In addition, the N.D. will ask many lifestyle questions regarding diet, vitamin and mineral supplements taken, sleep patterns, work conditions, smoking habits, and sugar and coffee intake. In addition, some standard medical diagnostic tests are administered, such as a physical exam, and blood and urine tests.

Some naturopathic physicians also add to the first visit tests such as the Heidelberg test, which measures digestive dysfunction through gauging stomach acidity, and the urine indican test, which measures levels of toxemia.

Dr. Kail, both an N.D. and a physician's assistant, describes some differences between a visit to an M.D. and an N.D. "I found the N.D.'s do the same basic diagnosis as the M.D.'s," he says. "Naturopathic physicians go a step further and add more examinations than the typical medical doctors. For instance, digestion analysis, spinal screening, disease prevention, diet, and stress factors."25

Once an N.D. has made a diagnosis, the treatments prescribed will be based on the N.D.'s adherence to the fundamental principles of naturopathic medicine and to their specialty. Sometimes N.D.'s will give their patients a choice of treatments if they have a preference. "If I see a patient who has pain in his arms because his neck is out of alignment," Dr. Kail says, "I explain to them that we can do spinal adjustments, acupuncture, homeopathy, or we can do all three. Then I wait for their choice."26

Generally, follow-up visits with an N.D. last between thirty and forty-five minutes and involve a continuation of the treatment plan as well as an evaluation of progress.

COST AND INSURANCE

Cost
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians [AANP], sessions with naturopathic physicians are about half the cost of visiting an M.D. Because naturopaths primarily rely on their own diagnostic skills, costs for extensive tests are usually minimal. This can substantially reduce the cost of naturopathic health care.

Also, naturopathic physicians are well trained in preventative medicine. Many insurance companies are realizing the long-term savings of keeping their plan members healthy. Naturopathic physicians excel at preventative medical techniques and can pass those long-term savings on to you.

Initial office visits are usually between $75 and $100 and follow-ups are in the range of $35 - $50. The prescribed supplements are usually vitamin, mineral, herbal, and/or homeopathic. Each of these supplements are far less expensive than prescriptions filled at the pharmacy. However, in the states of Arizona, Oregon, and Washington, N.D.'s are licensed to prescribe antibiotics, thyroid medicine, progesterone, as well as other drugs that may end up costing you more.

Insurance
As mentioned above, a growing number of insurance companies have recognized the value of preventative health care, a specialty of naturopathic medicine. For this reason, naturopathic medicine is being covered by more and more insurance plans. If you are fortunate enough to live in the states of Connecticut or Washington, naturopathic medical coverage is mandatory by law from all health insurance companies.

For a list of insurance carriers that cover naturopathic medicine, call the AANP or your local naturopathic physician's office. Many N.D.'s carry a list of insurance providers who cover their services.

One insurance plan that has given special attention to naturopathic coverage is American Western Life Insurance Company of Foster City, California. Their "Wellness" medical director, Marcel Hernandez, is an N.D. American Western Life provides a twenty-four-hour hot line where you can talk directly to a licensed naturopathic physician at any time, day or night. In addition, they cover all naturopathic treatments, including homeopathy, nutritional counseling, Ayurveda, massage, and physical therapy.

Education, Training and Licensing

Education and Training
Naturopathic physicians are well educated in the basic clinical sciences as well as natural and alternative diagnostic and treatment methods. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, "Naturopathic physicians (N.D.'s) are general practitioners trained as specialists in natural medicine. They are educated in the conventional medical sciences, but they are not orthodox medical doctors (M.D.'s). Naturopathic physicians treat disease and restore health using therapies from the sciences of clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, physical medicine, exercise therapy, counseling, acupuncture, natural childbirth, and hydrotherapy. They tailor these approaches to the needs of an individual patient."27

Graduates of accredited four-year naturopathic medical schools are justifiably proud of their education. "Essentially, naturopathic medical training is similar to conventional medical training," Dr. Zeff explains. "The first two years are virtually the same as any medical school: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, biochemistry, etc. They are taught at the same level as any other medical school. If you look at the number of hours in our classroom situation, you'll find in most cases the number of hours we spend exceeds most medical schools." He adds, "We are required fifteen hundred hours of clinical education as a minimum to graduate from the school. This is under the supervision of naturopathic doctors."28 Medical educators and legislators have been impressed with the high standard of education required of naturopathic physicians.

Licensing
There are currently twelve states in the U.S. and five provinces in Canada that license naturopathic doctors as primary care physicians: Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. All other states in the U.S. have licensable, trained naturopaths practicing. In these states, many N.D.'s who graduated from an accredited four-year college opt to apply for licenses in other health care modalities, such as acupuncture or chiropractic, in order to stay protected by law. Others choose to practice without protection of the law. In most states, naturopathic medicine is "alegal" (neither "legal" nor "illegal"). In these states, naturopathic medicine is neither protected nor regulated. Regrettably, this can be somewhat confusing for the health care consumer.

Jim Massey, N.D., says, "When I was in North Carolina, there must have been thirty people practicing as N.D.'s. Only four of them had been to four-year medical schools. You could pay $25 and set up a tax I.D. number and start practicing immediately. You'd have to kill somebody before they'd come after you for practicing without a license. It isn't fair to the public to be duped by these people with the phony initials after their names."29

Again, to protect yourself and your health, call the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. They represent the largest contingency of licensed naturopathic physicians who have graduated from an accredited school.

Closing Thoughts

Licensed naturopathic physicians are filling an important need as primary health care providers who are experts in nontoxic, noninvasive treatments. As highly skilled and well educated about the human body as graduates of Stanford or Yale medical schools, they bring the best of ancient natural treatments and scientific research to their medicine. Naturopathic medicine could serve you as well as the growing number of Americans who are calling their naturopathic physician first for their health care needs.

Notes

(Excerpted from Five Steps to Selecting the Best Alternative Medicine ISBN: 1880032945)
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