Q. I’m interested in learning more about naturopathic medicine. Can you tell me why a patient should consider seeing a naturopathic doctor, how naturopathy is different from conventional medicine, and what the training of a naturopathic doctor is?
A. Patients seek out naturopathic medicine for a variety of reasons. I see many patients for complaints such as fatigue, headaches, digestive problems and body aches; often, they’ve previously been to a medical doctor who has told them “all your tests look normal, and I can’t find anything wrong with you.”
I also see patients who want the least-toxic, least-invasive means to create health and balance in their bodies. Rather than relying on pharmaceutical drugs, naturopathic physicians use approaches that include herbal and homeopathic medicines, nutrition, counseling, structural manipulation of bones and muscles, and vitamin and mineral supplementation. Some practitioners have additional training in acupuncture and Oriental medicine.
One of the basic goals of naturopathic medicine is to empower you with information on how to stay well and prevent illness before it starts. Illness doesn’t just materialize overnight — there are many signs your body gives you before overt disease manifests.
Often symptoms, such as fatigue and body aches, are messages from your body that something is out of balance. Responding to these messages and correcting the imbalance can help prevent chronic illness. When pharmaceutical drugs are used to simply mask symptoms — for example, when steroid creams are used for a skin rash — the underlying cause of the condition isn’t addressed.
There are times when drugs clearly are useful, such as in pain management or for treating major infections; however, including naturopathic methods such as herbal and nutritional medicine will often allow you to heal more quickly and take less medication.
In Hawai’i, naturopathic doctors are licensed primary-care physicians who have completed an accredited four-year program and passed national licensing board exams.
Course work includes the same requirements in the basic biological sciences as at most conventional medical schools — and two years of advanced medical training, including rotations in an outpatient clinic.
In addition, naturopaths receive extensive training in a wide range of holistic, non-toxic therapies and measures for disease prevention.
Good health is your most valuable asset, and you have the ability to make choices every day that could affect your health for the rest of your life. To find a naturopathic physician, go to www.hawaiind.org.
Article was originally printed in the Honolulu Advertiser, honoluluadvertiser.com