When a disease or other medical condition arises, various treatments such as taking antibiotics, performing surgery or giving chemotherapy can serve as forms of treatment. But the holistic health practice of naturopathy supports the belief that the human body is capable of healing itself.
Early uses of naturopathy can be traced back to Germany in the 19th century. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), when Benedict Lust, a German man, became very sick, a healer used natural treatments such as physical exercise, herbal remedies, a balanced diet, and sun and air exposure. Due to the success of the alternative treatments, Lust named the treatments naturopathy, advocated for naturopathy in the US and founded the first college teaching naturopathy.
Naturopathic Doctors (NDs)
Naturopathic.org states that naming an illness and helping maintain a strong and healthy body are the primary roles of NDs. Although naturopathic practitioners treat ailments, they stress the importance of constantly making healthy lifestyle choices so the human body can maintain optimal health and rehabilitate itself when illnesses do arrive. Before working as an ND, individuals must gain practice from hospitals and other health care centers. However, it is required to attend a four-year school accredited by Council on Naturopathic Medical Education in order to receive the title of naturopathic physician, says NCCAM.
Principles of Naturopathy
According to naturopathic.org, the practice of naturopathy promotes the following six principles:
1) Allow nature to work as a healing force. Naturally, the human body is inclined to heal itself when illnesses arise. It is the physician’s job to destroy any obstacles preventing the body from self-healing. Examples of obstacles include unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise.
2) Find and treat the causes of illnesses. NDs focus on identifying then treating the source of a sickness so symptoms do not come back.
3) Do not harm the patient. When healing patients, naturopathic practitioners apply basic treatments with little risk such as herbal medicines and natural diets, rather than using more risky ones such as surgery. NDs also do not restrain illness symptoms because they are the body’s way of treating itself. “For example, the body may cook up a fever in reaction to a bacterial infection. The fever creates an inhospitable environment for the harmful bacteria by destroying it,” naturopathic.org said. NDs also treat all patients differently because all individuals have various symptoms and body compositions.
4) Teach and fully inform the patient. It is important for physicians to educate patients about their medical issues. When patients are taught how to live healthy by eating well, exercising frequently and calming the body after hectic daily schedules, they understand how to foster well-being which can help avoid future ailments.
5) Treat patients fully. To successfully treat an illness, it is important to look at all possible causes including ones which are mental, physical, spiritual, emotional, environmental, social, genetic and sexual. All the various factors affect one’s total well-being.
6) Prevent the medical issue. If a healthy lifestyle is constantly maintained, it is less likely for illnesses to occur later on. NDs suggest considering all areas that impact health, then making lifestyle changes where necessary to prevent future problems.
NDs assess symptoms, then apply treatment depending on the specific illness. Some common forms of natural treatments include:
- herbal remedies and medications
- physical exercise
- nutrition counseling
- lifestyle adjustments
- homeopathic medicine
- hydrotherapy and other water therapies
- hot and cold compressions on the body
- detoxification (destroys viruses in the body through fasting and consuming large amounts of water, the University of Maryland Medical Center says)
- manipulating joints and muscles
Maintaining a healthy diet helps build a strong body which can fight off illnesses. According to livestrong.com, a naturopathic meal should be composed of about 50 percent vegetables, 25 percent whole grains and 25 percent dairy products or healthy meats. Food products which are most natural and made of the least preservatives are the best choices for producing prime health. Besides maintaining overall well-being, livestrong.com says a naturopathic diet treats allergies, immune problems, stress and anxiety, insomnia, poor digestion and reproduction issues.
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: About Naturopathic Medicine
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
American Association of Naturopathic Physicians: What is Naturopathic Medicine?
University of Maryland Medical Center: Naturopathy
Livestrong.com: Naturopathic Diet
Reviewed August 9, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith