Debunking the 5 Most Common Myths About Naturopathic Medicine

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Although Naturopathic Medicine has gained more recognition in North America in recent years, it goes without saying that Naturopathic Doctors are still faced with both criticism and skepticism regarding their unconventional modes of practice. As a naturopathic doctor, I believe that these views or opinions essentially stem from the lack of awareness and knowledge in this field. Specifically speaking, there seems to be some evident confusion with respect to the extent of our medical training, as well as the scope of our practice. This lack of awareness or knowledge inadvertently results in formulating false beliefs and wariness. Ironically, one of the guiding principles of Naturopathic Medicine is Doctor as Teacher or “Docere”. It seems inevitable that Naturopathic Doctors not only teach patients about disease prevention and management, but are left with the challenge of educating individuals and providing clarity about what this field of medicine truly entails.

Here are five of the most common myths about Naturopathic Medicine.

1. Naturopathic Doctors are not primary healthcare providers:

Naturopathic medicine has been a regulated healthcare profession in Ontario since 1925. Naturopathic Doctors are primary healthcare providers who are required to complete an undergraduate degree, followed by four extensive years of medical training. They are educated and trained in the basic sciences, clinical science, as well as naturopathic disciplines including; botanical medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture, physical medicine, homeopathic medicine, and nutrition and lifestyle counselling. Upon graduating, naturopathic doctors are required to pass two sets of provincial licencing board examinations in order to practice. In order to ensure adherence to the standards of practice, they are also required to complete 70 hours of continuing education courses every three years after graduating.

2. Naturopathic Medicine is not evidence-based.

There is not only an abundance of existing research, but a growing body of research and clinical trials supporting the use of natural therapies for the treatment of conditions. Naturopathic doctors use the same conventional medical diagnostics as medical doctors use to diagnose conditions, while using natural, minimally invasive, and safer approaches to treatment. The ultimate goal is to provide the conditions conducive to supporting and enabling the body to heal itself, naturally. What some may not know is that pharmaceutical drugs contain chemicals that are derived from plants! As a patient, it is your right to inquire not only about the potential side effects, but the efficacy of a treatment proposed by your physician. Naturopathic Doctors are happy to provide their patients with information on clinical trials or studies supporting the efficacy of the specific natural therapies prescribed to them.

3. Naturopathic Doctors are against mainstream (conventional) medicine.

Not only is this statement outlandish, but far from the truth. Naturopathic doctors recognize the necessity for conventional or allopathic medicine, particularly with respect to conditions that require immediate surgical or medical intervention. Naturopathic medicine has often been referred to as Complementary and Alternative Medicine or CAM, where naturopathic doctors work collaboratively with other health professionals to provide natural therapies that can be used adjunctively or alternatively to other treatment. In fact, many people opt to have a team of healthcare professionals working towards treating their condition to be assured that they are being provided with the outmost care, resulting in better health outcomes. Furthermore, naturopathic doctors are medically trained to identify the interactions between natural and conventional medical treatment or prescriptions. In some provinces in Canada, such as British Columbia, naturopathic doctors even have prescribing rights to be able to prescribe conventional medication as needed.

4. Naturopathic Medicine is less effective than conventional medicine.

One of the guiding or fundamental principles of Naturopathic Medicine is Identify and treat the cause, or “tolle causum”. Naturopathic Doctors are especially trained in identifying and treating the underlying cause of a disease, rather than managing or suppressing the symptoms. For example, rather than focusing on prescribing a natural remedy for migraines to provide pain relief, a Naturopathic Doctor will investigate the factors that may be contributing to the migraines such as dehydration, poor posture, food sensitivities, or high blood pressure, and will formulate a unique treatment plan that is appropriate for you. Many individuals hold the misconception that these natural therapies are less effective than conventional or pharmaceutical treatment. The truth is that treatment for the management and prevention of a condition will not rely solely on the work of a single pill, but rather on the complex interplay of lifestyle changes which may include, dietary modifications, nutritional counselling, exercise, stress reduction, in combination with supplements or botanical herbs. This will inevitably require more time and compliance to undo the damage or work that was initially done to throw the body and its processes out of balance. Naturopathic Doctors can successfully diagnose and treat conditions which requires time and patient compliance.

5. Naturopathic Medicine is expensive.

As naturopathic medicine is not covered by OHIP and unfortunately not accessible to all, this statement really boils down to how one perceives health. Naturopathic medicine is not only a form of medicine, but a way of life. It deals with not only treating conditions, but adopting the appropriate lifestyle habits to prevent them. Supplements and diagnostic testing can be costly, but many would agree that you cannot put a price on health. Every individual’s constitution is different. Once a disease has developed, the supplements or natural therapies required to undo the damage and restore the body to its normal physiological state will vary from one individual to another, and will likewise require time and compliance. As the late naturopathic doctor Henry Lindlahr once said, “people are beginning to realize that it is cheaper and more advantageous to prevent disease, than to cure it.”

While it is our nature to be critical of information we hear about in the media or read in the newspaper, it is also our responsibility to be informed and educate ourselves, particularly on such topics that may be unfamiliar to us. This knowledge may ultimately serve to benefit our health in ways we never imagined, whether mentally, physically, or emotionally. After all, as the saying goes….knowledge is power.

 

References

1. OAND; About Naturopathic Doctors. (2016). Retrieved October 10, 2016, from http://oand.org/naturopathic-medicine/about-nds/

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