Naturopathic Medicine and Conventional Medicine: how are they similar or different?

As a Naturopathic Doctor I am often asked how naturopathic care differs from conventional medical care. Here are some of the key similarities and differences between how naturopathic and medical doctors help you achieve better health.

SIMILARITY # 1: Education
Pre-medical studies of both conventional and naturopathic doctors includes an undergraduate university degree with prerequisite courses in biochemistry, organic chemistry, general chemistry, biology, psychology, and the humanities. Upon admission, naturopathic doctors receive similar basic medical science education as conventional physicians, including physiology, anatomy, biochemistry, pharmacology, psychology, histology and immunology. Both types of doctors must pass rigorous standardized board exams and meet annual continuing education standards to qualify for licensure.

SIMILARITY #2: Conditions Treated
Like conventional family doctors, naturopathic doctors are trained to diagnose, treat and prevent acute and chronic health concerns in people at all ages and stages of health, order and interpret lab tests, administer injections, and perform physical exams.

DIFFERENCE #1Philosophy
Naturopathic doctors practice according to the following guiding principles:
·   First, do no harm, by using methods and medicines that minimize the risk of harmful side effects.
·   Treat the causes of disease, by identifying and removing the underlying causes of illness, rather than suppressing symptoms.
·   Teach the principles of healthy living and preventative medicine, by sharing knowledge with patients and encouraging individual responsibility for health.
·   Heal the whole person through individualized treatment, by understanding the unique physical, mental, emotional, genetic environmental and social factors that contribute to illness, and customizing treatment protocols to the patient.
·   To emphasize prevention, by partnering with the patient to assess risk factors and recommend appropriate naturopathic interventions to maintain health and prevent illness.
·   To support the healing power of the body, by recognizing and removing obstacles to the body’s inherent self-healing processes.

DIFFERENCE #2: Treatments
Naturopathic treatments are individualized to the needs and history of each patient, and integrate scientific knowledge with traditional healing wisdom. NDs are trained in clinical nutrition, botanical (herbal) medicine, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, lifestyle counseling and physical treatments. Treatments are selected to benefit the innate healing capabilities of the body and usually focus on the underlying causes of illness rather than just the symptoms, often eliminating the need for long-term medical care or prescription drugs.

DIFFERENCE #3: Patient Experience
Naturopathic doctor visits are longer than those with a conventional medical doctor, allowing sufficient time to understand and treat the whole person. Patients often tell me their naturopathic visits tend to be less rushed, more in-depth, more relaxing, educational and motivating than conventional medical visits.

APND (2011); OAND (2011).