What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is a distinct profession of health care with a unique and holistic approach to patient wellness. This approach emphasizes disease prevention through the use of therapeutic modalities that facilitate and encourage the body’s innate ability to heal. Naturopathic medicine seeks to identify the root causes of illness, remove obstacles to cure and promote wellness rather than focusing solely on symptomatic treatment.
Naturopathic doctors are clinically trained as primary care providers (PCP) and graduated from an accredited naturopathic medical institution. They are skilled in blending centuries-old knowledge and philosophy with the scientific advances of modern medicine to provide well-informed, evidence-based and least invasive approaches to patient care. Naturopathic doctors work alongside patients across the lifecycle in all aspects of health from pediatric to geriatric care to help facilitate the body’s ability to restore and maintain optimal health and vitality.
Scope of Practice for NDs in Colorado
Colorado has a progressive health culture that is built into the fabric of daily life. Residents are surrounded by opportunities to be physically active, spend time in nature and eat fresh, local foods with people who share the same values.
It comes as no surprise that naturopathic doctors are an important and highly-utilized part of Colorado’s health care infrastructure. Colorado NDs not only serve residents who want to be proactive about maintaining their good health, but also people who suffer from acute and chronic health ailments. They teach at local universities, practice in private clinics, or work alongside medical doctors and other types of practitioners.
While Colorado NDs do not prescribe medications, they enjoy a robust scope of practice which allows them to care for patients in a comprehensive way. Notably, they are able to:
Prevent, diagnose, evaluate and treat human injuries, diseases, and conditions
Order and interpret lab tests and diagnostic imaging
Make referrals to other providers and specialists
Perform head-to-toe physical exams
Perform certain minor office procedures including the suturing of superficial wounds
Perform phlebotomy (draw blood)
Inject vitamins B6 and B12, homeopathic preparations, local anesthetics, and epinephrine
Administer vaccines for individuals aged 18 and older
Utilize nutrition supplements, botanicals, lifestyle medicine, clinical nutrition, and homeopathic remedies
Practice naturopathic physical medicine including hydrotherapy, manual therapy, electrotherapy and light therapy
Treat cancer patients in collaboration with oncologists
Education and Training of Naturopathic Doctors
The degree of Naturopathic Doctor (ND) is awarded to students who attend accredited four-year, graduate level institutions and complete rigorous professional board exams required for licensing as primary care providers. Naturopathic doctors are educated in the same basic, clinical and diagnostic sciences as medical doctors (MD) and receive additional training in the application of holistic and nontoxic approaches that emphasize disease prevention and wellness. In addition to the standard medical curriculum, naturopathic medical students receive additional training in clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, lifestyle counseling, mind-body medicine, physical medicine, homeopathy and hydrotherapy.
Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
The practice of naturopathic medicine is rooted in the following six guiding principles:
Do No Harm
(Primum Non Nocere)
Naturopathic doctors are committed to three core guidelines to avoid harming the patient:
- Utilize the least invasive methods and therapies in the diagnostic and treatment approach, while minimizing the risk of harmful side effects
- Seek to avoid the suppression of symptoms when possible
- Recognize and collaborate with each patient’s innate healing ability
The Healing Power of Nature
(Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
Naturopathic medicine acknowledges an inherent, ordered and intelligent healing process in all living organisms. Naturopathic doctors identify and remove obstacles to cure to facilitate this healing ability in patients.
Identify and Treat the Causes
The naturopathic doctor recognizes the symptoms of illness as the body’s attempt to heal and seeks to merely avoid the elimination and suppression of symptoms, while simultaneously identifying and removing the root causes of illness.
Doctor as Teacher
At its core, the word doctor means ‘to teach.’ A key objective for naturopathic doctors is to cultivate the therapeutic potential of the doctor-patient relationship by educating and empowering patients to take an active role in their health.
Treat the Whole Person
Naturopathic medicine recognizes the complex interaction of physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social factors on health and disease. Naturopathic doctors treat the whole person by taking all these factors into account.
Naturopathic doctors emphasize disease prevention through education and promotion of lifestyle practices that foster wellness and vitality. Naturopathic doctors assess an individual’s risk factors and susceptibility to disease and recommend appropriate interventions to prevent illness.