November 16th, 2019
There is a lot of debate and uncertainty about naturopathic medicine. In fact, I hear many common questions like, “What do naturopathic doctors treat? Are they evidence-based?”, “Why should I consider Naturopathic Medicine?”, and my favourite, “What is it even?”. And I personally do not fault them.
In the first place, when thinking about alternative therapy most are categorized by treatment. For example, acupuncturists with their needles, RMTs with massage and chiropractors and osteopaths with body manipulation. Naturopathic doctors have a very wide scope of practice and thus do not have a very concrete image.
The wide scope of care give us very flexible treatment options, which is our greatest strength. To enumerate, naturopathic medicine includes IV therapy, herbal compounding, supplement prescription, talk therapy, acupuncture, etc. As mentioned earlier, because of our extensive range of assistance, it makes naturopathic medicine hard to define.
To put it differently, we can tailor our treatments to patient preferences. Some people hate swallowing pills, others cannot stand bad tasting liquids, and many do not understand why lifestyle changes are extremely important.
I personally like to categorize naturopathic medicine as more of a philosophy – to educate and offer methods for people to live their best lives. The exact type of treatment you will receive may be different from somebody else with a similar problem and that is ok. The difference comes from trying to match your personal goals and values. For instance, what works for the general population may or may not jive with you. This is the case with all therapy, medical or alternative.
My goal is to make sure informed consent is obtained for whatever treatment somebody opts for. This means understanding the treatment’s potential benefit, potential side effects, existing alternatives and its costs (material and other).
All medical practitioners are taught this, however, going through all these details takes time. And time is not always available.
As a naturopathic doctor, I bill insurance, not OHIP. For this reason, I can spend that time going over informed consent.
The time spent with patients is key to bring them on board by taking a positive and proactive stance on their health.
Canada is facing a crisis in chronic, preventable diseases. Family doctors tell people to eat healthier and exercise more, but they are usually limited to 15-minute intakes. In the other hand, programs like Weight Watchers streamline the process, but they cannot address other barriers to lifestyle change such as stress, time management, and maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Our goal is to make sure you fully understand and consent to the choices you make about your health. This is where I find naturopathic medicine really shines.
All things considered, I hope this article provides a better understanding of what naturopathic doctors are and what they offer to people. At the end, we may never develop a cohesive image like other healthcare practitioners and that is alright.
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