When it comes to naturopathic medicine, many people may not fully understand what is involved.
Naturopathic medicine involves treating the whole person instead of just the illness. Treatments often include a variety of approaches including nutritional counseling, homeopathy and manipulative therapies.
There are often misconceptions out there about what naturopathic medicine is and how it can help. Separating the myths from reality can help you decide if naturopathic medicine is right for you. Consider some of the common myths below:
Myth: Naturopathic doctors do not have special training.
Reality: Although naturopathic medicine is not regulated in all fifty states, qualified naturopathic doctors go through an extensive educational program that includes classroom work and clinical practice. Programs for naturopathic doctors must go through a review process to make sure they meet certain standards. To become licensed, naturopaths must complete a program accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Although the curriculum is different, in some ways, their requirements are like medical doctors. An undergrad degree is required before being admitted to a doctorate program. Programs for naturopaths are usually four years. The first two years are spent taking science classes. The next two years of training involve hands-on experience in a clinical setting. Post-graduate residences are also completed in which naturopaths can choose a specialty.
Myth: When it comes to medical care, you must choose between either convention or naturopathic medicine.
Reality: Naturopathic treatment is not always an all or nothing option. In many cases, aspects of naturopathic medicine can be incorporated into a conventional treatment plan. It is critical to get all practitioners on the same page, so everyone knows what treatments are prescribed. In some instances, certain naturopathic treatments may be contraindicated depending on the conventional treatment used. But medical and naturopathic doctors can work together to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that utilizes treatments from both philosophies.
Myth: Naturopathic doctors are anti-medication and surgery.
Reality: One of the philosophies of naturopathic medicine is the body’s ability to heal itself. But that does not mean that naturopaths are anti-surgery or medication. Many naturopaths are not opposed to certain types of surgery or other conventional treatments. In fact, naturopaths may make referrals to the appropriate practitioner as needed.
Myth: Naturopathic medicine is pseudo-science
Reality: Naturopathic medicine sometimes gets a bad rap. Some people who hear the terms alternative or naturopathic medicine, automatically think it is a pseudo-science. But the reality is many of the treatments and philosophies associated with naturopathic medicine are supported by science. In fact, some natural products, such as herbal remedies, have given rise to traditional medications commonly used. The effectiveness of natural medicine is being studied more frequently, and clinical studies continue to examine the therapies and treatments.
Myth: If it is natural, it must be safe.
Reality: Just as in conventional medicine, there may be risks associated with some naturopathic treatments. Also, not all homeopathy medicines are approved by the FDA. Typically, homeopathic medicines don’t have to go through the same approval process as conventional pharmaceuticals. Keep in mind, naturopathic and conventional treatments can both have side effects. But that does not mean that all naturopathic treatments are risky or unsafe. Whether you are having conventional treatment or naturopathic treatment, it is essential to be well informed about the risks versus the benefits of treatment.
Myth: You can’t ask your physician about naturopathic medicine.
Reality: Because of some of the myths associated with naturopathic medicine, patients may be hesitant to bring the subject up to their medical doctors. If you’re interested in natural medicine or just have questions, it is critical to speak up. Your medical doctor can discuss various options and let you know if something is unsafe or contraindicated due to your current treatment. For example, certain herbal remedies may interact with your current medications and can be harmful. Increasingly, medical doctors are understanding more about naturopathic medicine and may be able to offer advice on what natural therapy or treatment may be beneficial for your condition.
Myth: Naturopaths only treat minor illness and conditions.
Reality: Naturopaths can treat a wide variety of illness and conditions from minor to serious. They can treat acute problems, as well as chronic conditions. Naturopaths consider the underlying cause of the disease and treat the whole person, which is beneficial to a person’s overall wellbeing. In some instances, one medical condition causes another health issue. For example, people with lung disease often develop heart problems at some point. Conditions that naturopaths treat include diseases of all body systems, including the respiratory, digestive, reproductive and circulatory. Diseases may include COPD, asthma, lupus and high blood pressure.
Myth: Naturopathic doctors mostly prescribe herbal remedies and massage.
Reality: Naturopaths may prescribe herbal remedies, but that is only a fraction of what they do. They also order diagnostic tests including blood tests and imaging studies to determine the patient’s problem. A treatment plan will vary based on the condition but can include hemopathy, injection therapy and dietary counseling. Treatment may also involve prescription medication, acupuncture and minor surgery. Part of the role of a naturopath is also to focus on preventive medicine. Additional therapies and treatments may be recommended to prevent future illnesses.