Tenets of Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine is distinguished from other medical approaches by its philosophy founded on the following six principles:
First Do No Harm
Identify and Treat the Cause
The Healing Power of Nature
Treat the Whole Person
Doctor as Teacher
Explanation of the Six Basic Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
- First Do No Harm (Primum non nocere).
The Naturopathic Doctor must first acknowledge and respect each patient's indwelling ability to self-heal, and therefore use the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness. ND's listen to the body, believing it is ultimately the true source of healing, which can be supported in its' recovery to optimal health, often with minimal intervention and invasiveness. Naturopaths first turn to treatments and medicines which minimize the risks of harmful side effects, including the harmful suppression of symptoms which mask progression of deeper un-wellness. NDs also recognize sometimes harmful or invasive methods of diagnosis and treatment are necessary, but recommend these only when other methods will be ineffective. For example, if a patient comes in with recurring mild stomach pain, a naturopath might start by looking at diet and allergy issues before suggesting acid blocking pharmaceuticals (that can reduce proper absorption of certain nutrients) or exploratory surgery (with its potential for complications or adhesions).The bottom line is that ND's try to use the most natural, least invasive and least toxic therapies first.
- Identify and Treat the Cause (Tolle causam).
Look beyond the symptoms to effectively address un-wellness. Every illness has an underlying cause, sometimes found in the lifestyle, diet or habits of the individual. Other cause may be genetic, environmental, emotional, mental, or even spiritual. Signs and symptoms are vital and intelligent expressions of the body's attempt to heal itself, not the cause of disease. Having signs and symptoms is actually a sign of health, and indeed the elderly often don't show signs and symptoms such as fever when just as sick. The Naturopathic Doctor seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness, on all levels, rather than to eliminate or suppress symptoms. Suppression of symptoms doesn't halt the progression of an otherwise untreated imbalance, instead often drives the problem deeper. Like removing the battery in your fire alarm, the noise may have stopped, but without addressing the source of the smoke the fire will keep burning and things will get worse. Admittedly, sometimes symptoms such as pain are too terrible to tolerate in the moment and must be temporarily suppressed until the cause can be found. In this situation the Naturopathic Doctor looks for the most natural, least harmful, yet most effective treatment in the short-term, with a long-term plan to follow. Encouraging the gentle and healthy expression of these signs and symptoms over the long-run allows the body to express itself, recover from disease and achieve optimal health.
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis medicatrix naturae).
The body has the natural and inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. We must trust the body's inherent wisdom to heal itself. Nature acts powerfully through an inherently wise vital force capable of resolving disease, restoring and maintaining wonderful and optimal health in body and mind. The physician's role is to facilitate this natural process by identifying and removing obstacles to health and recovery, and supporting the creation of a healthy internal and external environment. When supportive medicines are needed, Naturopathic Doctors also often seek Mother Nature's medicinary for the gentlest, yet most effective cure. Both a scientific knowledge of plant constituents, training in the biomechanics of the human body, and a deep faith in the strength of life itself allow Naturopaths to accomplish profound healing through natural means. Just try spending some time on a mountain, near a river, lake, ocean, meadow, forest, desert, and you will likely feel rejuvenated and inspired by even temporary reconnection and exploration of nature.
- Treat the Whole Person (Tolle totum).
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism involving a complex interaction of physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, spiritual, dietary, lifestyle and other factors. Naturopathic Doctors treat the whole person, taking these factors into account. Health care must go beyond treatment of the immediate symptoms, and instead treat the entire person's well being. This is called the wholistic or holistic method. For example, a person's headache may be caused by the genes passed from ancestors, the conditions encountered in the womb, unresolved childhood issues, present relationship issues, workplace stress, environmental toxicity, poor diet, lack of exercise, lack of sleep or even a combination of these. You don't get a headache because you have an aspirin deficiency. Furthermore, two patients can have headaches for two very different reasons. To determine where individualized treatment is needed, ND's consider everything including removing obstacles to health and replacing them with obstacles to disease. Ideally your naturopath wants to see you in peek health and on the path toward enlightenment and universal love.
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere).
The role of the naturopathic physician is to educate and empower the patient while encouraging self-responsibility for health and wellness. A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates and accomplishes healing. By educating patients in what they are doing right, and wrong, and how to do more right things than wrong, with the purpose of preventing disease and optimizing health, the patient is enabled to accept responsibility for his/her own health journey. This is the core of the Naturopathic approach to health care. No matter which modality they use (lifestyle counseling, food as medicine, botanical medicine, etc), and no matter how many times their patient returns, ND's take the time to educate that patient knowing that health and disease are incredibly complicated, and not everyone can devote their life to figuring it all out by themselves. If you give a person a fish, they eat for a day. If you teach that person to fish, he/she can eat for a lifetime. Some patients just need fresh motivation shared in a humble, unintimidating and understandable manner to inspire healthy living. That and fish(oil).
Grandmother probably said it, but an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure. By learning the principles with which to live a healthy life, patients can prevent minor illness from developing into major illness or chronic degenerative disease. Caught early enough, many disorders considered hereditary can even be avoided or minimized. For example, a patient with a family history of osteoporosis might be counseled to increase calcium rich foods and do weight bearing exercise in his/her twenties to build maximum bone density in those most critical years. Alternatively an elderly person with advanced osteoporosis may be counseled to change their environment to remove obstacles/furniture that could cause particularly dangerous falls. ND's evaluate all risk factors including lifestyle, environmental, genetic, emotional, mental, spiritual and physical health to determine their patients' unique susceptibility to disease. By acting in the present in medically guided ways to build future health, patients are less likely to require treatment for future illness. Aging can be accomplished healthfully and gracefully and does not have to include stroke, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, memory loss, cancer, etc. Ultimately preventive medicine saves medical expenses in the long-run as well as priceless time, energy, suffering, and lives. Eat your vegetables.