By Dr. Monique Hallee, BScHK ND. Naturopathic medicine has been growing in popularity over recent years. As of 2007, the US was reporting that over 38% of adults were using complementary and alternative medicine. A survey from 2011, out of Ontario, revealed that there were still about 26% that hadn’t heard of the practice of naturopathy. That same study also reported that between 19-28% of the people who do see an naturopathic doctor (ND) claim that naturopathic care reduces their need for visits to the hospital, visits to a general practitioner or the use of prescription drugs. With the profound effects that naturopathy can make in health care, there is a need of education so that more people can take advantage of the health care options available. So, what is a naturopathic doctor?
The simplest way to explain naturopathic doctors (NDs), is by comparing them to my patients’ family doctors. NDs start with a four year degree in sciences. They then continue at least another 4 years to specifically study general medical sciences with a blend of natural therapies. So, while they may learn which pharmaceuticals will treat a given illness, they also learn about various herbs, homeopathic medicines and acupuncture techniques, for example, that can also provide relief. The definition of what an ND can and cannot do is based on the province or state in which that ND practices.
Naturopathic doctors practicing in BC are usually able to prescribe herbs and homeopathic medicine; adjust a patient’s diet; give acupuncture or hydrotherapy; offer PAP tests for women or digital rectal exams for men; and provide physical treatments much like a chiropractor or massage therapist would. Some NDs will then take additional education to broaden their scope of practice. For example, in my practice, I have continued my education so that I can write pharmaceutical prescriptions and give IVs. Just because an ND has the right and training to do a procedure doesn’t mean that he or she will. Having more options for treatments allows the doctor to treat each patient as a unique individual.
When you are trying to choose a naturopathic physician to best suit your needs, you may wish to discuss what sort of treatment options the doctor is able to provide for your specific concerns. It is also important to make sure your ND has proper training. Do not be confused by people posing as naturopathic doctors. In Canada there are only two post-secondary institutions that provide the proper training required to graduate such a health care provider. These schools, the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BC) and the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (ON), prepare their students to write the appropriate licensing exams. These are the same exams that the five US schools administer for their doctors.
No matter which country or jurisdiction, the fundaments of naturopathic medical education remain the same. The practice is based around using the least invasive procedure possible to treat any given condition. This is achieved by taking time to consider each patient as an individual and provide them with education around how to take charge of their own health. Using natural therapies often produces far fewer side effects but often it takes a bit longer than treatments your MD may use. Keep in mind there is no one “right” type of medicine, there is only what is right for that person, and that too can change with time.
If you are resident of BC searching for an ND in your area, you can use the bcna.ca or cnpbc.bc.ca websites to find a doctor near you. For those elsewhere in the country, you can check out the CAND website. If you have further questions on naturopathic medicine or health topics, feel free to write Dr Hallee. Your questions will be answered, and may appear as a topic of an article on this site.
If you have questions about your own health that you would like answered contact Dr Hallee. If your question is a good article topic, it could be featured in a column!
For further information, see a health care provider for more tips on how to keep you and your family healthy or, if you have a specific question, use the comments box below or email Today Media to have it answered.