I have been a patient of Naturopathic medicine for a long time. When I was in high school, my mother starting developing symptoms of chronic illness. For years, conventional medicine couldn’t help her and we had no clue what was wrong. Sick, exhausted, and desperate, my mother tried a naturopath who was able to identify her illness and developed a natural, simple, treatment plan to help her get better. After seeing what naturopathic medicine can do, I have been a strong supporter of naturopathic medicine ever since.
So, what is a Naturopath?
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), definition of Naturopathic is:
“Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.”
A naturopath attends a four-year naturopathic medical school. They learn basic medicine as well as how to treat illnesses holistically using natural remedies and prevention methods which include but aren’t limited to diet and lifestyle change. While conventional medicine focuses mostly on killing the infection, naturopaths don’t see the body as broken, but work with the body’s own natural defense system to heal and alleviate disease.
The difference is small but there are a few things to keep in mind if you choose to consult a naturopath. Personally, I like this approach to medicine so much better because I feel like naturopaths are truly interested in helping me maintain a healthy lifestyle and I love the idea of using our own body processes to heal.
Here’s what you should know before your first visit:
-Your first visit will be a long one. They will gather all of your family medical history, as well as your daily habits and routines. A typical new patient packet for a naturopath is really thick and explores every aspect of your health and well-being.
-In fact, naturopaths can take up to 4x the amount of return visits to give you a clear diagnosis. As a part of the holistic approach, they don’t just focus on the damaged area of your body but they gather information from all of your body systems to get the most accurate picture of what’s going on internally.
-Most insurance companies do not cover naturopathic medicine (unless you live in Washington or Oregon.) Some plans do offer rebates, but be prepared to fork over some cash. Naturopaths can be expensive, but DO NOT let the cost deter you. Many doctors do offer affordable payment plans and are willing to work with you. If cost is an issue, see if there is a naturopathic school in your area. You can get a discount on care and get the same kind of treatment you would at a private practice.
-You will need to be patient with your new treatment plan. Since it is a holistic approach, many treatment plans will require you have a lifestyle change and detoxify your system in order for your body to begin the healing process. It could take 6 weeks or longer before you start to see a difference in your chronic symptoms but it is truly worth it. Some treatments plans may even include other specialists such as chiropractors and acupuncturists.
I think I will always choose a naturopath for my primary care physician. I have seen naturopaths for the past 10 years and I have also seen a holistic dentist and gynecologist and have felt that I was in good hands.
In fact a few weeks ago, I went to the naturopath school in my area for my yearly physical. I figured that these were fully functioning adults with promising futures, so I should be in good hands. I checked in for my appointment and was given the 1,000 page new patient packet to fill out. An hour and a hand cramp later, I was finished and escorted back to the exam room. Just as I was getting into the dressing gown, I noticed a small camera perched up in the corner, like a voyeuristic, little fly on the wall. I thought to myself, “Dear Lord, this is not how I want my 15 minutes of fame. Now there’s a room somewhere in this building where a group of medical students are watching my exam with popcorn and beer.” There was a gentle knock at the door and my medical student popped her head in to see if I was ready.
She entered the room, followed by a resident. As both my medical student and her resident were performing the exam, I politely inquired about the fly on the wall. “The camera? Oh, don’t worry about that. It’s focused on the student not the patient. It’s for evaluation. Plus, it’s Saturday morning, there aren’t any medical students even watching. Plus, you signed a waiver in your new patient packet” Oh yeah, I think I remember seeing that somewhere on a legal looking type paper. Relieved, I let them conclude the exam. Overall, the experience was like how I would expect from a private practice naturopath except it was like I got two doctors for the price of one. Once my test results came in, I received a clean bill of health for a price that I can afford.
Have you visited a naturopath or other holistic health practitioners? Discuss!
Photo: Gunter Touschek via Flickr