What is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a system of primary health care that addresses the root cause of illness or disease and promotes health and healing using natural therapies. Treatment modalities may include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathic medicine, physical treatments, acupuncture and lifestyle counselling. The primary goal of naturopathic treatment is to address the cause of the illness rather than simply treating or suppressing symptoms. While naturopathic care helps to alleviate specific symptoms, NDs are primarily concerned with addressing the root cause of an illness.   Naturopathic doctors are trained through a 4 year post graduate program at an accredited naturopathic medical school. Currently there are two colleges in Canada and five in the United States. Students are trained in the same basic medical sciences as medical doctors but also attain a thorough education in preventative medicine and natural therapeutics. Although the basic training is the same, they learn different philosophies and therapeutic approaches than their conventional colleagues. Upon successful completion of the 4 year program, students attain the designation N.D. or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine. Students must sit for national board exams to become licensed naturopathic doctors within licensed provinces/states. In Ontario, students must also pass the provincial board exam.  

What is the difference between naturopathic medicine and homeopathy?

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are general practitioners of natural medicine. They are trained to treat ailments using clinical nutrition, acupuncture, botanical medicine, physical medicine, lifestyle counselling and homeopathy. Homeopaths, on the other hand, are trained to practice in one discipline – homeopathy. So while a homeopath would prescribe a homeopathic therapy, a naturopathic doctor would use any of the approaches listed above, including homeopathy, in their treatments. In addition, homeopathy is not a regulated or licensed health profession in Ontario. Naturopathic medicine is regulated and licensed in Ontario.

What are the principles of naturopathic medicine?

1) First, do no harm (Primum Non Noncere) Naturopathic medicine uses therapies that are safe and effective, minimizes side effects, avoids the suppression of symptoms and respects the body’s natural healing process, using the least force necessary to diagnose and treat illness. 2) Treat the cause (Tolle Causum) Symptoms are the body’s way of communicating. A naturopathic doctor will help to find the cause of disease and correct the disturbance in order to promote a return to health, rather than suppressing or managing symptoms. 3) Treat the whole person (Tolle Totum) The physiology of the body is complex. Often changing one thing will affect the rest of the body. One should look at how the whole person experiences the disease process, and not just the specific disease. Everyone is different. Your body has the innate ability to heal. Working with the body makes it possible to heal faster. 4) Utilize the healing power of nature (Vis Medicatrix Naturae) Not only does the body have its own innate ability to heal, but nature has also provided us with everything we need to heal the body. After removing any obstacles to heal, some natural remedies can be utilized in your treatment. 5) Doctor as Teacher (Docere) “Docere” the latin root for doctor means to teach. It is our job to educate our patients so that there is a clear understanding of why the changes we encourage are so important. We all need to take responsibility for our own health and naturopathic doctors encourage and provide the tools for their patients to do so. 6) Prevention is the best medicine (Praevenire) Naturopathic doctors look for avenues that may be increasing your risk for disease, attempt to treat risk factors before disease develops and evaluate any genetic susceptibility to disease. It is often much simpler to prevent and illness than to try to cure it.

Where can I find more information on accredited schools in Canada?

There are two accredited naturopathic medical schools in Canada. One is located in Toronto Ontario; Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM) while the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine (BINM) is located in Vancouver British Columbia. More information about the academic and clinical programs can be found at their respective websites.

What can I expect from my first visit to a naturopathic doctor?

Your first visit with Dr Rachel Bell will be 1.5 hours in length. A very extensive patient history eliciting information about your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is taken and a complaint-oriented physical exam performed. Specialized lab testing may be requested. With your input, Dr. Rachel Bell will propose a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve your health goals.

Where can I learn more about naturopathic medicine?

You can visit the sites for the Ontario Association of Naturopathic Doctors http://www.oand.org or the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors https://www.cand.ca

Are naturopathic doctors regulated in Ontario?

Naturopathic doctors are the only regulated health professionals in the field of natural medicine in Ontario. On July 1st, 2015 naturopathy joined the Regulated Health Professions Act with all other regulated health professions. The Naturopathy Act also confirms the current scope of NDs as primary care practitioners who are able to provide diagnoses and have access to key controlled acts. Naturopathic doctors are also regulated in Canada in the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.