I thought I would start out by talking about what Naturopathic Medicine is. Many people have some misconceptions about what Naturopathic Physicians do and don't do. Let's address some of these misconceptions, shall we?
Misconception #1: Naturopathic Physicians are anti-vaccine. Naturopathic Physicians are not anti-vaccine. In fact, one of the six principles of naturopathic medicine is "prevention." Vaccines can be important in the prevention of certain diseases. There are some Naturopathic Physicians who choose not to provide vaccines in their practice. This doesn't always mean that particular physician is anti-vaccine. In Washington State, Naturopathic Physicians are authorized to carry and administer vaccines, however it requires specific equipment and following strict guidelines in order to do so. Not all physicians wish to go through the process or they do not see enough children in their practice to justify the process.
Misconception #2: Naturopathic Physicians do not prescribe pharmaceutical medicine. While this may be true in states where Naturopathic Physicians are unlicensed, in the 17 states (plus D.C., US Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico) where Naturopathic Physicians are licensed, many have virtually full prescribing rights. Another guiding principle of Naturopathic medicine is "first do no harm." Sometimes this means prescribing an antibiotic to clear an infection, after which we can do some more natural therapies to restore balance, function, and vitality to the body.
Misconception #3: I have to choose between a Naturopathic Physician or a Medical Doctor. Many of our patients see both a Naturopathic Physician and a Medical Doctor. The two disciplines can work in harmony with each other. One may simply give you a different perspective than the other on a health issue that you have.
Misconception #4: Naturopathic Physicians are the same as Homeopaths, Herbalists, or Naturopaths. Naturopathic Physicians are not the same as a homeopath, herbalist, or naturopath (often mis-called natural path). Naturopathic Physicians attend a 4-year accredited Naturopathic Medical school after completing a Bachelor's degree. This document shows how many hours in each discipline Naturopathic Physicians receive. Since there is no regulation on the terms homeopath, herbalist, or naturopath, the level of education can vary widely and their practice is limited to that specific modality. For example, an herbalist should only work with herbs but may not have an understanding of how the herbs may work with different disease states or medications. A homeopath only prescribes homeopathic remedies. Naturopathic Medicine encompasses homeopathy and herbalism as some of the many tools in our tool box! Since the term naturopath is also not regulated, you should be wary of anyone who bills themselves as such. Using the term naturopath in place of Naturopathic Physician discredits the amount of knowledge and education that went into becoming a physician.
Misconception #5: Your Naturopathic Physician is going to judge you for your eating habits. No! Really, we aren't. Most people know what they should and should not be eating. We are not here to chastize you for ordering that pizza last night or stopping for that burger in a rush on your way here. But we will encourage you to eat a more whole foods diet, one that is right for you. We also do not believe that everyone is allergic to wheat and dairy. Some people can eat those foods just fine! It's about individualizing dietary recommendations. Naturopathic Physicians have around 144 hours in nutrition classes just from school alone.