“The Senate has designated the week of October 7 through October 13, 2013 as Naturopathic Medicine Week, to recognize the value of naturopathic medicine in providing safe, effective, and affordable health care.”—U.S. Senate Resolution 221
Why is National Naturopathic Medicine Week important?
This healing modality is gaining in popularity and acceptance in the natural health world. This week marks the first time Congressional leaders have acknowledged naturopathic medicine for usage in mainstream healthcare. In a series of blogs this week, the profession will be examined, explaining how it works, where people can go for treatment and how what the implications are for the future in the United States.
What is particularly important in Senate Resolution 221, championed by Senator Barbara Mikulski, (D- Md.) is that it makes the statement recognizing that, “Naturopathic practitioners play [a role] in preventing chronic and debilitating illnesses and conditions.”
'Prevention’ is the key operative here, since most current health care delivery in this country is devoted to ‘treatment’ of medical illness. According to Dr. Jennifer Johnson, Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs at University of Bridgeport National College of Naturopathic Medicine, the profession excels in preventative medicine and the human potential for disease control by helping patients understand that they need to play a role in maintaining their own good health.
Typically patients go to a physician who would give them a pharmaceutical product. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) would address a problem by using a mixture of options like diet, exercise, massage, homeopathy and relaxation techniques. Like an M.D., they would do testing, and can order lab tests and draw blood. She points out that there are some specialized tests that NDs would order like a stool analysis which MDs don’t do. From this you can tell how well a person is digesting his food and absorbing nutrients. If patient is deficient in digestive enzymes, an ND would prescribe them. She points out that for a person suffering from gastrointestinal distress, just the recommendation to eat in a calm way and not texting or watching the computer screen is a basic tenet of eating well. It’s general knowledge that it is harder to digest food or be aware of how much you are eating when you are in a busy, distracting environment.
What type of education do NDs receive?
Naturopathic physicians attend four-year, in-residence, full-time post-graduate naturopathic medical schools, recognized by the Federal Department of Education and by third party educational credentialing organizations on the local level. There are currently seven naturopathic medical schools in North America accredited in 17 states.
An ND is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an MD, but also studies clinical nutrition, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, and counseling. A naturopathic physician takes professional board exams so that he or she may be licensed by a state or jurisdiction as a primary care general practice physician.
Johnson points out that while it’s an honor to be given the official nod of national acknowledgement this week, the reality is that the changing healthcare laws next year can have even greater impact on the profession. Written platitudes fall far short of the goal to gain insurance reimbursement for treatment by an ND.
Look for another installment focusing on practitioners in the field.
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