Naturopathic Doctors Have Arrived

“Primary care medicine is finally ready to rise to the overwhelming need in our country for integrating the strength of modern, technological medicine with the power and promise of naturopathic medicine,” says Mark Kalina, MD of the Pacific Pearl Clinic in La Jolla. This week, Dr. Kalina presents at the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) Annual Conference in San Diego. His lecture, on this topic will be enthusiastically attended by over six hundred licensed naturopathic doctors and students. Nationally, as more people focus on prevention and non-drug approaches to health care, demand for naturopathic doctors grows, and so does misinformation about the profession. Here are some facts:

1. Licensed naturopathic doctors complete a four-year, doctoral level, medical education at an accredited school of the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, which is recognized by the United States Department of Education. Naturopathic doctors spend two years studying the same biomedical sciences as medical colleagues. In addition, naturopathic doctors have advanced training in clinical nutrition and behavioral medicine. Only naturopathic medical students who graduate from these programs are eligible to take the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examination, required for licensure. A growing number of naturopathic doctors complete residency programs.

2. Naturopathic medicine is safe, effective and evidence-based and increasingly integrated within the medical landscape.

Naturopathic doctors serve on the staffs of U.S. medical centers of excellence. The National Institute for Health awards naturopathic medical schools coveted research grants. Numerous research studies of naturopathic treatments for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, anxiety and chronic low back pain show naturopathic medicine to be both safe and effective. Few medical treatments are 100% safe, but naturopathic doctors follow the Therapeutic Order, a roadmap for clinical decision-making, emphasizing gentler approaches first. Conventional medical errors are the third cause of death in the US, so preventive and lifestyle-based approaches are an imperative public health priority.

3. Naturopathic doctors order diagnostic medical tests and prescribe pharmacological drugs.
Naturopathic doctors use detailed health, disease, and prescription drug histories, physical exams, and targeted laboratory testing and imaging. They spend extra time reviewing dietary records, lifestyle habits, exercise history, and social/emotional factors. Licensed naturopathic doctors are trained to utilize prescription medication and do so when indicated in jurisdictions that allow it. However, NDs prioritize the most natural, least invasive therapies, without strong side effect profiles, first.

4.Naturopathic doctors offer first-line, non-opioid, non-benzodiazepine approaches to the treatment of pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Studies show efficacy when nutritional, botanical, and lifestyle medicine are employed for these complaints. Naturopathic medicine is both effective and cost effective for the treatment of chronic back pain. Research underscores the positive impact of mindfulness meditation for insomnia. Acupuncture is a promising intervention for patients with chronic anxiety. Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy has been proven effective for the treatment of depression.

5. You do not need to choose between an ND and an MD.

Naturopathic doctors work alongside MDs in academia, clinical settings and research. Studies show that by adding naturopathic care to conventional care, patients with a number of diagnoses have better health outcomes.

6. Naturopathic medicine is cost effective.

Naturopathic medical diagnostics and treatments are often less expensive. Naturopathic doctorsreduce the need for expensive surgical procedures and decrease costs associated with adverse drug reactions. Naturopathic medical treatments are increasingly covered by health insurance companies, you can read hereabout insurance in California. Naturopathic doctors often provide care on income-based sliding scales and each Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges schools offers free or reduced-cost care through networks of community clinics.

7. Naturopathic doctors and naturopaths are not the same.

In jurisdictions that do not regulate the naturopathic profession, individuals without accredited training can use the title. They should not be confused with licensed naturopathic doctors who graduate from CNME-recognized institutions. Dr. Kalina offers, “It is absolutely clear to me — this model is the future of medicine in America. We, as a country need it and we deserve it.”

There are six thousand licensed naturopathic doctors practicing in the United States. Currently 23 U.S. states/territories regulate the profession, including California which licensed naturopathic doctors in 2003.

Knowing about the education, training, scope of practice, and role of naturopathic medicine expands health care options. For more information, these FAQs and this patient gallery, from the Institute of Natural Medicine and the AANP offer further resources.To find licensed naturopathic doctors, see here.