Naturopathic medicine, also known as naturopathy, is a distinct system of primary health care that emphasizes the prevention and self-healing process within the body using natural therapies. Naturopathic doctors (ND) or doctors of naturopathic medicine (NMD) blend centuries of old knowledge in traditional medicine and a philosophy that nature is the most effective healer using current research on health and the human body.
The therapeutic modalities used in naturopathic medicine may include physical manipulation, clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and hydrotherapy integrated with conventional, scientific, and empirical methodology combined with the ancient laws of nature.
There are six principles of naturopathic medicine:
- Primum non nocere – First Do No Harm
- Vis medicatrix naturae – The Healing Power of Nature
- Tolle causam – Discover and Treat the Cause Not Just the Effect
- Tolle totum – Treat the Whole Person
- Docere – The Physician is a Teacher
- Praevenire – Prevention is the best “cure”
My interest with naturopathic medicine began in college while I was studying for my MCATs (medical school entrance exams), at the time my mother had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. Growing up in an allopathic (traditional) medicine mindset, I had no idea about the field of medicine known as naturopathy. During a study session in the library while searching for medical schools to apply to, a classmate jokingly suggested choosing a naturopathic school and began to read aloud a description that would one day change my life.
During my senior year of pre-med school, at a well women’s exam, the school physician became alarmed during a breast exam after learning that my mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The school physician immediately suggested that I have a biopsy since my breasts were highly lumpy and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember calmly asking her why I would need a breast biopsy seeing as I was only in my early 20s. The school physician could not understand my confusion and wanted me to undergo a biopsy purely because my breasts were lumpy and my mother’s diagnosis.
From a very young age, I began biohacking and asking why and what is the root cause of certain actions or conditions. So I didn’t hesitate to ask the school physician what causes lumpy breasts and the physician replied that fibrocystic breasts may be linked to coffee or excessive caffeine consumption. “So if someone drinks 2 pots of coffee every day, it would be a good idea for them to stop?” I questioned and the physician nonchalantly replied, “Who drinks that much coffee?”
“A pre-med student, president of her class taking 25 credits, working Shock Trauma every weekend overnight night, and tutoring foreign students.” I answered much to her surprise.
It was at that moment, I made a deal with my school’s physician, that I would stop drinking coffee for a few months before coming back for another examination. If my breasts were still lumpy, I would allow a biopsy.
On the day of my repeat breast exam months later, the school physician was reluctant to inform me that the lumps were gone. I explained to the physician that I hoped she learned a valuable lesson of first taking time with each patient to learn and ask the right question before jumping to a conclusion.
Today, we now know that there is a potential issue of the cancer spreading when a biopsy is performed. This is a perfect example of one of the principles of naturopathic medicine: “discover and treat the cause, not just the effect” – tolle causam. I love being a naturopathic physician!
Naturopathic doctors were born from an area of medicine once called “Eclectic Medicine”. Electric doctors use many different tools when treating patients such as herbs, homeopathy, acupuncture, nutrition, hydrotherapy and more. As a naturopathic doctor, I pride myself on using various treatments options as well because some patients may respond better to certain treatments than others. For example, some patients with environmental allergies may not respond well to the herbal medicine so we may recommend the use of homeopathy or in-sublingual immunotherapy (allergy drops).