Naturopathy, or Nature Cure, is not just a system of health care. It is considered by its practitioners and patients to be a way of life and a healing philosophy.
These days, standard medical practice, particularly in the Western world, is based predominantly on curing symptoms and tackling disease. By contrast, naturopathic medicine is based on the idea that prevention of illness is far better than cure.
Naturopaths take a holistic view of mind, body and spirit, because it is thought that these three things are intrinsically linked. For example, an emotional problem can result in physical pain, or a digestive disorder can lead to behavioural issues, and so on. Instead of treating mind and body separately, naturopathic doctors treat the person as a whole, using a variety of natural methods.
The principles of naturopathic medicine
Naturopathy is a distinct system of medicine with a holistic view of life, health, disease prevention and education. It is founded on a clear set of guiding principles:
1) Do no harm – this means choosing non-invasive, natural methods of healthcare or treatments that carry the least risk of harmful side effects.
2) Healing power of nature – supporting the natural processes of the body and mind, and promoting the idea of self-healing.
3) Treat the cause – addressing the underlying causes of illness, including lifestyle, diet and habits, not just treating the symptoms.
4) Doctor as teacher – the original meaning of ‘doctor’ is actually ‘teacher, so naturopaths see it as their role to educate people about how to take responsibility for their own health. They also acknowledge the therapeutic power of a doctor-patient relationship.
5) Treat the whole person – recognizing that every person is unique and has different factors affecting their health. Naturopathy takes physical, emotional, dietary, genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors into account.
6) Prevention is better than cure – promoting good health and wellbeing practices in order to try and prevent disease or illness from occurring in the first place.
How does naturopathy work?
Naturopathic doctors typically work with people on several levels, through counselling, nutrition and lifestyle analysis, as well as natural treatments. Several complimentary treatments might be prescribed at the same time in order to tackle a particular issue or remove barriers to good health.
Patients may be given energy healing (such as acupuncture or acupressure), dietary or lifestyle changes, vitamin supplements, botanical or herbal medicines, emotional coaching and more.
People sometimes confuse naturopathy with homeopathy because they both incorporate plant or mineral based treatments. However, naturopathy is a much wider discipline. For example, many naturopaths see their role as a doctor and educator extending into the community because of the impact that social factors can have on health and wellbeing. It’s the idea that someone cannot be healthy in an unhealthy environment.
Related article: What is homeopathy?
What training does a naturopath need?
A naturopathic doctor undertakes similar training to a conventional doctor, but with a particular focus on therapeutic sciences. They are also trained extensively in health assessment, history taking, medical testing (such as blood, urine, saliva and hair), as well as learning methods of diagnosis from traditional Chinese medicine.
Typically, a naturopath will have at least 3 years of medical sciences study at university, plus a further 4 years postgraduate training from an accredited naturopathic medical institution.
Share your thoughts
Have you ever tried swapping conventional medicine for a naturopathic approach? What were the results? Are you a professional naturopath who can share some examples of how you’ve helped patients with particular health issues? Whatever your story we’d love to hear from you. Feel free to comment in the box below.