The what and why of naturopathic medicine

Naturopathic medicine blends age-old healing traditions with scientific research and modern medicine. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) view symptoms as the body’s way of communicating an underlying imbalance and looks at treating the root cause of illness versus just the symptoms. The ultimate goal being to treat the whole person.

Naturopathic medicine treats everything from common health concerns such as high blood pressure or cholesterol, joint and muscle pain, allergies, headaches, to more complex issues like irritable bowel syndrome or other digestive issues. Today, it is becoming even more mainstream with the current sociocultural movement towards preventive health care, stopping disease before it starts, or before it becomes devastating. This whole-person approach can also help patients find new ways for dealing with stress or fatigue, fostering a new way of approaching and dealing with everyday stressors.

If you’ve never considered naturopathic medicine, here are a few things you might want to know.

  1. Naturopathic medicine can complement your primary care.

The best part about a naturopathic physician is that they can work alongside your primary care doctor. In fact, some health systems and physicians even provide naturopathic care with traditional medical care. Physicians who complete the required training can administer naturopathic care in the same office and during the same appointment as your regular checkups.

  • Naturopathic physicians must be accredited.

State-licensed NDs graduate from accredited naturopathic medical programs and pass a national board exam. There are six such programs at seven campuses in North America.

  • Some of our most common ailments can benefit from naturopathic medicine.

Many conditions you may have experienced – both acute and chronic – could benefit from naturopathic approaches, particularly if you’re interested in alternatives to prescription drugs or certain over-the-counter medicines. In naturopathy, a practitioner may suggest herbal remedies, vitamin therapies, dietary changes, and other interventions before resorting to pharmacology. However, NDs will never dismiss the need for certain pharmaceutical drugs, if the patient’s issue requires that level of intervention.

  • Naturopathy is more than herbs.

Naturopathic medicine takes a holistic approach to care using non-invasive therapies and techniques that promote the body’s own self-healing and regulation of biological processes. Some of these approaches include herbs or plant-based medicines, but not all.

Establishing a healthy diet, supplementing with vitamins, regular exercise and stress-reduction techniques – from yoga to mindfulness practices – are other important components of a naturopathic treatment plan. The good news is, an ND can help you develop a plan that works for you and helps you overcome your health issues, while having a lasting impact on your overall wellbeing.

  • Visits may be covered by your insurance.

The demand for naturopathic medicine is growing. We see NDs at traditional health systems, as well as systems developing an entire new service line dedicated to this care. It is also becoming more common to be covered by your insurance.

If you are looking to integrate naturopathic medicine into your care plan, the first step is to select a health plan that includes the benefit, and the next is to talk to your primary-care physician. If they are not eligible to practice naturopathy themselves, they can connect you to someone who can.

Catherine Field, who wrote this article, is the Intermountain Market president for Humana.