Naturopathic Medicine is a comprehensive system of primary health care, which focuses on prevention and treatment of disease by utilizing natural and therapeutic methods in order to stimulate the inherent healing capacities of the body.  By working with this self-healing ability, the vis medicatrix naturae, Naturopathic Doctors are able to guide their patients down a path that will lead to more optimal health.  Being a nationally regulated, primary health care profession, Naturopathic Doctors are trained through a 4-year post-university, fully accredited Naturopathic medical education program.  Post graduation requires Naturopathic Doctors to obtain continuing education in the various treatment modalities and primary health care fields throughout their careers. 

Naturopathic Doctors seek to find the causes and contributing factors, which lead to physiological and psychological dysfunction, disease and poor health.  By addressing these causes the body can functional more optimally and work to restore health through its own healing capacities.   Educating patients about dietary, nutritional and lifestyle factors which are affecting their current health, and through the use of traditional and natural treatment options, Naturopathic Doctors strive to inspire patients to make choices, which will bring about long-term health, happiness and wellness.

This is in contrast to simply waiting until a patient has a definable disease based on specific markers, signs or symptoms and then treating all who present the same way, as if they are all the same person, with treatment aimed to simply suppress those signs or symptoms.  This approach neglects to address the causes or contributing factors which lead to disease and in doing so may lead to worsening health in the long term, may necessitate lifelong dependence on those treatments, and doesn’t allow for true restoration of optimal functioning of the body. 

By seeing each person as a unique individual in how they respond and adapt to their environment and stressors, how they develop ‘dis-ease’, and that each will respond differently to various treatment approaches, Naturopathic Medicine aims to develop unique treatment plans for each person.  By taking an extended amount of time to learn about each patient and their history, developing rapport and showing a caring understanding through empathetic listening, the Naturopathic Doctor gets a broader sense of all the factors which affect each persons’ current state of health, can make a thorough assessment and formulate an effective treatment plan to guide one back to health.

Just as each patient is a unique individual, so too is each Naturopathic Doctor.  Each come from their own experiences, beliefs, background education and continued education that help shapes their understanding of health and wellness.  While they are all guided by the same principles, each will have their own approach to understanding and assessment and hence develop their own unique treatment approaches.  This is why a patient who may see different Naturopaths in their lifetime of healthcare may be surprised to hear a different approach from one to another. 

Naturopathic Doctors are trained in modern, scientific understanding of the body and disease, clinical and laboratory assessment, as well as, traditional medical systems, philosophies and approaches to health and healing.   By combining the traditional, empirical and modern, scientific understandings, it allows for a comprehensive philosophy and approach to healthcare and is guided by the following principles:

First Do No Harm (Primum Non Nocere):  This is the most important principle of any medical system.  By utilizing treatments and substances, which minimize the risk of harmful side effects, avoiding the suppressing of symptoms which can lead to other harmful effects, and using the least force necessary for assessment, diagnosis and treatment, Naturopathic Doctors avoid harm to patients

The Healing Power of Nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae):  Within nature and each and every individual there is an inherent, intelligent, self-organizing, self-healing ability which, when given the proper nutrition and factors that promote optimal physiological functioning, and removing obstacles which limit this optimal functioning, will bring about wellness and long-term health. 

Identify and Treat the Causes (ToIle Causam):  A primary goal of any system of medicine should be to find all the causes and contributing factors which are leading to a disruption of optimal function and health, rather than simply addressing the symptoms which are presenting as the bodies way to try and signal that something is wrong.  True health can only be achieved through addressing these causes to prevent ongoing or worsening of dysfunctions.

Doctor as Teacher (Docere):  By educating patients and the public about the value and importance of individual health, and the factors which disrupt health, Naturopathic Doctors seek to inspire patients to be responsible for their own health and make changes which will promote optimal health.  Through the therapeutic doctor-patient relationship, the Naturopathic Doctor helps guide each patient on his or her own journey.

Treat the Whole Person:  Addressing each individual and all the factors, which contribute to their health, from the physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental and other factors, allows for a broader understanding and therefore greater ability to address the whole person through treatment options.

Prevention:  As opposed to a strictly treatment based approach, Naturopathic Medicine aims for prevention of disease through education and treatment.  By working with patients to restore optimal wellness, Naturopathic Doctors can help patients prevent the onset or worsening of disease.

Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

Shawn Manske, BScH, N.D. Naturopathic Doctor