Naturopathic medicine includes a spectrum of holistic healthcare providers. All licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained at accredited colleges and universities to practice primary care medicine, including the prevention and treatment of ill health and the creation of optimal health. They also honor each individual’s inherent self-healing process and viewing each health concern in the context of the whole person – body, mind and spirit. NDs see their patients for longer visits than conventional practitioners and are interested in learning much more about their health and their lives.
NDs use a broad range of treatments which are drawn from a combination of traditional healing practices and modern scientific research. In the state of Washington, naturopathic practice includes the following diagnostic and therapeutic modalities: physical examination, laboratory diagnostic testing, imaging, nutritional medicine, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine, lifestyle modification, counseling, minor surgery, homeopathy, prescription medication, and intravenous and injection therapy.
With such a broad scope of practice available, some NDs act as general practitioners, seeing patients for primary care and for a wide range of health conditions. Others choose to specialize in working with particular populations (women, men, children, adolescents, elderly, LGBTQ, etc.), health concerns (digestive conditions, mental health, autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, etc.) or treatment approaches (homeopathy, physical medicine, drainage therapies, counseling, etc.).
Naturopathic Medicine at Spiral of Life
I started my private practice as a family doctor working with patients across the age and health condition spectrums. In order to be an in-network provider under local insurance plans, I chose to conform to more conventional norms around diagnosis, treatment and visit structure. While patient symptoms improved, I had a growing sense that I was not reaching the deeper causes of ill health within this restrictive framework. I also grew increasingly weary of the model of recommending multiple supplements instead of focusing more energy in supporting my patients in making more meaningful health changes.
This led me to decide to branch out from the more conventional practices and look at treatments that reach the mind, heart and spirit, as well as the components that make up the foundation of physical health. This in turn led me to explore of the work of Brené Brown, PhD and the Daring Way™, subtle bodywork techniques like craniosacral therapy and visceral manipulation, mindfulness, and shamanic healing practices. Unfortunately, health insurance companies tend to be the last to embrace innovative approaches, and I ended my insurance contracts in 2015 so that I can have the flexibility to provide the best possible care to my clients.
Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The shifts in my practice bring me closer to the core of naturopathic medicine, one component of which is the Naturopathic Principles:
- The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae): I recognize that you have inherent self-healing processes that are both ordered and intelligent, and I work to support and augment this self-healing.
- Identify and Treat the Cause(s) (ToIle Causam): I seek to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress your symptoms.
- First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere): I avoid causing you harm by using methods that minimize the risk of side effects, avoiding harmful suppression of symptoms whenever possible, and working in harmony with your inherent self-healing processes.
- Doctor as Teacher (Docere): I educate you and encourage self-responsibility for health, as well as developing the therapeutic potential of the doctor-client relationship.
- Treat the Whole Person: In treating you I look at many factors that influence your health, including physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since health also includes spiritual health, I encourage you to pursue spiritual growth on whatever path resonates for you.
- Prevention: I emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with you to prevent ill health.*
*The goal here is “primary prevention” – keeping negative health conditions from ever having a chance to start in your body through helping you to live in greater harmony with your body’s needs. This is distinct from “secondary prevention,” which is monitoring for early symptoms of a disease process that has already started (i.e. increased blood pressure, abnormal PAP smear, elevated blood lipids, etc.). Unlike conventional providers who are often waiting for early signs of disease so that it can then be treated with medications or surgery, the goal is to help you avoid having the disease start in the first place.
Naturopathic medicine provide fresh and effective approaches for you to restore and nurture optimal health!