How is naturopathic medicine different from conventional (allopathic) medicine?
The primary differences between naturopathic and conventional medicine are 1) the philosophical approach to health and 2) the therapies used. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) treat patients as individuals by addressing the lifestyle, mental emotional and environmental aspects of health. This allows your ND to find and treat the cause of the disease using natural, non-invasive therapies. In contrast, conventional doctors generally address and treat the symptoms of disease, rather than the source of the illness, and use pharmaceutical therapies or surgery. Medical doctors receive little training in nutrition and lifestyle counselling and are proficient at treating acute and emergent conditions; however, due to time restrictions and current doctor shortages, MDs are unable to spend as much time with you as your ND. The ND visits range between 30 minutes to 1 hour which contrasts the average MD visit which is between 7-18 minutes.
How are naturopathic and conventional physicians alike in training?
Naturopathic and allopathic (conventional) physicians are required to study the biomedical sciences at a four-year accredited graduate medical school. Included in this rigorous curriculum are biomedical sciences such as anatomy, physiology, neurology, biochemistry, microbiology, pharmacology, cardiology, minor surgery, and others. Both are required to complete a University undergraduate degree before completing further training at either a naturopathic college or medical school. Both kinds of physicians can diagnose a disease, predict its course, and prescribe treatment. The difference is in the methods of treatment prescribed. Naturopathic and conventional medicines are complementary and can co-exist.
What treatments do NDs use?
Through evaluation of the whole person, NDs treat each patient individually using naturopathic treatments that may include nutritional recommendations and supplementation, homeopathy, botanical medicine, physical manipulation, traditional Chinese medicine including acupuncture, and other modalities. NDs use these treatments to support and cleanse the body returning it to a state of health and balance.
Is naturopathic medicine scientific?
Yes. The effectiveness of naturopathic medicine is backed up by solid, controlled studies. Naturopathic medicine has evolved and been refined over centuries and continues to grow and incorporate scientific advances. It is important to keep in mind that there can be a difference between clinical effectiveness and scientifically proven effectiveness. It is interesting to note that less than 20% of procedures used in allopathic medicine have never been clinically verified. This does not mean that they are not good but simply that they have not yet been studied. In fact, the effectiveness of many naturopathic treatments reflects many decades of positive clinical results. Modern scientific studies are now validating the use of a variety of dietary supplements used by NDs, including fibre and probiotics for proper gastrointestinal health and essential fatty acids for the skin and menstrual irregularities. The Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine along with the many other accredited naturopathic institutions continue to perform state of the art studies that are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals to further research in naturopathic medicine.
Is naturopathic medicine cost-effective?
Yes. Because NDs utilize a preventive approach that reduces the incidence of high-cost chronic conditions, naturopathic medicine reduces long-term health care costs.
Is naturopathic medicine safe?
Yes. Safety records are monitored by state review boards. NDs most often use gentle therapies with low risk for side effects. A core principle of naturopathic medicine is to “first do no harm.”
How do NDs interact with other health professionals?
NDs have an understanding of their limitations, and refer patients to other healthcare providers such as MDs, MD specialists, Doctor of Osteopathy, Psychotherapists, and Chiropractors when it is necessary. Most naturopathic practices have extensive cross-referrals with other practitioners. Both clinics are integrated health centres comprising of many healthcare professionals.
Is naturopathy the same as homeopathy?
No. Homeopathy is an energetic healing method that stimulates the body’s vital force to improve health – it is only one aspect of naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic medicine is a coordinated healthcare approach that uses recognized methods of diagnosis and several treatment methods – including homeopathy – to treat the causes of disease and support the body’s innate healing ability. Because of their qualifications, treatments by licensed NDs are covered by many health insurance plans.
How is a ND different from a homeopath?
NDs use a variety of treatment modalities and must complete a University undergraduate degree as well as an accredited four-year full-time Naturopathic Medicine Program. NDs in Ontario must be registered and licensed through the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy and are governed under the Drugless Practitioners Act. They must also carry malpractice insurance. Homeopaths use homeopathy as the treatment of choice to treat their patients. They must have completed high school as well as a minimum of two years at either college or university. They are not required to have a university degree. The Toronto School of Homeopathic Medicine offers three- or four-year programs that consist of 18 weekend classes each year. Homeopaths are not licensed in Ontario, and do not fall under the governing of the Drugless Practitioners Act.
Why are NDs trained in so many different types of treatments?
Naturopathic therapies are taught and used together because they are all based on the same principles, — assist the body’s healing response — and are often more effective when combined and work synergistically to benefit the patient. There is no other health profession that offers patients this coordinated natural approach.
Do NDs use drugs or major surgery?
No. NDs believe in the “Vis Medicatrix Naturae” or “Healing Power Of Nature” and use natural substances and methods to stimulate the body’s own healing response. They refer to medical doctors in cases where drugs or surgery are appropriate. Patients undergoing surgery or prescription drug treatment under the care of a medical doctor can also benefit from concurrent naturopathic healthcare.
Do NDs perform examinations?
Yes. NDs take an extensive history and perform physical examinations using standard diagnostic instruments and laboratory tests. Additional information related to lifestyle including diet, emotions, stress, exercise, and exposure to environmental hazards may be requested.
Can my ND still practice traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) once it is regulated by the Ontario government?
Yes, the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care announced that the government is moving closer to regulating traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture; however, this will change nothing with respect to your NDs ability to practice TCM. NDs are governed by the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy (BDDT-N), and TCM is within our scope of practice.
How is naturopathic medicine different from other “holistic” centres?
Holistic centres often consist of a variety of therapists working together. Some of these therapists may be recognized and licensed (for example, massage therapists are regulated and acupuncturists are soon to be regulated). Other types of therapy (reiki, herbalists, energy healers, medical intuitives, aura balancers, psychics, reflexology, iridologists etc.) are not regulated in Ontario; therefore the quality of care and level of education and training of these individuals can vary greatly. When looking for a professional in natural therapies, it is important to know whether your practitioner is licensed and regulated under either the Drugless Practitioners Act (DPA) or the Regulated Health Practitioners Act (RHPA). This guarantees that these professionals have been well educated and extensively trained in their field, and are recognized by the government and the healthcare community.
How does naturopathic medicine fit into today’s healthcare system?
Healthcare is at the heart of every Canadian and everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The reality is that with all the resources that are devoted to our healthcare system, there is an alarming number of people who find themselves chronically “unwell.” Yet, despite being sick, tired, or in pain these people are usually given drugs to mask their symptoms or told to live with their condition because nothing is wrong. Recognizing that we must claim responsibility for our own health, more and more people are choosing NDs as their primary care providers.
How are naturopathic physicians educated?
After completing a standard premedical undergraduate program at an accredited university, students enter into a four-year naturopathic medical program. The first two years of naturopathic medical school consist of education in the basic biomedical sciences similar to that of conventional medical school. The second two years emphasize clinical education in natural therapeutics. Upon successful completion of the four-year program, graduates receive the degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
Are naturopathic medical programs accredited?
Yes. The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) is the only accrediting body for naturopathic medical schools recognized by the US Department of Education. The CNME has accredited the naturopathic medical programs in the US as well as the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Upon successful completion of any of these programs, a naturopathic physician is eligible to take the naturopathic physician licensing examinations (N.P.L.E.X) to obtain licensure.
How do naturopathic doctors stay current?
The Board of Drugless Therapy – Naturopathy (BDDT-N) is the regulatory board of the Naturopathic profession. In order for a Naturopathic Doctor to maintain their professional licensee they have to have a certain number of continuing education credits through attending conferences and seminars.
What kind of participation or interaction do NDs have with the allopathic medical community?
Because they view natural remedies as both complementary and primary, NDs cooperate with other medical professionals, referring patients to allopathic medical doctors, surgeons and other specialists whenever appropriate.
What is the typical ND-patient relationship like?
Naturopathic physicians encourage patients to take personal responsibility for their own health. They support patients in this by teaching them the steps necessary to create and sustain optimal health. Naturopathic physicians strive to find the underlying cause of a patient’s illness, rather than treat only the symptoms. Recognizing that each body is unique, NDs tailor their treatments to meet the individual needs of each patient.
What can my ND treat?
NDs see a wide variety of patients of all different ages and are recognized as primary care practitioners, similar to family medical doctors. As such, NDs are able to treat a range of conditions from acute conditions such as ear infections or chronic conditions such as arthritis. For those individuals who choose to have a MD for primary care, a ND can provide complementary care.
What can’t my ND do?
NDs are not able to perform surgery, set broken bones or administer pharmaceuticals. They cannot be considered primary care practitioners for obstetric care or for infants under 6-weeks of age; however, they can still provide complementary care to a woman and her infant during these times.
How do I know that naturopathic medicine works?
Many of the treatments that we use have been researched and validated by conventional scientific methods. There are literally thousands of medical studies that support the efficacy of vitamins, herbs, and natural treatment methods. Some natural medicine methods, like acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, are proven by the results they have achieved over hundreds of years. Many patients that receive naturopathic care have increased vitality, reduction in symptoms and prescription medications.
What should I expect on the first visit?
The first 1 hour visit with Jason includes a comprehensive medical history, physical examination, possible laboratory tests, and discussions about nutrition, lifestyle, emotions, exercise, stress and other significant health factors. Your particular concerns will be discussed. At the end of the visit, Dr. Lee will discuss treatment options, and develop an individualized course of therapy that is focused on addressing your health concerns.
Do I continue with drugs prescribed by my medical doctor?
Yes. Continue to consult with your MD who prescribed your medications. However, in many cases, your medications may have to be reduced as a result of natural treatment interventions. As you become healthier, your need for prescription drugs may diminish. During your course of treatment it is always advised you check with your MD about adjusting the dosage or type of medication.
Do I continue to see my medical doctor and other health practitioners?
Yes. You can continue to see your other healthcare providers, as needed. It is also important to coordinate your care with other healthcare practitioners by communicating with them as appropriate. It is best to work as a team with other practitioners in order to give you the best possible healthcare. For example, if surgery is necessary, NDs can provide guidelines for pre- and post-surgical supplementation to prepare you better for a positive surgical outcome and a speedy recovery.
Can my ND do blood work?
Yes. NDs can draw blood and send it to a laboratory for analysis, performing the same tests that medical doctors have available to them. OHIP does not cover blood work requested by NDs; therefore, patients must pay the cost. Costs will vary depending on the test(s). NDs can also do a wide variety of in house laboratory tests to check for dynamic body functioning without the need for drawing blood or long laboratory wait times.
Does the clinic have any laboratory services?
Yes. The clinic carries both functional testing as well as laboratory testing (blood is sent out for analysis and results sent back to the clinic). The clinic also carries live cell nutritional microscopy, food intolerance and allergy testing as well as bio-impedance analysis.
Is naturopathic medicine covered by OHIP health insurance?
Although naturopathic services are not covered by OHIP, many private health insurance plans will provide some coverage. Since NDs use alternatives to costly techniques and drug therapies, more insurance companies are expanding coverage of this cost-effective healing method. Check your benefits package or contact your health insurer for details.