Many Americans are unaware that Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) exist. In a larger scale, most Americans are unaware of the term “naturopathy.” The main reason for this ignorance is that the standard allopathic model, approved and fiercely protected and propagated by the American Medical Association (AMA), reigns supreme in the minds of most Americans. Unless you go out of your way, every medical doctor (M.D.) you encounter in your life, in any speciality, will be an allopath. So before we cover the 6 reasons why you should choose a naturopathic doctor, let’s give you a quick overview of the fundamental difference between the two.
To simplify it a bit, the allopathic model’s first course of treatment for most medical maladies is a medication. Through the curriculum of the standard American medical school (funded by Big Pharma), they learn that this is the expected model, along with surgery. Most medical schools don’t cover nutritional science, nor natural remedies as a method to treat disease though for centuries that was the model. Most PCPs you encounter will exhort you to eat well, but they are unfamiliar with much of the literature as to what foods, herbs, essential oils, and other forms of alternative medicine ameliorate a certain malady. Moreover they are loath to suggest that embracing the aforementioned might remedy your ailment. It necessarily isn’t their fault, for this is a handicap of their training.
This leads us to 6 simple, practical reasons why you should choose a naturopathic doctor (ND) over an allopathic one (M.D.).
(A great primer for this article is NPE’s Integrative Medicine: The Best of Both Worlds.)
A typical meeting with a M.D. at a primary doctor, specialist, or urgent care clinic is no more than 10 minutes. During that time, the doctors is expected to glean from clinical observations, labs/Xrays, and your symptoms to diagnose you. Ten minutes simply isn’t sufficient time in most cases (unless you have a laceration or an open fracture) to diagnose you.
The 10-minute-model, by the way, is mostly based on economics. The less time you spend with a patient, the more patients you may see in a given day, and thus the more money or reimbursement you can make. You can’t necessarily blame the M.D., for this is the model from which they arose. Also, they are in private practice so a personal financial motive propels them as well.
When meeting with a typical ND, your time with them is greater. In many cases the initial consultation will be 1-2 hours with 30-minute follow-ups. The main reason for this is that naturopaths try to cure the person, not the symptom or ailment. They want an extensive history of your diet, family & social history, exposure to toxins, and more to construct an integrative treatment plan.
They want to know the complete person. That is not to say that NDs in practice don’t want to make money. They do, but they are trained in a different paradigm. They are inculcated early in their education to spend much more time mining the patient’s history to get a better overall picture. This in the long run helps you, the patient.
In short, whereas an allopath gets a snapshot of you, the naturopath gets the photo album.
A Larger “Health Arsenal”
When you come into your family doctor’s office with arthritis, for example, he/she simply doesn’t have as many weapons to treat your problem. The typical allopath will have medications, surgery, and perhaps physical therapy. Similarly, when you develop cancer (1 out of 2 men; 1 out of 3 women) the standard A.M.A. treatments are chemo, radiation, and surgery. Your choices are poisoning you, mutilating you, or radiating you.
A naturopathic doctor has a panoply of choices. They can pull from their “arsenal” of herbalism, aromatherapy, acupuncture, clean eating, homeopathy, reflexology, Ayurveda, Chinese Medicine, and other practices. These were all practices that were used for centuries by healers to treat diseases.
Once the pharmaceutical companies grew strong 150 years ago, they extracted the active beneficial parts of herbs and alike to make them the mainstay of their new medication. Then through their bought-off cronies in Washington, mass advertising, and approbation of the “watchdog” groups Big Pharma ostracized natural remedies and labeled them as quackery to destroy their competition.
The largest benefit of naturopathic doctors is that in addition to the aforementioned arsenal of natural remedies, they can ALSO prescribe medications. (Some states, like California, only allow N.P.s to prescribe certain medications, so check with your N.P. at your first consultation to see their range of practice.)
So it is a win-win situation. So the operative questions is “Why go to allopaths, who are largely hamstrung to the ‘Drug First’ medical model, if you can go to a naturopath who can use both drugs and natural remedies?” It’s akin to asking a boxer to fight with one arm in a fight, when he could use both?
Their Education Is Just As Rigorous
The typical retort to that question is “Medical doctors are better trained than naturopathic doctors.” The admission requirements, rigor, and competition of an ND medical school is just as rigorous as the conventional medical school. There are currently seven (7) naturopathic medical schools in North America. They are four-year post-baccalaureate programs, just like conventional medical school. Upon completion, NDs are expected to undertake a residency, just like M.D.s. Lastly, naturopathic doctors must pass a national board certification exam (the NPLEX) to acquire a license by a given state to practice, just like M.D.s.
The main difference between the educational requirements of an M.D. and an ND is not the rigor of the curriculum, but rather the focus of it. Naturopathic medical students, in additional to learning the standard biomedical and diagnostic sciences and pharmacology of a medical school, also take classes on botanical medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, acupuncture, and more. This is the fundamental difference returning to the idea that naturopaths have a more versatile palette from which to choose.
Prevention First Mentality
The naturopathic model believes that prevention is the key to longevity and an optimized life. Typically with an allopath, you will only see one once a symptom develops, and perhaps at that point, you may have a host of maladies. Naturopaths believe that prevention in the long-run is the least expensive and most beneficial route. They are intimately aware that most diseases-chronic, autoimmune, hormonal, and alike-are linked to some form of malnutrition, extrinsic/intrinsic toxin exposure, and/or micronutrient deficiency, among other things.
Unlike allopaths, as already stated, they don’t want to treat the symptom; the want to find the underlying source. (For example, if a woman goes to an allopath with painful or irregular periods, he/she will likely recommend a birth control pill to treat it. The naturopath will ask “Why are you having painful/irregular periods?” They will recommend you alter your diet and exercise along with some herbal and/or Eastern interventions FIRST before taking a prescription medication. All medications have side-effects so they want to spare you those effects if natural remedies can remedy the problem. In short they want to exhaust ALL naturopathic options first.
Cheaper Treatment Costs
Since naturopaths will suggest dietary changes, exercise, and herbal and/or natural remedies first, the treatment for your condition will likely be cheaper. Prescription medications are extremely expensive, especially in the allopathic model where the treatment for a chronic disease might be taking a drug for decades. Those drugs will lead to side-effects where the allopath will then prescribe another drug to treat the side-effects of the first drug. The second drug will have side-effects, and so a third will be prescribed, and so on and so on.
Perhaps all you need to remedy your malady is simple changes, like an increase of a certain vitamin or herb or an implemention of physical therapy, acupuncture, or reflexology. A large majority of vitamins, minerals and herbs do NOT have adverse effects.
Again it’s a win-win. Why not try the less expensive natural remedy treatments, many of which are dietary changes or the usage of an herb or vitamin found at your grocery store that have no side effects, before opting for the side-effect addled, expensive Big Pharma drugs?
More Relaxed View on Vaccinations
Vaccination is a hotly-contested topic nowadays. If you have any reservations about vaccinating your child, and/or would like a delayed vaccination plan, good luck finding an M.D. pediatrician that will accommodate you. Most pediatricians will turn away any parents who do not want to vaccinate their children. Or they will browbeat you until you comply.
Naturopaths, along with Doctors of Ostepathy (D.O.s) and chiropractors, tend to be much more open-minded. They work with the parents either on a delayed vaccination plan or will be completely fine with you not vaccinating your child.
An Ideal World
Now that we have covered the six reasons why you should choose a naturopathic doctor, let’s imagine an ideal world. In this world naturopaths and allopaths would work together to optimize someone’s health. Naturopathy, Integrative Medicine, Functional Medicine, and alike serve better as a bulwark against disease. Their strength is prevention of disease and treatment of minor, chronic maladies using nutrition, botanical medicine and alike. The strength of M.D.s is when the malady has become acute or life-threatening. In the realm of emergency medicine and surgery M.D.s are par excellence.
Allopaths and naturopaths could ideally complement each other quite well. Perhaps if Big Pharma, the A.M.A. and their cohorts lessened their grip on the American healthcare system this could happen. Until then naturopathy will be a niche field loved by the cognoscenti but overlooked by most Americans.
The Americans need to be reminded that Big Pharma does not want them to get better. Their ideal scenario is to keep you in a suspended state of possessing a myriad of chronic diseases so they may profit from you. A cure for diseases would make them obsolete. Snap out of the paradigm! Seeking a Naturopathic Doctor will better serve you in the long run to avoid the perils of all disease.
On a personal note, I am not a naturopathic doctor. I embrace the principles of naturopathy since I attribute them to my weight loss and maintenance for these past 25 years.
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A. Gregory Luna
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