Happy National Naturopathic Medicine Week (October 8-14th)! Every year a group of passionate naturopathic physicians and supporters head to Washington D.C. to advocate for our medicine. Each year they focus on one or two topics to talk about with each state's representatives in an effort to move towards national recognition of naturopathic physicians. Many folks don't realize that naturopathic physicians are not currently licensed in every state. The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) gives this great overview, "Currently, 20 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands have licensing or registration laws for Naturopathic Doctors. In these states, Naturopathic Doctors are required to graduate from accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical programs and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) in order to receive a license or registration." Here in Washington state we are lucky to have a very active state association, the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians (WANP.) They have done a great job ensuring that physicians here have a full scope of practice befitting of our training as primary care providers. Practicing here with my Washington medical license I have the scope of a primary care provider which allows me to prescribe pharmaceuticals if necessary, treat diagnose disease, refer to specialists as needed, and manage the general health of any individual in my practice. Circling back around to national naturopathic medicine week, 6 years ago the group that went to D.C. advocated to get an official national naturopathic medicine week and they were successful! This year marks the 5th year of the official week so I'm celebrating by writing about the principles of naturopathic medicine. These are the 6 principles that guide the foundation of naturopathic medicine treatments, they are the basis of how I practice medicine:
The Healing Power of Nature: "Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process." (AANP) Basically, this is saying the body is always working to heal itself and working towards balance. You can think of this as your vitality or as we in the naturopathic world like to call it, the Vis which is Latin for force or power. My job, as a naturopathic physician is to provide tools and support to stimulate the vitality, the Vis, to help the body do what it does best: heal.
Identify and Treat the Causes: "The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms." (AANP) If you've looked at my website homepage, you can see that I'm pretty passionate about this. Symptoms are the body's way of throwing up a red flag to alert us that something is out of balance. If we simply put a band aid on the symptom so that we don't notice it as much, we're not getting to the root of the problem which would eliminate the symptom completely. In learning and seeing patients over the years I have determined that there are 6 common causes of symptoms and disease, you can read about them here.
First Do No Harm: "Naturopathic physicians follow three guidelines to avoid harming the patient: Utilize methods and medicinal substances which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat; Avoid when possible the harmful suppression of symptoms; and Acknowledge, respect, and work with individuals’ self-healing process." (AANP) Put simply, if what I'm prescribing has side effects that take up 30 seconds of a 45 second commercial, it's going to be my last resort or a band aid to get you through to the point of not needing it while we work on healing some of the underlying causes. I first utilize therapies that include food (nutrition), stress management and counseling, herbs, homeopathy, bodywork, supplements, and nutritional injections.
Doctor as Teacher: "Naturopathic physicians educate their patients and encourage self-responsibility for health. They also recognize and employ the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship." (AANP) Doctor comes from the Latin word Docere which means "to teach." This principle is near and dear to me as before I even knew what naturopathic medicine was, I was studying to get my degree in community health education. I am passionate about teaching folks all about their health and what symptoms are trying to tell us about root imbalances in health. The more educated a person is about their body, the more power they have to take their health into their own hands. It may be a poor business model but I ultimately aim to educate and empower folks in the art of self-careso they don't need me more than once a year for a quick check up.
Treat the Whole Person: "Naturopathic physicians treat each patient by taking into account individual physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and other factors. Since total health also includes spiritual health, naturopathic physicians encourage individuals to pursue their personal spiritual development." (AANP) An imbalance in any of these factors can wreak havoc in any or all of the other factors. For example, emotional stress can embody itself in physical structures can cause physical pain or malfunction. We can try to treat the physical symptoms all we want but if we don't address the emotional stress, they'll just keep coming back. The first visit with me is about 2 hours long purely because we talk about all of these factors so we can really get to the root of your symptoms or disease.
Prevention: "Naturopathic physicians emphasize the prevention of disease by assessing risk factors, heredity and susceptibility to disease, and by making appropriate interventions in partnership with their patients to prevent illness." (AANP) It may take more work in the sense of making lifestyle changes and building new habits, but these preventative measures are MUCH easier than treating a deeper disease once it's taken root. I spend a lot of time educating on the importance of lifestyle in your health and I have seen simple dietary improvements, movement, hydration, and sleep completely heal folks of their ailments. This is the basis of my tagline: Life is medicine, how do you want to LIVE your life?
Are you ready to see these principles at work in your own health? Schedule here for a free 15 minute consult to learn my approach to your health concerns.