Why naturopathic medicine?

There is hope; there are options; and wellness can be achieved.

by Melonni Dooley — 

Would you like to learn how to attain good health rather than how to fight disease? Or, how about having a supportive and empowering relationship with a doctor who is willing to spend more than 5 minutes with you? If your answers are “yes,” you may be interested to know that this is not just a dream, but in fact a reality.

Imagine being part of a health care system where you work with your doctor to find solutions tailored to your individual needs and a medical system that empowers you through education and treatment options — where the focus is on health rather than disease. This is no longer a dream for the future of medicine; it is a reality of the 21st century and can be found in naturopathic medicine.

The theories and practices of naturopathic medicine are borne out of the beliefs that within our bodies lay innately powerful healing processes, and the role of the physician is to help bring the body back into balance, which then allows you, the patient, to begin to heal.

This brilliant approach to medicine combines the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science to create individualized treatment plans that enable people to move from disease to wellness, and stay there.

Naturopathic medicine is distinguished by the six principles that underline and guide its practice. First is “do no harm,” which serves as a powerful reminder that therapies should be as minimally invasive and as maximally effective as possible. Second, “the healing power of nature” reminds us that the role of the physician is not to invade but rather to assist the body in the process of healing through the use of natural, non-toxic therapies.

The third principle, “treat the cause,” recognizes the fact that recovery and healing can only be achieved by identifying and eliminating the underlying cause of disease. Fourth, “treat the whole person” acknowledges that humans are complex beings, and healing requires agreement from mind, body and spirit.

“Physician as teacher,” the fifth principle, reminds us that the physician’s major role is to educate, empower and motivate the patient to take responsibility for his own health, which achieves sustainable well-being. And finally, “prevention is the best cure.”

You may not know this, but naturopathic physicians have a lot in common with conventional physicians — including their basic medical education. Naturopathic physicians are trained at four-year postgraduate naturopathic medical schools, which are accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Education and the Higher Learning Commission. These are regional accrediting bodies of the U.S. Department of Education, just like conventional medical schools.

Another commonality is the curricula. Conventional and naturopathic medical students learn all the basic and clinical sciences. Outside of the classroom, both receive training under the supervision of physicians in a clinical setting for two years. At the end of training, they take national board exams.

Finally, both naturopathic and conventional physicians are licensed to practice medicine in Arizona. This means that, as licensed primary care physicians, naturopathic physicians can order labs, prescribe medications, perform physical exams and minor surgery, refer to specialists, and diagnose and treat disease.

In fact, naturopathic physicians have been licensed in Arizona since 1934 and have much in common with their conventional counterparts. So what sets naturopathic physicians apart?

First, they receive additional training in clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, physical medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, environmental medicine, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, IV therapy and counseling. And second, their approach to treating disease is to restore health.

Naturopathic physicians blend the ancient wisdom of natural medicine with modern science to create a form of medicine that is effective and sustainable.

If you would like to receive individualized care for the recovery, promotion and optimization of function on all levels of health through the use of safe and natural methods, then naturopathic medicine may be for you. If you value diet and nutrition, and would like a professional to guide you in choosing what is right for your body, then naturopathic medicine may be for you. If you are searching for alternatives to prescription drugs or surgery, or are in need of supportive care, then naturopathic medicine may be for you.

There is hope, there are options, and wellness can be achieved. Contact the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association at www.aznma.org to find a naturopathic physician in your area and discover the healer within you.


Melonni Dooley is a fourth-year medical student at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and is on the board of directors for the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association. For further information contact: Cathy Stuart, Executive Director for the Arizona Naturopathic Medical Association. 480-921-3088.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 29, Number 5, Oct/Nov 2010.

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