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Doctors of the Present and the Future?

by Michael Braunstein


Treat the Whole Person

Naturopathy takes into account the complexity of the individual and the physical, emotional, dietary, lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors of illness.

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The "Chip Doctor" fixes your car windshield. The "Drain Surgeon" will roto-root your house plumbing. "Dr. Dré" serves up some fine dance mixes and "Doc Martens" won't leave a mark on your floor. But none of these are mistaken for someone we might enlist as a primary health care provider. No, we usually reserve that assignment for an M.D., a doctor of medicine. If asked, most Americans would respond that only a medical doctor is licensed to practice medicine in the United States. And in responding that way, then most Americans would be wrong!

1996 celebrated the one hundredth anniversary of the practice and licensing of Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine here in the United States. A true doctor, an N.D. must be a have a degree from a four year, graduate-level school of naturopathic medicine in order to qualify for the license to practice naturopathy (pronounced nature-opp-athy.) Graduates of one of the three naturopathic medical colleges here in the U.S. insist that their level of study is even more difficult than standard medical school curricula because they must learn both conventional medical sciences and the practice of naturopathy.

Simply defined, naturopathy is a medical system that brings together a multitude of natural healing practices. These sciences include clinical nutrition, herbology, homeopathy, exercise therapy, counseling, acupuncture, natural childbirth, hydrotherapy, and physical medicine among several others.

"Naturopathy draws from the many modalities that promote the body's natural healing process, "says Randall Bradley, N.D., a naturopathic physician who practices in Omaha and Lincoln. Dr. Bradley graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon. He went on to fill his residency requirements at Bastyr College in Seattle before moving to Omaha to practice.

"Washington and Oregon are on a list of about ten states that have legislated licensing guidelines for the practice of naturopathic medicine," he says. In the states that do not have such specific licensing procedures, naturopathic physicians operate under other state guidelines in keeping with the health codes and laws of the state.

"It's also important to note, however, that naturopathy includes many of the types of exams and diagnostics, (like x-rays and lab work,) associated with what most consider conventional medicine," he says.

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct discipline that began in the late 1800s. Physicians of the period recognized that many treatments were available that used the body's natural healing power to maintain and restore health. Led by Benedict Lust, these doctors sought to establish a unified curriculum and standard of education incorporating these techniques. Lust founded the American School of Naturopathy in New York, graduating its first class in 1902.

In the first half of the 20th Century, naturopathy was well established and licensed in most of the US. There were about 30 university level schools. But then conventional medicine became more and more pharmaceutically driven. Drugs, pills and surgery became the primary modes of treatment in a technological approach to healthcare. Nature's own means of healing became increasingly overlooked and interest in naturopathic medicine waned. However, there is a new awareness of the often devastating side-effects of the techno-industrial medical approach. Reliance on the drug-du-jour and surgery is becoming less desirable as America realizes that there can be more effective means of healing. This resurgent interest in naturopathy and other forms of "natural" healing results from the recognition that healing comes from within the living organism itself, not from an outside source.

"The best we can do is remove the blocks to healing," Dr. Bradley says. That is the basic approach that naturopathy takes in treating illness.

There are five foundational principles to naturopathic medicine.

  • The Healing Power of Nature: The body and the mind have inherent healing systems that are strengthened by using processes that are in harmony with our nature.
  • First do no Harm: That may sound obvious but not when we consider the rampant side-effects of most conventional treatments. N.D.'s prefer non-invasive therapies that minimize risks of harmful effects.
  • Find the Cause: Naturopathy seeks to move closer to cause rather than simply treating the symptom. For example, conventional medicine would treat an infection by attacking the bacteria that is present with antibiotics. Naturopathy would go a step deeper to address why that bacteria became opportunistic in the first place.
  • Treat the Whole Person: Naturopathy takes into account the complexity of the individual and the physical, emotional, dietary, lifestyle, genetic and environmental factors of illness.
  • Preventive Medicine: N.D.'s teach that lifestyle adjustments can be the most effective means to the prevention of major illnesses. This empowers the patient and allows them to be more responsible for their own health.

Become aware of your options! In healthcare, don't stop at the "M" in the Yellow Pages, as in "M.D." Try going one more letter to "N" and "N.D." and bring the word "nature" into your natural healing process.

Be well.

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Michael Braunstein is Executive Director of Heartland Healing and certified by the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners in clinical hypnotherapy. He graduated from the Los Angeles Hypnotism Training Institute and was an instructor at the UCLA Extension University for 11 years.

Heartland Healing is devoted to the examination of various alternative forms of healing. It is provided as a source of information and not as medical advice. It is not meant as an endorsement of any particular therapy, either by the writer or by Heartland Healing Center, Inc.

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