The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) recently adopted the slogan "Medically Trained, Naturally Focused". This is a great way to summarize how Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) practice.
So What can a Naturopathic Doctor Do for You?
The Short Answer
1) Listen to You - NDs take the time to listen and gather an extensive health history
2) Physical Exams - NDs are medically trained and conduct complete physical exams
3) Diverse Toolbox - NDs have a big box of therapeutic tools to help you get better
4) Prevention & Education - NDs focus on education so you can maintain optimal health
5) Lab Testing - NDs can requisition lab tests to better tailor your treatment protocols
6) Holistic Perpsective - NDs view your health from multiple health perspectives
That's it in a nutshell. If you want a longer explanation, keep reading!
The Long Answer
Listen to You = Thorough Medical History
Naturopathic doctors have the benefit of dictating how long your visits will be. Initial intakes are typically in the 90-120 minute range with average follow-ups ranging from 15-60 minutes.
Initial intakes are longer because NDs take a very thorough medical history, followed by an in-depth physical exam relating to your primary concerns. Follow-ups involve a shorter version of these visits, normally involving adjustments to treatment plans or hands-on treatments like acupuncture, massage, manipulation, hydrotherapy or more.
What should I expect a visit to be like?
A typical visit with your ND shouldn't feel much different from seeing your family doctor, just a bit longer. The majority of every visit will be you talking and your ND listening. Once your ND has gleaned a thorough health history, he or she will conduct a physical exams to further develop your overall health picture. Your ND will then develop a treatment plan, often with you, which will be discussed so you fully comprehend what will be happening. Depending on the plan, your ND will typically suggest a follow-up visit in two to four weeks to monitor progress.
In-Depth Physical Exams
Your initial visit will involve a thorough physical exam, which includes vitals (heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiratory rate), body measurements (weight, height, body-fat analysis, etc), and systems review (organ evaluation, sensory testing, etc).
Naturopathic doctors are also trained in genito-urinary exams, including gynecological exams to assess for vaginal and uterine health, and digital rectal exams to asses for prostate and colon health. These exams are typically conducted on an as-needed basis.
The physical exam may not seem very important, but physical signs and symptoms will often reveal more about your health than you realize. For instance, if you have multiple white spots on your finger nails, you may be zinc deficient. If the skin below your eyes is pale, you may be anemic. Or if your lymph nodes are swollen, your body may be fighting an infection, even if you feel fine.
A thorough physical exam is critical to your overall health assessment.
A significant benefit to seeing your naturopathic doctor is the diversity of therapeutic tools he or she can use when developing your treatment protocol. In general, your ND will always first emphasize approaches that encourage your body to heal itself. These include working with you to make changes to your diet, hydration, sleep, stress and general lifestyle. Often, these changes are enough to enact significant health improvements, and further interventions are not necessary.
On the other hand, sometimes returning to the basics is not enough and more powerful interventions are required. From the naturopathic perspective, these include medicinal herbs, specific diets, food-based supplements (like vitamins and minerals), acupuncture, homeopathy, physical medicine (including chiropractic manipulation, hydrotherapy and massage) and sometimes more, depending on the individual ND's further education.
Prevention & Education
Naturopathic doctors are trained to practice based on the following principles:
1) First Do No Harm
2) Use the Healing Power of Nature
3) Identidy and Treat the Cause
4) Treat the Whole Person
5) Doctor as Teacher (Docere)
6) Disease Prevention & Health Promotion
We'll focus on point #5, Docere, which is latin for Teacher. The word Doctor has its origins in Docere, meaning doctors were originally considered teachers.
Picture the traditional perspective of medicine: a village healer would have been sought out for his or her healing wisdom, not simply to dispense a remedy.
In our society, we've become very attuned to relying on medical practitioners to take care of our woes. However, without education on how to prevent those woes the next time they arise, you'll keep having to rely on your medical practitioner to heal you.
As naturopathic doctors, we emphasize prevention and education first and foremost.
We want you to know why you're sick, how you can get better
and how to stay better!
Depending on jurisdiction, naturopathic doctors can requisition lab testing to develop a more conclusive assessment and better tailor your treatment plan. This can include basic testing like a complete blood count, thryoid panels, iron levels. The only difference is that tests requisitioned by an ND are at your cost (in Ontario, at least).
Your naturopathic doctor may also run specialized tests like a food intolerance panel, stool analysis, complete hormone panels and much more. These are typically disease-specific and vary in availability depending on the doctor.
This may be the most valuable aspect to seeing a naturopathic doctor. Since NDs are trained in the medical sciences, botanical medicine, nutritional or orthomolecular medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, physical medicine and homeopathic medicine, they bring multiple perspectives to the table when analyzing your health. Each system offers a different philosophy and framework, and your ND may use a combination of systems to evaluate your health concerns.
The benefit of using different systems is that your ND will also be able to work conjointly from physical, mental, energetic and spiritual perspectives, while complementing the existing conventional medical system.
The Big Picture
When it comes down to it, a naturopathic doctor will listen to your story; help you unravel your health conerns; use in-depth physical exams to rule out any underlying health issues; use an incredibly extensive set of tools if needed; requisition lab testing if necessary; educate you on preventative, health-strengthening techniques; and view your health holistically from multiple perspectives while complimenting your conventional medical care.
For more information or to book an apppointment with one our NDs, please Contact Us.