"What's that?" ...the most common response I get when I tell someone that I studying naturopathic medicine. On the weekend, I had the delightful opportunity to explain--many times, to many strangers--what exactly is naturopathic medicine. I've had lots of practice giving a little introduction/blurb over the past couple of years; I think the blurb below gets the point across. What do you think? I am open to suggestions, especially if you didn't think it conveyed the message or it left you confused.
There are two types of medicine: allopathic and naturopathic. Allopathic medical school graduates medical doctors (MDs), while naturopathic medical school graduates naturopathic doctors (NDs). Both medical schools train their students in all the basics sciences required for diagnosis: anatomy, physiology, microbiology, pathology, labs, blood draws, minor surgery, emergency medicine, etc. How the professions differ is not in how they diagnose the patient, but in how they treat the patient. Rather than prescribe a pharmaceutical (drug) or an invasive treatment (surgery, radiation, etc), naturopathic doctors are much more likely to prescribe more natural and less-invasive therapies, such as dietary or lifestyle counseling, vitamin/mineral supplements, botanicals, etc. The goal is to work with the patient's body to bring it back to balance, if at all possible. Also, naturopathic doctors focus heavily on preventative medicine.
Naturopathic doctors are not against allopathic doctors whatsoever. In an ideal world, everyone would have both an ND and an MD on their heath care team, as there is certainly a need for both types of medicine.
Rather than suppressing an illness or symptom, naturopathic doctors work to find the root cause of the problem and address this disturbance. A perfect example of this approach is treating a headache: typically an MD would prescribe a pain killer to relieve the headache, while an ND would want to look backwards and try to find out where the headache came from; is it dehydration (treat with water), stress-induced (deep breathing techniques), nutritional deficiency (correct diet or supplement), etc.
Note: Part Two will be in a future post (one in which I explain why naturopathic medicine is not covered by public health care and how naturopathic medicine can still be accessible).