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What is Naturopathic Medicine?

The field of naturopathic medicine is becoming increasingly popular as people seek alternatives to mainstream medicine. With increased demand and favorable results, some medical doctors are now starting to refer their patients to naturopathic doctors. Many people have never heard of naturopathic medicine, or maybe they have heard of it, but are not exactly sure what it is. Here are some answers to some frequently asked questions about naturopathic medicine.

What is a naturopathic doctor?

A naturopathic doctor, or ND, attends a 4 year post-graduate naturopathic medical program. Not only do NDs receive the same education in basic sciences as an MD, additionally they receive rigorous training in diet and nutrient therapy, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and counseling. In some states where NDs are licensed, they can order labs and imaging, prescribe pharmaceuticals if necessary, and are covered by insurance. In some states, such as Washington and Oregon, patients can choose an ND as their primary care physician. Naturopathic doctors treat a variety of chronic conditions such as migraines, digestive complaints, chronic sinus infections, allergies, eczema, infertility, diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune conditions, just to name a few.

How are NDs different than MDs?

One of the most notable ways NDs and MDs differ is their approach. A key naturopathic priniciple is to address the root cause of a condition rather than just addressing symptoms. A naturopathic doctor focuses on educating a patient behind the root cause of their condition and helps the patient identify what obstacles they have to achieving health. Additionally, a naturopathic doctor knows how to safely and effectively use herbal and nutritional supplements and is highly educated in nutrition. MDs receive no training in herbal medicine and minimal education in nutrition.

Another way NDs differ from MDs is the amount of time spent with the doctor.  A typical first office visit with an ND lasts about an hour with follow up visits lasting usually 30 minutes. Almost all of this time is spent face to face with the doctor.

Will an ND just try and take me off of my medications?

No. Many people seek the help of an ND specifically for help coming off medications for a variety of reasons. Some find that they no longer need their medication after making diet and lifestyle changes. Others may have concerns about side effects. Whatever the case may be, a naturopathic doctor will only take a person off their medication if it safe to do so, the medication is causing side effects that are causing more harm than good, or the medication is no longer necessary. If the ND is not the original prescriber of the medication, he or she will likely consult with the prescribing physician about discontinuing the medication. That being said, naturopathic doctors do recognize that medications can be life-saving and necessary at times.

What does a first visit look like?

The first visit will usually last about an hour, during which time the doctor will review your medical history, medications and supplements, and perform a physical exam. Additionally, the doctor will discuss your current dietary habits, lifestyle habits, sleep, and stress levels.

Your naturopathic doctor will then makes specific recommendations for diet and lifestyle changes, recommend supportive herbal or nutritional supplements, or a combination.  Also, a significant amount of time is spent talking with the patient on how their specific obstacles are contributing to their condition and empowering a patient to take responsibility for their health.


If you would like to learn more about natuopathic medicine, Northwest Wellness offers naturopathic care for a variety of health conditions. If you would like to know how your particular health complaints can be addressed by naturopathic medicine, schedule a free 15 minute health consultation with one of our naturopathic physicians.