What is Naturopathic Medicine?
Often people describe naturopathic medicine by the treatments used by naturopathic physicians such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and IV Therapy. Others describe naturopathic medicine as “natural” medicine that does not use drugs or medications. Superficially, these may be adequate descriptions. However, the idea that naturopathic medicine simply uses natural alternatives to drugs is inaccurate. The real uniqueness to naturopathic medicine is how naturopathic physicians think.
Naturopathic Medicine is not passive medicine. It teaches the patient to become an active participant in their own care.”
Naturopaths believe that the body has a natural ability to heal. Often symptoms are just a sign of something preventing the body from doing this healing. Therefore, rather than focusing on symptom management with drugs or natural substances, naturopathic medicine works to understand what is preventing the body from healing, also known as “obstacles to cure.” These obstacles are unique to each patient, but includes areas such as a pro-inflammatory diet, poor gastrointestinal function, low nutrient status, high stress, environmental burden, inadequate detoxification, and lack of exercise. With an understanding of these obstacles, the naturopathic physician then works to remove them so the body can then restore itself to health. This is a cooperative process between the naturopathic physician and patient that requires active involvement of the patient in their care.
Scope of Naturopathic Medicine
Even though naturopathic physicians practice in all 50 states, naturopaths are currently licensed and regulated by state medical boards in only 15 states and Washington D.C. Fortunately, Arizona is one of these states and actively supports naturopathic medicine. The scope of practice for naturopathic doctors in Arizona is quite broad.
Naturopathic Medicine is primary health care that utilizes natural therapies individualized to you. Naturopathic Physicians are trained to treat people of all ages suffering from acute conditions such as cold and flu to chronic diseases like autoimmunity.
Naturopathic Medicine uses therapies such as nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, prolotherapy, acupuncture, and IV therapy. Naturopathic physicians are also trained in the use of pharmaceutical medications, and will use them at the appropriate time.
More important than the therapies used, Naturopathic Medicine works to understand the underlying cause of disease. Since underlying causes are often unique to each patient, Naturopathic Medicine is tailored to the patient to address all aspects of their health.
The 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine
What are Common Naturopathic Treatments?
The appropriate treatment is dependent on each patient. However, in most cases treatment often starts with a dietary assessment. Once that is addressed, the options for treatment are numerous. With some patients a gastrointestinal focus is appropriate. With others, treatments such as IV therapy, detoxification support, allergy elimination diets, targeted nutritional supplementation, or simple lifestyle modification are used. In most patients a combination of treatments are often best. However, the most effective treatment is the one that addresses the underlying problem.
How Long is an Appointment?
The first visit is the most comprehensive in discussing your complete medical history and is the longest visit at 1.5 hours. Subsequent visits are approximately half that time, depending on the complexity of the issues being addressed. Since Naturopathic Medicine works at addressing underlying causes of disease, these longer appointments are what give you and Dr. Wilkinson the time to fully discuss your condition and develop a treatment plan to address the underlying cause.
How is Naturopathic Medicine Different from Conventional Medicine?
The primary difference is the approach to treatment. Conventional medicine is often focused on symptom management. Unfortunately, this often requires use of suppressive medications. Naturopathic Medicine works to understand the underlying cause of illness and how to support the body’s own ability to restore health.
Do Naturopaths Order Labwork?
Yes. All conventional labwork (e.g., CBC, CMP, lipid panel, auto-immune panels, etc.) as well as naturopathic focused testing (e.g., food allergy, detox capacity, GI/Stool testing, etc.) are ordered. Some tests require blood draws, which can be done at the office or Sonora Quest/Lab Corp sites. Other tests use take-home kits.
Is Naturopathic Care covered by Insurance?
Typically conventional labwork is covered. Coverage of office visits, naturopathic type testing and procedures (i.e., IVs, prolotherapy, etc.) is dependent on your insurance carrier. Conventional ICD-9 and CPT medical coding is used for all naturopathic treatment and paperwork is provided for you to submit to your insurance. If coverage is not explicitly stated, ask for out-of-network coverage, partial coverage, or allowance for the first several visits. If that is not available, medical/health savings accounts (MSA/HSA) are a good option. If additional information is needed for reimbursement, ask Dr. Wilkinson.
Articles on Naturopathic Medicine
INM Brochure on Naturopathic Medicine (similar to info above, but in a pdf that is easy to print) – INM Nat Med Brochure