Naturopathic Medicine is a distinct primary health care system that blends modern scientific knowledge with traditional and natural forms of medicine. Naturopathic medicine is the art and science of disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention using natural therapies including botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, hydrotherapy, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine / acupuncture, and lifestyle counselling.
A Naturopathic Doctor is a primary care practitioner that seeks to restore and maintain optimum health in their patients by emphasizing nature’s inherent self-healing process. A Naturopathic Physician views the individual as an integral whole including the physiological, structural, psychological, social, spiritual, environment and lifestyle factors affecting health. Symptoms of disease are seen as warning signals of improper functioning of the body and unfavourable lifestyle habits. Naturopathic Medicine emphasizes disease as a process rather than disease as an entity. The primary goal is to treat the underlying cause of the disease. This approach has proven successful in treating both chronic and acute conditions. Treatments are chosen based on the individual patient, not based on the generality of symptoms.
Naturopathic doctors can also complement and enhance health care services provided by other health care professionals. They cooperate with other branches of medical science referring patients to other practitioners for diagnosis or treatment when appropriate. Naturopathic Doctors provide patients with a truly integrative form of health care.
In Canada, the naturopathic medical profession’s infrastructure includes accredited educational institutions, professional licensing, national standards of practice, participation in many federal health committee initiatives, and a commitment to state-of-the-art scientific research.
Naturopathic medicine treats all forms of health concerns — from pediatric to geriatric, from irritating systems to chronic illness and from the physical to the psychological. It is the approach, philosophy and training of naturopathic doctors that sets it apart from other forms of health care.
There are typically three types of patients that seek naturopathic medical care:
The naturopathic philosophy is to stimulate the healing power of the body and to treat the root cause of disease. For many patients, this difference in approach to health provides them with a new perspective and awareness. By addressing the root cause(s) of disease and through the appropriate use of natural therapies many patients with chronic illness have found tremendous benefits.
Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived 2400 years ago, first formulated the concept of “the healing power of nature”. This concept has long been at the core of medicine around the world and remains one of the central principles of naturopathic medicine. In North America, naturopathic medicine traces its origins to Dr. Benedict Lust. He used the term “naturopathy” to describe a clinical practice, which integrated such natural healing methods as botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional therapy, manipulative therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling.
The American School of Naturopathy was founded by Dr. Lust in New York and graduated its first class in 1902. Naturopathic practitioners formed the Naturopathic Society of America and established naturopathic colleges and large health centres throughout North America. By 1920, naturopathic practice was well established in Canada. Laws regulating naturopathic practice were enacted in Ontario by 1925, British Columbia in 1936, Manitoba in 1943 and Saskatchewan in 1952. The CAND has been representing the profession’s interests in Canada since 1955.
After the Second World War the trust of health care was placed on the advances in surgical techniques, the introduction of antibiotics and growth of the pharmaceutical industries. The more traditional healing practices lost ground. This was an era of scientific reductionism and an almost blind faith in the medical ‘miracle’. This approach continued through the 1950s.
In the last twenty years, public desire for greater control in their health care process and a growing dissatisfaction with high tech solutions to health problems has resulted in a resurgent interest in the natural methods of preventive health care. This trend has increased demand for naturopathic services as people seek ways to improve their health, cope with day-to-day stresses and avoid illness.
Naturopathic medical education began in Canada in 1978 with the founding of the Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine (OCNM) in Toronto. OCNM offered post-graduate courses in naturopathic medicine to chiropractors, dentists and medical doctors. By 1983, the first four-year, full-time program was offered at OCNM and enrolment was expanded to include students with a University degree who had completed the appropriate prerequisites. In 1992, the College became the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) to better reflect its mandate to educate students from across Canada. Application rates for CCNM program have grown over 10 times since 1991. In 2000 the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine opened in British Columbia to further support the growing demand for naturopathic doctors in Canada.
Today, more people than ever before are seeking and benefiting from naturopathic medical care and the number of naturopathic doctors is growing at record rates to accommodate this increased demand. Currently there are naturopathic doctors practicing in every province and territory in Canada. The more than 1,200 naturopathic doctors across the country continue to be an emerging answer to Canada’s health care concerns.
Naturopathic Physicians are experiencing greater recognition as health care practitioners and as experts in the field of natural and preventive medicine. They provide leadership in natural medical research and enjoy increasing political influence. Positions for naturopathic doctors are opening up in hospitals, multi-disciplinary clinics and specialized health centres across Canada.
In Canada there are four provinces that have naturopathic regulations: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario. Regulation in Alberta is expected by 2008. Most of the other provinces are also in the process of seeking regulation.
In this new century, the naturopathic profession finds itself well positioned in health care. With more and more research supporting the therapies used by naturopathic doctors, the public demand for greater choice and increased access to more natural approaches to health care, naturopathic medicine is poised to make the transition from “alternative” medicine to “mainstream” medicine.
If you haven’t experienced the benefits of naturopathic medicine yourself, take the time to regain control of your health by making an appointment with Naturopathic Physician, Dr. NaviBadesha.
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