As Naturopathic Medicine becomes increasingly popular, (there are now over 400 licensed California-licensed natural medicine primary care doctors) many people have been wondering, “What exactly is Naturopathy?”
This is the first of three parts on the six guiding principles of naturopathic medicine – founded on medical tradition and scientific evidence. These principles are the foundation that all naturopathic doctors use to diagnose and treat patients.
The first principle that defines naturopathic medicine is to treat the cause, not merely the symptoms. If we compare our bodies to our cars, we know that there are a whole host of warning lights that can indicate potential problems, such as the “check engine” or “low gas” lights. When these lights appear, do we disconnect the light so we don’t see it or do we try to find and fix the problem?
Likewise, when we experience pain, headaches, low energy, mood disorders, etc. – these are our body’s “warning lights” that something is wrong. We can ignore the problem and hope it goes away and risk serious complications, another option is to take pharmaceutical drugs to mask these symptoms. And yet another option is to heed the messages and begin to understand what the underlying issues are.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are committed to helping their patients get answers to what might be causing their symptoms. Using depression as an example, is this very serious medical condition caused by an anti-depressant drug deficiency? Or, instead, could the problem be an imbalance of neurotransmitters and a lack of important nutrients (vitamin D, B vitamins, etc) that the brain needs to function properly?
The second principle in naturopathic medicine is do no harm. Hippocrates’ instruction to physicians clearly states that whatever intervention a doctor can make is only acceptable if it will do no further damage to the patient’s health. A good example of a naturopathic approach to healing a bacterial infection is, instead of killing all the body’s bacteria with antibiotics (anti-life), to get rid of the “bad” bacteria, ND’s would instead strengthen the body’s immune system. Antibiotics rearrange the body’s microorganisms, leaving an individuals’ immune system weakened, and ripe for a very serious yeast infection. Although there are situations that antibiotics might be necessary, NDs would prefer to try a more natural, non-toxic approach.
Another example of this principle is to not suppress symptoms, which are the body’s efforts to self-heal. The body may cook up a fever in reaction to a bacterial infection, and as our body heats up, it creates an inhospitable environment for the harmful bacteria, thereby destroying it. Of course, the ND would not allow the fever to get dangerously high, but also would not turn to fever-reducers as a first step.
Stay tuned for the next four principles of Naturopathic Medicine, and in the meantime, please feel free to contact Dr. Godby, ND at DrGodby@SacND.com or Meghan at DietitianMeghan@SacND.com with comments or questions.