What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is primary health care that utilizes natural therapeutics, including both modern and traditional methods of treatment. We treat people of all ages suffering from both acute and chronic diseases, from the common cold and flu to cancer. As you can read in the Doctors’ Biographies, we have a range of experience collectively, treating people with such conditions as arthritis, asthma, cancer, depression, eczema, fibromyalgia, IBS, and more.
Naturopathic medicine supports the body’s own healing abilities and strives to empower individuals to make lifestyle changes necessary for optimal health.
The philosophy of naturopathic medicine differentiates us from conventional medicine and directs how we approach each patient. Our goal is to support the wisdom of the body and to facilitate the body’s ability to heal itself”– - Eileen Stretch, ND
The principles of naturopathic medicine are based on objective observation of the nature of health and disease. The principles that are the foundation of naturopathic medicine include:
- The Healing Power of Nature – Vis Medicatrix Naturae
- First do no harm – Prinum Non Nocere
- Find the Cause – Tolle Causum
- Treat the whole person
- Doctor as Teacher – Docere
We work in harmony with the body and with nature. Naturopathy utilizes a holistic approach to healing, addressing the whole person: body, mind, and spirit. The core of naturopathic medicine is to treat each person as an individual and to consider his or her whole being. We do not treat one bodily system as a separate entity from the rest of the person’s body and psyche. It is equally important to care for the mind, the body, and the spirit, in the appropriate manner for each patient.
Who are Naturopathic physicians?
Naturopathic physicians have attended 4-year accredited medical schools. Enrollment in naturopathic medical school requires a bachelor’s degree and completion of pre-medical prerequisite classes, similar to conventional allopathic medical school. The naturopathic medical education consists of 2 years of basic science classes such as anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry, as well as intensive study of the medical ‘-ologies:’ cardiology, gastroenterology, gynecology, oncology, etc. We also receive 2 years of clinical education in naturopathic modalities at various clinical settings such as doctor’s offices, hospitals, community health clinics, and more.
While Naturopathic doctors treat both short bouts of illness and chronic conditions, their emphasis is on prevention of disease and patient education. Many different therapies are used to enhance the body’s healing abilities including nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, vitamins and minerals, Traditional Chinese Medicine, physical medicine, mind-body medicine, and counseling.
Naturopathic physicians also use pharmaceutical medications when necessary, and we are well-versed in the interactions between drugs, herbs, and nutrients.
What is botanical medicine?
Botanical medicine, also known as herbal medicine or herbalism, involves the use of plants to treat disease and promote health. Plants have been used in this way in all cultures from pre-history to today. Humans learned which herbs to use medicinally from trial and error, from observing animals, and from meditations and inspiration. Herbal lore has been passed down through the generations.
Are botanical medicines the same as herbal remedies?
Many people use the term herbal remedies interchangeably with botanical medicines. We call them botanicals because technically, the term “botanical medicine” is more inclusive and include plant parts that are not strictly herbs, such as bark, seeds, roots, and stems.
How do herbal medicines compare with pharmaceutical medications?
Herbal treatments are gentler and in general, produce fewer side effects than drugs.
How are botanical medicines prepared?
Various parts of the plant may have medicinal benefits, including the root, rhizome, leaf, seeds, bark, and cambium. Depending on the plant and on the patient, herbal medicines may take the form of teas, infusions, decoctions, tinctures, vinegars, glycerites, capsules, and more. Topical preparations include poultices, compresses, liniments, salves, and creams.
Are herbs safe?
When used in the proper doses and combinations, herbs are effective and safe, producing few, if any, side effects. However, certain plant medicines are more powerful and need to be used with caution, as they can be toxic in large amounts. The safety of botanical medicines is known through traditional wisdom as well as scientific research. Always consult a naturopathic doctor before using herbs.
What about herb-drug interactions?
In many cases it is possible to take certain herbs with certain medications. There can be interactions, however, and this underscores the importance of working with a naturopathic physician or other health practitioner who is specifically trained in botanical medicine. Naturopathic physicians are particularly well-equipped to handle such questions because of their extensive training in both herbal medicine and pharmacology.
It is always best to check with your naturopathic doctor before adding or taking any new herbal or drug treatment. Also, let your doctor know if you experience any side effects.
Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy
What is NMT?
Naturopathic Manipulative Therapy (NMT), a form of physical medicine, incorporates the art of massage, touch, physical therapy, applied kinesiology and spinal manipulation. NMT may be used to treat several different chronic diseases as well as neck and back pain, and sports injuries. Treatment with NMT produces a physical ‘release’ which can encourage metabolic function, stimulate vital energies, restore range of motion and postural balance as well as relieve pain through positive effects of the muscular, nervous and circulatory systems.
What happens during an NMT appointment?
NMT begins with a comprehensive assessment of your physical body including posture, spinal alignment, muscular tone and symmetry, and orthopedic functional testing. As with all naturopathic therapies, identifying the underlying cause or imbalance is critical to correcting dysfunction and relieving pain. Your treatment will be individualized but may include soft tissue manipulations such as massage or trigger-point release or adjustments to restore alignment in your spine. In addition to hands-on treatment in the office, you may be taught to perform home exercises or stretches, or given recommendations for specific nutrients to heal or repair tissues.
Craniosacral therapy is a special type of NMT that works with the mind-body aspects of physical pain and dysfunction. It works by releasing patterns of tension and stress held in the body through light touch and guided visualization. Many people have experienced tight shoulders or knots in their stomach as a result of stress and noticed that the tension and pain are still present after the stressor has ended. In this same way, all stresses, emotional and physical, leave their imprint on the body. In the same way a good massage releases shoulder tension, craniosacral therapy can work deeper to permanently release patterns of tension.
What does Cranio-Sacral Therapy effectively treat?
It is a therapy that is especially effective for:
- Stress-related disorders such as ulcers, PMS, tight muscles, depression TMJ and facial/jaw pain
- Trauma such as sports injuries and auto accidents
- Head injuries and whiplash
- Post traumatic stress disorder
Combined with other Naturopathic treatments or Psychotherapy, craniosacral therapy can improve the effectiveness and speed of healing.
Dietary Counseling & Clinical Nutrition
Is it for me?
Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” Naturopathic doctors (NDs) and their patients take this advice to heart and address many physical complaints through dietary adjustments.– Hippocrates
Nutrition is a cornerstone of naturopathic healing. What we put into our mouths has a profound effect on our physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Using knowledge of physiology and biochemistry, NDs educate their patients about the dietary influences on disease symptoms and progression.
Is there one diet that is good for everybody to follow?
Naturopathic physicians look at each individual person to assess his or her nutritional status and dietary needs. There is not a ‘one-size fits all’ diet. While general health-promoting guidelines can be applied to most people, your ND will customize a diet for you that will optimize your health.
What is the difference between diet and clinical nutrition?
Improving one’s diet always impacts one’s health! However, at times it is necessary to supplement those dietary changes by providing vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Clinical nutrition involves using these nutrients to help heal and prevent disease.
Can't we get all of our vitamins and minerals from food?
With many patients it is necessary to enhance nutritional status using targeted supplemental therapy. Some people require supplementation because of difficulties absorbing nutrients, lack of enzymes to properly digest and break down the foods, hereditary factors, or simply increased need of certain nutrients due to disease status.
Research has shown that the nutrient content of fruit and vegetable crops has declined over the last 50 years or so. This may be due to changes in cultivated varieties with a preference for high-yield crops rather than high quality.
Other theories to explain the reduced nutrient content of our produce supply include declining quality of soil and increased use of pesticides and herbicides. Some research has indicated that organically grown crops possess higher nutrient content and those animals fed organically-grown feed show better growth and reproduction.
Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture
How does Traditional Chinese Medicine differ from Western medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system evolving over a period of at least 3000 years based on ancient Chinese medical texts, traditional and clinical practice, as well as modern empirical research. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) focuses on achieving health and well-being through the creation of harmony within our lives and surroundings. Chinese medicine includes acupuncture, herbal therapies, diet and lifestyle counseling, physical medicine, and therapeutic exercise.
TCM is based on the Chinese concept of “Qi” (pronounced “chee” and usually translated as “vital energy”) and the theory of “yin and yang” (the harmony of all the opposite elements and forces that make up existence). Qi flows through the body in channels, called meridians. TCM considers concepts of deficiency and excess, heat and cold, and dry and damp. Harmony brings health, well-being, and sustainability. Disharmony leads to illness and disease.
Methods used to diagnose conditions in TCM include evaluation of the tongue and pulse to provide clues as to the patient’s condition and diagnosis. These serve as barometers to the internal environment of an individual. Meridians are named for a physical organ in the body (lung, liver, spleen, etc.). Diagnoses in Chinese medicine are referred to by the organ system affected, and the element that is imbalanced in that organ (for example, Liver Qi Stagnation).
How is it related to Oriental Medicine?
TCM is the official form of Chinese medicine practiced in the People’s Republic of China, and is one of the many systems of medicine that can be classified as Oriental medicine. Oriental medicine is a term that encompasses diverse medical theories and applications developed and practiced in the Far East, including China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Vietnam.
TCM is probably the most frequently encountered and most familiar of the Asian medical systems and it has an extensive body of literature and research supporting it. Today TCM is practiced throughout the world, with over 14,000 practitioners in the United States.
Are TCM & acupuncture effective?
Besides centuries of clinical experience and case studies to verify the efficacy of TCM, new scientific research also supports its use. Many research facilities in the United States and Europe, as well as China, are engaging in studies to prove the validity of TCM diagnoses and therapies.
What therapies does TCM utilize?
Practitioners of TCM use herbal therapies, acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, tuina (a form of massage), diet and lifestyle counseling, and therapeutic medication and exercise including Tai Chi and Qi Gong.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin, sterile needles into different points along the meridians of the body specific to the patient’s diagnosis. The purpose of these needles is to redirect or rebalance the flow of qi through the body.
Does acupuncture hurt?
For most people, acupuncture is painless. Sometimes the needling produces a deep, aching sensation that is temporary- it does not typically last a whole treatment. Some people also report a tingling feeling or sensation of warmth or “electricity” in the area where the needle is inserted. Often, the sensations during treatment are intended and a positive sign that treatment is effective. If acupuncture is painful for you, let your doctor know right away.
What is moxibustion?
What is cupping?
Cupping involves creating a partial vacuum inside glass cups, which are then applied to the skin to relieve areas of congestion, often referred to as stagnation in TCM. Cupping is often used to relieve musculoskeletal pain as well as for respiratory and digestive disorders. Studies show that the effects of cupping can actually penetrate up to four inches deep in the tissues!
What is Mind-Body Therapies?
The mind and body share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another; our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are, and our physical health can impact our mental state.
Related to mind-body therapies are therapies that use the body to affect the mind, such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, and some types of dance (these are sometimes called body-mind therapies). Ultimately mind-body and body-mind therapies are interrelated: the body affects the mind, which in turn impacts the body (and the mind).
What are mind-body therapies and practices?
They are techniques designed to enhance the mind’s positive impact on the body. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) lists some techniques that are considered mind-body therapies or practices:
- Patient support groups
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Therapies that use creative outlets such as art, music, or dance.
As this list indicates, mind-body therapies and practices include behavioral, psychological, social, expressive, and spiritual approaches.
What is the mind-body connection?
The brain and peripheral nervous system, the endocrine and immune systems, and indeed, all the organs of our body and all the emotional responses we have, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another.– Dr. James Gordon
Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are!
On the other hand, what we do with our physical body (what we eat, how much we exercise, even our posture) can impact our mental state (again positively or negatively). This results in a complex interrelationship between our minds and bodies.
What exactly is meant by the word ‘Mind?’
It’s important to note that “mind” is not synonymous with brain. Instead, in our definition, the mind consists of mental states such as thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and images. The brain is the hardware that allows us to experience these mental states.
Mental states can be fully conscious or unconscious. We can have emotional reactions to situations without being aware of why we are reacting. Each mental state has a physiology associated with it – a positive or negative effect felt in the physical body. For example, the mental state of anxiety causes you to produce stress hormones.
Many mind-body therapies focus on becoming more conscious of mental states, and use this increased awareness to guide our mental states in a better, less destructive direction.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy stimulates the body’s vitality to initiate healing using FDA-approved medicines that consist of a very dilute substance.
Homeopathy is a system that encourages the body to heal itself, stimulating the body’s vitality to initiate healing. This system of medicine is based on the Law of Similars that was founded over 200 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann, MD (1755-1843). In Dr. Hahnemann’s time, medical practices were used such as the application of toxic substances (mercury), the bleeding of very sick patients and needless and often harmful surgeries. Because of the use of mercury in the treatment of the ill, the doctors of that era came to be known as quacks, a short name for quicksilver (mercury). Dr. Hahnemann often spoke out against such harmful methods and in the course of his life, he came to formulate the theories that underlie the modern practice of homeopathic medicine.
What is a Homeopathic remedy?
A homeopathic remedy is an FDA approved medicine that consists of a much diluted substance. When given to someone who is healthy, a homeopathic remedy can bring about the same symptoms it can cure. When given to someone suffering from those symptoms, the body is stimulated to heal on its own and the symptoms resolve. Hence, the name, the Law of Similars, or like cures like. There are no side effects of homeopathic remedies as are often seen in the application of pharmaceuticals. There are no interactions to worry about and these remedies are safe to use on the youngest and most elderly patients. There are over 2500 different homeopathic remedies each of which must be carefully selected and prescribed on an individual basis. If the incorrect remedy is chosen there may be no result.
Am I a candidate for Homeopathic treatment?
Many people suffering from a wide range of health problems can benefit from homeopathic treatment. This system of medicine has a long history and great success helping people who suffer from the symptoms of many acute and chronic diseases. In addition, homeopathy can be used in conjunction with other naturopathic treatments.
What can I expect at my visit?
When you visit a doctor who uses homeopathy as a therapy, they will ‘take your case’. Taking your case involves a thorough and detailed discussion between patient and doctor in which many details about you as an individual and the symptoms you experience are gathered. Your case is then studied and the doctor selects the most appropriate homeopathic remedy for you. You will be given the remedy with instructions regarding how to take it. Your progress will be monitored very carefully as you move towards optimum health.