Naturopathic Medicine

“You’re a Na-tur-ro…what?” This is not an uncommon phase to be heard by a Naturopathic Physician, even here in the Pacific Northwest where there is a good concentration of Naturopathic Doctors (NDs). Even patients of NDs are often unaware of the plethora of therapies and services NDs are trained in. Naturopathic Doctors attend one of 5 accredited universities in the United States, the two largest being Bastyr University in Seattle, WA and the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. These doctorate level programs are a minimum of 4 years with a competitive option for another 1-3 years of residency.

Naturopathic Medical school curricula are similar to those of conventional medical schools, involving 2 years of basic science coursework such as anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology alongside 2 additional years of clinical experience. Additional classwork focuses on naturopathic-specific therapeutics such as nutritional interventions, counseling, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and physical medicine. This education equips naturopathic physicians to practice as primary care providers after passing the naturopathic physician licensing exams (NPLEX).

There are currently 17 states that provide licenses to naturopathic physicians, but the number continues to grow year-by-year. Each of those states governs a different scope of practice for NDs practicing within their jurisdiction. Washington State for example, offers a generally broad scope of practice for NDs, enabling them to practice as primary care providers state-wide.

So how does a Naturopathic Doctor practice?

Naturopathic doctors follow the same general model as Medical doctors, with extra assessments and therapies incorporated. The process looks something like this:

  • Obtain a detailed history of the patient’s current and past medical issues.
  • Perform appropriate physical exam to aid in diagnosis
  • Order any necessary labs or imaging
  • Determine biomedical assessment and Naturopathic assessment
  • Decide upon proper Naturopathic and conventional treatment options for the individual patient.
  • Provide appropriate follow up or referrals if indicated

Some special considerations that NDs add to medical assessment include:

  • General Lifestyle (diet, hydration, exercise, sleep)
  • Nutritional stress
  • Chemical and environmental stress
  • Elimination channels and detoxification processes
  • Hormonal stress
  • Mental, emotional, and spiritual health
  • Structural stress

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