There seems to be a lot of confusion lately, myself included, over the different type of doctors from which you can seek medical attention, what type of treatments they perform and how much education they have, among other things.
With so much information out there and doctors’ offices on every corner, it’s easy to be confused.
Our health should be a top priority and it is certainly not cheap, so making sure you’re getting the correct treatment by qualified individuals is an important step in your physical well being.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians states that, “Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.” Naturopaths are in favor of not using traditional medicine when possible, such as possibly steering their patients towards acupuncture for pain or working out a a nutritional plan for sinus infections.
I do believe that there are far too many drugs being handed out for symptoms that could be relieved naturally. We’ve become very sick as a nation and inherently dependent on pharmaceuticals. Clearly our health care costs are out of the roof, which is attributable to many factors, one of which is our turn from natural remedies, which is what was used before modern medicine. However, with naturopaths, there are some important factors to consider. It is a fact that many principles of naturopathy are in direct conflict with evidence based medicine. Naturopathic doctors are often against surgery or drugs, because they believe the body can naturally heal itself. The US National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine published a list of precautions in regards to Naturopathic medicine which were as follows:
- Although some of the individual therapies used in naturopathy have been studied for efficacy and safety, naturopathy as a general approach to health care has not been widely researched.
- “Natural” does not necessarily mean “safe.” Some therapies used in naturopathy, such as herbal supplements and restrictive or unconventional diets, have the potential to be harmful if not used under the direction of a well-trained practitioner.
- Some beliefs and approaches of naturopathic practitioners are not consistent with conventional medicine, and their safety may not be supported by scientific evidence. For example, some practitioners may not recommend childhood vaccinations. The benefits of vaccination in preventing illness and death have been repeatedly proven and greatly outweigh the risks.
In regards to their education and licensing, naturopaths have full prescription rights in just two states and are licensed to practice in only 17 states. According to Naturopathic.org, in order to be licensed in naturopathy, candidates must complete a four year naturopathic medical program, in which they are educated in all the basic sciences as an MD, but they also study other areas such as homeopathy and nutrition. And Whidbeynaturopathic.com states, “Unfortunately there is some confusion between licensable naturopathic physicians, with a four-year, graduate-level education, and traditional naturopaths, who have only correspondence or online training. Both use the same initials, ND, as professional identification. Traditional naturopaths, however, are health consultants, not healthcare practitioners.” This is important to note, should you decide to go the naturopath route, as one is clearly more qualified to treat you than the other. You should do you research for your particular state. In California for example, a naturopathic license is nearly identical to a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner. California specific board exams are not required and nor is residency. They are allowed to identify themselves as “doctors” but not as “physicians.” Please refer to Calnd.org for complete information on the scope of practice for NDs in California.Homeopathy is the use of remedies involving things such as plants and minerals. According to Wikipedia.com, “it is a system of alternative medicine created in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann based on his doctrine of like cures like: a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure similar symptoms in sick people.” There has been no scientific evidence that verifies that there is any effectiveness to homeopathy.
Many scientists and people people in the medical community view it as pseudoscience and quackery, claiming it has no better effect on treating illnesses than placebos.
There’s an interesting video on the topic, that if you’re considering seeking homeopathic treatment, I encourage you to watch. Again, as with my view on naturopathy, I am definitely for more natural remedies, when it’s possible and effective. The Los Angeles School of Homeopathy lists the following facts about homeopathy:
• All Homeopathic remedies in the US have been FDA regulated since 1938
• Remedies are non-addictive and safe medicines for everyone to take
• Many uses for infants, children, women during pregnancy, adults and animals
• According to the US Government’s National Institute for Health there have been no known side effects for the past 200 years
• A true homeopathic remedy has never been recalled
• A homeopathic remedy has never caused death
• Second leading alternative therapy in the world and still growing
• Remedies are inexpensive
I can’t argue with any of those points. Logic would say that it is absolutely safe and cost effective, based solely on the premise that the treatment you would potentially receive would contain an extremely small amount of the remedy. That is in fact the basis of their treatment; diluting an herb or natural substance that is thought to cause your symptoms, with a significant amount of water.
In regards to education and licensing, homeopathic medicines are completely over the counter and can therefore be prescribed by any practicing physician. Homeopathic.com states there are only three states in the U.S. (Connecticut, Arizona, and Nevada) that presently have homeopathic medical boards which license medical doctors who specialize in homeopathy. Basically, it’s unrecognized by the states as a valid medical profession. I did find however that in Arizona, effective January 1, 2015, there will be licensure available to homeopaths. But that is the exception. Homeopaths may take certification courses, but in regards to regulation or guidelines that they must follow, they simply don’t exist in a majority of states.
Of course traditional doctors have a well established educational and licensing requirement. They must complete a four year undergraduate degree program, four years of medical school and three to seven years of residency. For state licensing, most require at least one year of residency and board certification in their specialty. I’ve had personal experiences with many doctors which have led me to educate myself on my condition, and unfortunately know that I can’t always trust a doctor. I went through three doctors telling me that I was “fine,” before finally being diagnosed hypothyroid. I knew that I didn’t feel okay and had to push them to listen to me and run further tests. Nine doctors later, I have finally found one who listens to me and treats me based on my symptoms, instead of following what they learned in medical school a gazillion years ago. There’s always new research and often times differing opinions on the same subject matter. That is the case with treating hypothyroidism and finding a doctor who would step outside the box and entertain other ideas with me was a hard task. I now drive two hours every six months to see my doctor, and it’s well worth the visit. I feel the best I’ve ever felt.
So after having been told by one doctor that there was nothing wrong with me and that I, “need to train less and rest more,” I can understand any frustration or hesitation with traditional doctors. They seem quick to dismiss your claims or too easily send you away with some pills. But their education cannot be discounted. And the licensing requirements are clearly much more defined and prevalent than that of naturopaths or homeopaths.
If you are dealing with a serious illness like cancer, do you want someone with the same qualifications as a registered nurse treating you or an oncologist?
Using your body’s natural defenses or resources to heal itself is a good idea. If your body aches can be cured with a change in nutrition, then that is certainly a better route than pharmaceuticals. Based on the principles of homeopathy, I have a hard time getting behind it. But with traditional doctors, I will admit that often times they are stuck in their views and refuse to entertain anything other than what they learned in medical school. It’s important to do plenty of your own research and take your health seriously. When it comes to serious illnesses, please remember that traditional medicine works. We’ve been able to expand our life expectancy by thirty years for a reason. Ultimately it’s your decision and you must weigh your options. Possibly the best plan is to have a joint approach and treatment plans from doctors of different specializations who can work together.
Photo credit: ReSurge International