Naturopathy, a type of complementary and alternative medicine, is a growing field: the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine noted that the number of adults who endorsed using naturopathy on the National Health Interview Survey increased from 2002 to 2007, with a reported 729,000 adults in 2007.
A patient seeking naturopathic treatment may see a naturopathic physician, traditional naturopath or another health care professional who received additional training in the field.
When seeing a naturopath for the first time, patients may notice that the assessment the naturopath does is different from their medical doctors. Like with a medical doctor, a naturopath will gather a health history of the patient, but besides asking information on personal and family health history, the naturopath will ask about the patient’s stress, diet, lifestyle and environmental exposures.
One of the underlying principles of naturopathy is “treat the whole person,” so the naturopath will look at several different factors when designing treatment. Besides physical, this can include environmental, mental, spiritual and emotional.
A naturopath may use different laboratory tests so that she can get a better idea of the patient’s health. These tests may include conventional tests that a medical doctor would use, as well as tests used mainly by naturopaths, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
An example is the Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis. With this test, the naturopath examines the patient’s digestive process, which lets her determine nutrients being absorbed by the patient’s body.
Besides analysis of the patient’s stool, assessment techniques used in naturopathy include analyses of the patient’s urine, hair, blood and iris. The Better Health Channel noted that a naturopathy may also use kinesiology — the study of human movement — to diagnose problems in the patient.
Once the naturopath has gathered all of this information, she can create treatment plans for the patient.