Naturopathic Doctors (ND), Who We Are and How We Practice

Naturopathic doctors are healthcare practitioners, like your GP, or family doctor. We go through 4 years of medical school after obtaining a 4-year undergraduate university degree. Our philosophy differs from that of medical doctors, however; it stems from the fact that the body and nature are our greatest healing tools. We know that, if we create the conditions for health, then we can prevent disease and enable the body to heal itself. We believe in treating the root cause of disease and view symptoms as an attempt of the body to signal a greater underlying problem of imbalance, not simply something to be suppressed with medications.

When patients do get sick, we believe in using non-invasive, natural medicine – such as herbs, nutritional supplements, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, nutrition, among other tools – to gently help the body on the road back to health. We also advocate an individualized approach to health. We believe that no two people and no two diseases are the same. We treat people, not the disease they present with, and we take our time with patients – appointments are typically 1 hour or more in length – so that we can learn the patient’s story and understand what’s really going on with them.

In other words, naturopathic doctors are “physicians who listen.”

Naturopathic doctors use six principles to guide our care of patients. These principles are foundational to all NDs and are interwoven throughout our evaluations and treatment plans.  

The Six Principles of Naturopathic Medicine:

  • Primum non nocere – First, Do No Harm

  • Vis medicatrix naturae – The Healing Power of Nature

  • Tolle causam – Identify and Treat the Causes

  • Docere – Doctor as Teacher

  • Tolle totum – Treat the Whole Person

  • Praevenic – Prevention

NDs use the six principles of care in conjunction with the Naturopathic Therapeutic Pyramid to inform our treatment plans. Our pyramid is very simple, use the least evasive treatment possible to restore health and promote healing of the body. While we have a wide toolbox of treatments available to us, there is a time and place for each, including surgery and pharmaceutical medications. Yes, NDs can perform minor surgery techniques as well as prescribe pharmaceutical medications. 

The Naturopathic Tool Box

Movement

Blood and lymph flow are essential for nutrient delivery and toxin export from tissues throughout the body. Movement is the single most effective way of keeping blood and lymph flowing. The key to movement is finding an activity or exercise that you actually like. Stop struggling to do something you hate. Find something you like and do that thing! Adding things we hate to do just piles more stress in our lives, stop doing that! NDs help patients find what movement works well for them and help to develop strategies to achieve their passion for movement while navigating unique disease or movement differences. 

Breathing

Breath is essential to life. Humans breathe, animals breathe and even plants breathe. Our bodies work in layers upon layers of rhythms. Each and every rhythm is intimately linked to our breathing. Naturopaths help patient learn to optimize their breathing. This optimization can lead to lower inflammation, lower blood pressure and more restful sleep to name a few.

Light

Just like plants, we need light. Light exposure is responsible for so many natural processes in our bodies two of which include vitamin D synthesis and the maintenance of health circadian rhythms.  Naturopaths not only help patients achieve movement goals to become more confident with outdoor activities but we also utilize light sources for treatment therapies. Diathermy, cold lasers, and Far infrared spectrums are all used to treat various conditions.

Nutrition

Always food first! Food is the information our bodies receive that determine how we respond to our environment. When we eat foods that are stressful, our bodies are signaled that it is time to fight. This causes us to store fat and nutrients for the battle and for our immune systems to be on alert for the battle. This signals weight gain and inflammation that can lead to autoimmune disorders, heart disease and many other health concerns. On the contrary, when we eat foods that are not stressful, our bodies are signaled that all is ok. This causes us to rest peacefully, remove toxins and repair tissues. This helps to build and maintain stronger bodies, sharper minds and higher overall vitality. 

Naturopaths know that 90% of our body’s cells are replaced every 3 months. We also know that there are many nutritional templates and “diets” in the world and that the choices can often be frustrating and overwhelming. Our education on food and nutrition helps us find the right nutrition plan for each individual. We cut out the guesswork and help patients achieve their health goals while also navigating picky eaters, finances and busy after school schedules. 

Nutraceuticals “Supplements”

While food is always first, sometimes our bodies need a bit more help to recover from illness and to maintain health. With the current farming and food processing practices, much of the nutrient content of our food is lost. Enter supplements! But not all supplements are created equal. With the lack of regulation of over the counter supplements by the FDA, major concerns for fillers, heavy metal contamination or outright fraud are concerning when considering supplements and their contents. Naturopaths have access to regulated and third party verified supplements that are of high quality and low contamination. Along with our ability to treat each patient as an individual, we are able to tailor supplementation to each patient’s needs via labwork and symptoms. This allows a more bang for your buck approach to supplementing your food first nutrition plan. 

Homeopathy

You know when your cell phone starts acting funny? Like when your apps don’t work right anymore or when your text messages don’t send or receive properly? It’s a good chance your phone needs a software update right? There’s nothing wrong with the phone, it’s just the information your phone receives from the software is a little buggy.

If you imagine your body is the cell phone, homeopathy would be the software update. Homeopathy is like a software reset, it helps tell your body how run without the glitches. Using this same analogy we can think of your symptoms as the glitches. We use this glitch or symptom information to match you with the right software update unique to you.

Matching your symptoms to the right remedy is done through a computer program that catalogues all symptoms and remedies. During your appointment we will interview you about all aspects of your illness, personality and even your dreams to understand you on a deeper level and how your body works for you. All this information is entered into the software program and the likely remedies to match you are shown at the top of the list. From here the homeopath will judge which remedy suits you as a whole. Naturopaths are extensively trained in homeopathy and the use of these remedies for all ailments. 

Balneotherapy and Hydrotherapy

Water cure of all varieties including balneotherapy “water bathing” and hydrotherapy “water treatment” have been used for centuries by various cultures around the world to treat disease and injury. These therapies use water in all of its forms and temperatures to stimulate the body’s healing response. Promoting overall health of the tissues and the person as a whole. Hydrotherapy treatments are used for many forms of illness and disease including; pain, insomnia, flu, gallstones, prostatitis and menstrual disorders just to name a few. Naturopaths use countless water techniques but here are a few that are most commonly used in office. 

Constitutional Hydrotherapy 

This type of hydrotherapy uses a series of hot and cold towels to stimulate the body’s natural lymph and blood flow increasing circulation. Increased circulation promotes elimination of toxins and aides in delivering nutrients to tissue. Sine wave stimulation is applied to abdomen and back to gently stimulate organ activity promoting overall healing. 

Hot Fomentation 

This type of hydrotherapy uses hot packs to the back and feet to raise the body’s temperature. A raise in temperature activates the body’s natural immune response helping to combat illness and deep-seated disease. 

Sauna 

This type of hydrotherapy uses cedar or far infrared sauna to increase the body’s temperature in a moist environment. This stimulates sweating which helps the body to mobilize and remove toxins from the body to promote healing. 

Physical Medicine

This type of medicine is broad and varied between disciplines. For Naturopaths we are trained to utilize a number of physical medicine techniques including physical manipulation, kinesthesiology taping, post-isometric relaxation, trigger point release, pin and stretch, cupping and various forms of muscle scraping techniques. 

Botanical Medicine

Throughout history humankind has used plants as medicines for countless injuries and illnesses. Today over 40 of the pharmaceutical medications used are derived from plants. Further, the top 20 prescriptions used in the united states come from plants. While these pharmaceutical medications typically use one or two of these plant compounds, the whole plant with all of its compounds are utilized in botanical medicine. Each plant has its own actions and energies that effect the body. In combination, plants work together to create potent and complex medicines that are tailored to every patient’s unique illness experience. Naturopaths are trained in botanical medicines and are uniquely qualified to understand their interactions with each other, as well as their interactions with pharmaceutical medications. 

Minor Surgery

Sometimes the body needs a little extra help healing a wound or getting rid of a growth or infection. Stitches, skin biopsies and superficial skin lesion removals are all skills that doctors learn.Naturopaths are no different. When appropriate NDs are able to perform minor surgery procedures in office. 

Pharmaceutical Medicine 

A popular belief is that naturopaths hate pharmaceutical medications and that we do not prescribe them. While we hold convictions that the body has inherent wisdom and ability to heal itself given the right conditions, we also know that the body can become overwhelmed to the point that it needs help. Pharmaceutical medications have a time and place. They are sledgehammers and they are not to be used lightly. Naturopaths are trained to understand and prescribe pharmaceuticals. Our training encourages us to respect the individual, the healing power of nature, but also the limitations that may exist within this paradigm so that all available treatments may be accessible by patients should they need them. 

Our toolbox is vast and our hope is to make you so healthy you don’t need us but for maintenance and ongoing prevention of disease. We approach healing from a hierarchy perspective. This perspective is represented by the naturopathic therapeutic order. Nutritional templates “diets” and lifestyle choices form the foundation for any health plan. Each stage above this foundation represents another layer of treatment the body may need to acquire self-healing. 

The Naturopathic Therapeutic Order

In the pacific northwest NDs can also qualify as primary healthcare providers. We are allowed to accept insurance and have received the education to evaluate, diagnose, and treat anything that walks through the door. Whatever your health goals are, we can reach them together!