While it is a quickly growing field, there are still quite a few misconceptions about what it actually means to be a naturopathic doctor, or simply, ND. I personally see this every time I meet new people and tell them about what it is I do. Soon after informing them that I am studying to become an ND I am typically met with one of the following three responses;
1) They love it and proceed to having an entertainingly extensive conversation about what they take and who they've had visits with,
2) Disapproval or impartiality. Conversation doesn't usually last long, and
3) "Oh! Like homeopathy?"
Those last two responses (especially the third) are the reason I have decided to start my blog by clearing the air about what exactly naturopathic medicine is and what it is we do.
So, who are these crazy individuals who decide to get into this field? Where did we come from and why this form of medicine? I can't speak for all of us, but I can tell you we are quite the diversified group of individuals united by the common goal of helping others, and I mean truly helping others in any and every way that we can. I can also tell you that to get where we are we are required to finish an undergraduate degree, complete all of the prerequisite university level science courses and then successfully complete another four year degree at an approved naturopathic college. So we also love to prolong that whole graduate and enter the work force thing.
Enough of the backstory, let's get back on topic. What is naturopathic medicine? What it really all comes down to is treating the root cause of disease. We are trained to do a very thorough patient intake in which we attempt to obtain a complete history of factors that may have contributed to that specific individual's illness. Attention to detail, asking the right questions, obtaining lab tests and ensuring that each person is heard as their own unique case are all key factors into how an ND begins their approach to identify and then treat the root cause.
The simplest way I can explain what we do is by comparing ND's to mechanics and our patients to their cars. When a warning light shows up on your car dashboard, it's trying to tell you something is wrong even though you may have no idea what that light means (or is that just me?). Now you can do one of two things here; take your car to the mechanic where the problem will be diagnosed and fixed from the inside so the light turns off, or you can simply cover the warning light with a piece of tape and forget that it's there. Here we can see how simply treating the symptom (the warning light) is really not getting down to the real reason it came on in the first place. ND's are the mechanics who are going to use all of their tools to diagnose and fix the real problem. Instead of wrenches, ratchets and screwdrivers, ND's use nutrition, counselling, physical manipulation, acupuncture, supplements and yes, occasionally homeopathy to develop a treatment plan that is specific and realistic to the individual so that their illness can be addressed properly and thoroughly. While the results may take longer to achieve than a conventional medical treatment protocol , the overall results will be lifelong and with fewer complications.
I hope I have been able to clear the air on what naturopathic medicine is and I encourage any and all of you to continue to research more about it and comment or ask me any questions you may have.
Dr. Rob Raponi,
Naturopathic Doctor, CISSN, B.Kine