When an issue related to your health arises, what’s the first thing you do? If you’re like most, you make an appointment to see your local MD.
Whether it’s because you have come down with a severe case of the flu, you’ve fallen and injured your leg, or you have a nagging pain that you just can’t seem to figure out, your medical doctor is the first place you go.
From there, you can either be referred to another professional, or as is often the case, be prescribed medication to take until you are feeling better.
Now however, as times are changing, more and more people are seeking out alternative medicine.
We’ve come a long way research-wise are have realized that while conventional medicine can very likely help many health ailments, the long-term side effect of certain treatments aren’t always as positive as we once hoped.
As more people make the transition to focusing on doing whatever they can to keep their body in a natural state, the need for a naturopathic doctor is increasing.
What is naturopathy and how can it benefit you? To learn further what the main differences in between your regular MD and a naturopath, check out the video below.
To help you better understand if naturopathic medicine is for you, let’s go over a few of the key facts that you must know to make an informed decision.
What Can (And Can’t!) A Naturopathic Doctor Do?
It’s important to note that an MD and a ND (naturopathic doctor) are not one of the same. There are some things that a ND will be able to do that an MD won’t and vice versa.
To become a naturopath, the individual will have to first complete a degree in pre-medical science and then follow this with four years of work in one of the accredited schools of naturopathic medicine.
From there, they will need to pass regulatory board exams and then they can begin their practice.
While the MD is typically going to look at your symptoms and then follow this with medication, the ND seeks out a more natural means of treating your condition.
This may involve any one of the following methods of treatment:
- Massage therapy
- Changes to your nutrition
- Blood testing
- Lifestyle adjustments
As you can see, the risk of side effects with these treatments is virtually non-existent, which is why they fit in with the process of naturopathic medicine.
Naturopaths are also allowed to order blood work to further assess your current health and are also now starting to be allowed to write some prescriptions as well.
With this new movement coming into place where they are able to do this, we are seeing a closer link between the MD and the ND.
You might be wondering now what can a ND do or not do? If they can prescribe medications, why see an MD in the first place?
MD’s are still able to do certain things that an ND is not. This includes ordering MRI’s and ultrasound testing (or related procedures) as well as referring to surgical specialists when required.
The Benefits Of Naturopathic Medicine
Now that you know what a naturopathic doctor can and can’t do, what are the benefits to going to an ND?
Let’s take a closer look.
- ND’s offer a holistic approach to health care
The first big benefit to using an ND is the fact that they take a more comprehensive approach to your health care experience.
While an MD typically only looks at the symptoms that you are exhibiting, an ND is going to probe further into your nutrition and lifestyle choices as well.
As all of these factors are going to go into keeping you in the health state that you are right now, this can give a much more comprehensive look at the issue.
Whereas the MD may miss an important contributing reason for your condition, the ND may be more likely to catch it.
- ND’s look more at the root cause of the problem
Which brings us to another point – ND’s look more at the root of the problem. Often the MD will work to treat and manage your symptoms.
The ND while not neglecting the symptoms entirely, will look deeper into what’s causing those symptoms.
When you can resolve the cause, the symptoms should diminish.
So while many MD’s provide a sort of blanket treatment, covering up the symptoms but not looking fully at the root cause, ND’s address it where it starts.
This means that seeing an ND may help decrease the chances that the issue becomes a problem for you into the future.
This isn’t to say that all MD’s aren’t going to work to finding a cure for your health issues, but they are less prone to seeing the root cause as they aren’t looking at the big picture as noted above.
- ND’s provide solutions that may come with fewer side effects
One of the clear benefits of seeing an naturopathic doctor is the fact that their treatment methods typically do come with fewer side effects.
Conventional medicine is often riddled with unwanted side effects, especially if you are using the treatments over the long term.
In some cases, the side effects from the treatments can be just as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms itself. But if you need to resolve an issue that could be life threatening, you have no choice but to endure the unwanted side effects.
As ND’s are looking at ways to manage your condition that are more natural to the body, the risk of you experiencing side effects will be considerably lower.
- ND’s can focus on optimizing your health overall
Finally, one last benefit of naturopathic medicine is the fact that you don’t necessarily need to be ill to go see them. Many people seek out ND assistance when they are feeling fine, more as a means to optimize their health overall.
Basically, they want to go to the next level – they want to bio-optimize themselves.
ND’s can play a key role in this process, which is one big reason why they are not to be overlooked.
Each person will have their own unique benefit to visiting a ND, so taking into account where your current health stands and where you want to go health-wise, will help you better realize what naturopathy can do for you.
Looking For A Naturopath
If you’ve decided that naturopathic medicine is a route that you would like to explore further, the next step is going to be to start looking to find a naturopathic doctor to see.
There are a number of things that you’ll want to consider when doing this.
The Education Level
The first thing you want to look at is the education of the naturopath. Note here that there are two people you can see:
- Naturopathic doctor’s
- Naturopathic practitioners
The difference between the two is a considerable amount of education and normally, the level of knowledge each type of doctor possesses.
Naturopathic doctors will need to take many of the same courses that your standard MD would take and are required to go through that four year full-time medical training (after they have already received an undergrad degree).
A naturopathic practitioner on the other hand is someone who has done some education, however the requirements of that education are far less strict and regulated.
A naturopathic practitioner may have only received a diploma for instance from a distance education school, which as you might guess, is far less involved than a degree in actual medicine.
So while you can see a naturopathic practitioner for less severe health concerns and for overall health improvement, note that you won’t be getting the same level of treatment that you would get from a naturopathic physician.
Time Spent Practicing
Another thing that you’ll want to look at and consider is the total amount of time the individual has spent practicing. Are they a recent graduate or do they have 10 years of experience under their belt?
The more experience the ND has, chances are, the more knowledgeable they’ll be to help you with whatever you are suffering from.
At the same time however, you do need to be careful because some of those who have been out of school training for quite some time may be using practices that are more outdated.
This could result in you getting less optimized treatment compared to what you could be getting.
Do They Keep Up With Research
Which now brings us to the next point – are they keeping up with the latest trends in research. This is perhaps the more important point to note here as it can significantly influence your experience.
Ideally you want to see an ND who has multiple years of experience and is keeping up to date with the latest in research.
This way, you get the benefit of their experience, but won’t have to worry about them using outdated methods of treatment.
As naturopathic medicine is a constantly evolving field with new information coming out regularly, if they aren’t staying current, they simply won’t have the resources to treat you as someone who is.
A good sign your naturopath is staying up to date is if they are attending seminars or courses on a regular basis as well as if they seem to speak about new treatment methods that you can utilize.
Don’t be afraid to do some of your own research first and then speak to your ND about it. If you are discussing something new you read about and your ND has no idea what you are referring to, that’s a clear sign they may be outdated.
Are They Specialized
You’ll also want to take into account whether the ND you are considering utilizing is specialized in anything in particular.
If you are looking for treatment for infertility for instance, finding an ND that works primarily with people who are experiencing these problems will likely put you in a better place to see success than an ND who’s a generalist.
Just as seeing a specialist in conventional medicine typically yields better treatment outcomes, the same thing applies here.
ND’s can specialize in a number of different areas. Some of the more common ND specialties include:
- Mental Health
- Chronic fatigue (and related conditions)
- Hormonal problems
- Thyroid problems
- Digestive problems
- Auto-Immune disorders
ND’s who have done additional coursework in any of these areas can state that they are specialists and these are the ones that you likely will want to be seeking out.
So there are a few of the main points to consider when looking for an ND. Keep in mind that few health care coverage plans will cover the cost of going to an ND, so inquiring about price will also be something you’ll want to find out.
Prices can range, however expecting anywhere from $70-100 per session with your ND is reasonable.
Unfortunately price is one thing that does often turn people away from going to an ND versus an MD (which some health care plans may cover), however many of those who do go despite the costs usually say that the fee was well worth it.
Preparing For Your First Visit
Once you’ve found a ND that you wish to see, you’ll then need to prepare for your first visit.
Depending on where you live, it may take a few weeks to a few months to get in to see the ND of your choice, so the first thing you’ll need to do is practice patience.
The earlier you can book in with them, the better.
When you do get in to see your ND, expect the first visit to last between one to one and a half hours.
The ND is going to go over all your health history during this time so it can be a lengthy process. Here again, practicing patience is key.
Form that first visit, you’ll then likely see them a couple more times as you work to finding a treatment plan that works for you. Once on this plan, follow up visits once a month or every few months will likely be required.
Another area where you will need to practice some patience is in the results that you see.
We are a ‘quick-fix’ society right now and unfortunately this will work against you when going to an ND. Realize that the right treatment can take some time.
Most people will need to follow the treatment plan for a few months before seeing clear results. This isn’t to say you won’t feel better quite quickly upon starting, but the results may not be quite as pronounced as they would be if you were taking conventional medicine.
Patience with these approaches is a must.
If you can, try and obtain any recent blood work tests you’ve done in the past, along with any other health related documents that may help your ND better learn about your health history.
The more information you can present to them at the start, the better prepared they will be to put forth a treatment plan for you.
This isn’t to say they won’t want to run some of their own tests (especially if the tests you have completed are a bit outdated), but it gives them something to work from.
You’ll also want to make a list of any current medications as well as supplements you are taking and give that to your ND as well.
This will keep them ‘in the loop’, so to speak on everything that you are putting into your diet.
Along with documenting the medications you are taking, also be sure to document what you are eating on an average day as well.
As much of the work an ND does is through your food choices, they’ll need to see precisely what your current everyday diet looks like.
Your ND may have you keep a food journal for a certain length of time as well to further expand on exactly what you are eating.
Preparing Yourself With Questions
Many people have it in their mind that doctors rarely want you to be asking questions while you are being treated.
This is not the case with most naturopathic doctors. You’ll be encouraged to take an active role in your healing process, asking any and all questions you may have.
Thinking about what questions you may have ahead of time and writing these down to bring with you to your appointments can help make sure nothing gets overlooked.
As you are paying for the time with them, you’ll want to be sure that you are making the most of it.
Getting prepared to see your naturopath does take some time and effort, but by going in prepared, you will increase your chances of a successful outcome.
Your First Visit To A Naturopath
What will your first visit to a naturopathic doctor look like?
As noted above, the visit will typically start with a full health inventory. The ND will ask you a series of questions about your current health as well as any health history that may be applicable to why they are seeing you.
The ND will likely ask questions regarding your current diet and exercise habits, your sleep patterns, as well as your overall health habits that you maintain on a day-to-day basis.
They’ll also likely inquire about your stress levels and may also have you performing a physical examination while in the room with them.
If you have brought old lab tests or other medical records, the ND will also review those and look for links to how you are currently feeling today.
After you have finished with your first ND visit, you’ll typically book a follow up visit in another couple of weeks at which point, the ND will go over any new lab results they may have ordered and lay out a more firm plan of attack, so to speak, for how you will continue on with your treatment.
Before you leave for that first session, your ND may also give you some initial changes to start focusing on to get you moving towards a path of healing and optimization.
You can then focus on working on these until you see them again for your next appointment.
While everyone’s experience of working with an naturopathic doctor will be slightly different, this is a good general outline of the process that you can expect.
So there you have the facts about naturopathy and alternative medicine. It’s a growing field as more and more people are starting to take the natural approach and become very interested in what it has to offer.
To learn more about other practices you can use to optimize your health and well-being, be sure to check out my entire 84 day course on bio-optimization.