What is Naturopathy? Treatments and Approaches
Naturopathy is a form of healthcare that combines modern treatment with traditional methods. It includes alternative, natural therapies to modern medicine.
Naturopathy focuses on:
- The body's capacity to heal itself
- Avoiding illness
- A personal responsibility to optimize health and wellness
Naturopathic treatment strategies focus on education and prevention. They typically emphasize diet, exercise, and stress management. Naturopathy uses a collection of principles and beliefs to develop specific treatment plans.
These principles and beliefs are:
- Self-healing-- Identifying and removing barriers to recovery, allows for natural healing.
- Underlying symptoms-- Instead of stopping symptoms, a naturopathic physician can resolve underlying physical or psychological problems by treating the body, mind, and spirit.
- Harmless treatment-- Treatment plans should not have damaging side effects or control symptoms negatively.
- Holistic treatment-- A naturopathic doctor has to recognize individuality to treat all facets of an individual's health successfully.
- Education in treatment-- Naturopathic physicians teach self-care to help empower people against ill health.
- Prevention-- It is good to eliminate toxic substances from a lifestyle to prevent problems from arising.
Seeing a Naturopathic Physician
Naturopathic physicians might hold different licenses. Not all states have the same licensing requirements, so it is recommended to look at the details of a naturopathic physician prior to an appointment.
The three main types of naturopath are:
- Naturopathic physician-- A licensed naturopathic doctor must attend 4 years of naturopathic medical school to hold a recognized certification.
- Traditional naturopath-- Traditional naturopaths might not hold a license, so they are not so commonly accepted.
- Other healthcare experts-- Other, contemporary healthcare professionals, such as dentists, may use naturopathic methods in their treatment plans.
Techniques vary between naturopathic practitioners, but assessments typically abide by a similar overall practice. The practitioner will usually start with a diagnosis. In this part of the process, they will address personal information, including lifestyle habits, stress levels, and diet. A naturopathic doctor can use physical assessments, laboratory tests, medical imaging, as well as medical history exams to diagnose an illness.
After diagnosis, they will establish methods to prevent and treat the illness by working with the natural healing systems within the body.
Naturopathic doctors create medical care plans to fit individual needs and health conditions. This means the treatment plans they offer can differ, yet they all abide by similar principles. The majority of treatments include food and nutrition. A naturopathic doctor will customize recommendations for the individual. A diet plan will typically use whole foods, such as, fruit, vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains. The physician might also offer advice on maximizing nutritional value by consuming seasonal, local food. Some think food is better for the body when eaten raw, rather than cooked.
Treatments a naturopathic doctor may use consist of:
- Diet and nutrition suggestions
- Behavioral change, such as exercise and lifestyle
- Homeopathy, a type of natural medicine
- Hydrotherapy, which is water-based treatment
- Manipulative therapy, for example, putting pressure on certain parts of the body to create balance
- Herbal dietary supplements
A small 2020 study indicates that naturopathic treatment plans are useful in managing type 2 diabetes.
In some cases, with the proper license, naturopathic physicians can suggest prescription drugs, undertake minor surgeries, and give vaccinations.
Naturopathic treatments are normally not a person's primary source of healthcare. People often pursue naturopathic remedies when traditional or other complementary treatments are ineffective.
A 2019 review of studies found that methods that use naturopathy may be effective in:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Musculoskeletal pain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Some other chronic conditions
An older 2007 review discovered evidence that the herbal medicines of devil's claw, white willow bark, and cayenne can relieve pain better than placebo. However, the authors acknowledge that the reporting quality of the research studies in the review was poor.
There is anecdotal evidence to suggest naturopathic therapies such as acupuncture can heal chronic conditions, but again, this is not well supported scientifically.
A 2018 review discovered that naturopathic therapies helped control problems that follow operations. For instance, acupuncture and acupressure can reduce symptoms of vomiting and nausea. Aromatherapy and music can also minimize pain, stress, and anxiety.
Naturopaths work on a more personal level, spending more time covering individual needs. They develop treatment plans that consider all aspects of an individual. Naturopathy can be useful alongside modern medicine, and many say these methods allow the body to activate self-healing mechanisms. Naturopathic healthcare can also be a less expensive alternative to conventional healthcare.