What should I expect from my first visit with a naturopathic doctor?
You should expect a lengthy dialogue with your doctor addressing all of your concerns – to best figure out the cause of these concerns. Often times this requires a process akin to peeling the layers from an onion, to finally reach the cause and then find ways to naturally treat and ultimately prevent these and other concerns. You may have to fill out questionnaires, order labs, be physically assessed. You may feel like you are in multiple rooms: a therapist’s office, medical doctor’s office, personal training studio, nutritionist’s kitchen, wellness coach’s meeting. Listening to and understanding the whole story of each individual patient is the fundamental basis of naturopathic medicine.
Do you do Phone or Skype/Facetime Visits?
I can schedule phone or Skype visits with established patients. I am not able to make recommendations to patients I have not seen at least once in person as a Naturopathic Doctor; however, as Health/Wellness Coach, we can have all of our visits through phone or Skype as I will not be diagnosing or “treating” any specific conditions, rather giving only recommendations to better lifestyle optimization.
How will a naturopathic doctor treat my condition(s)?
Naturopathic doctors do not treat conditions, they treat people. For example, a naturopathic doctor is less likely to prescribe a drug to treat gastric reflux than they are to analyze diet choices and eating patterns, suggest digestive bitters to normalize acid production, and/or prescribe demulcent herbs to soothe esophageal irritation. Rather than simply prescribing a pain reliever for chronic headache, a naturopath will work with the patient to determine the root cause of the headaches, whether it is dehydration, low blood sugar, muscular tension, stress, chemical sensitivities or even meningitis.
A naturopathic doctor will be less likely to treat any single, acute condition than they are to make your whole body healthier so that it can fight off infection and build the strength to heal itself. A naturopathic doctor also has more options than medical doctors for chronic conditions such as fatigue, heartburn or insomnia. Finally, naturopathic doctors have longer office visits than medical doctors, typically 45 to 60 minutes each. This allows enough time for you and your naturopathic doctor to work through any questions or concerns together.
What conditions can naturopathic medicine treat?
Because of the naturopathic doctor’s approach of treating the person, not the illness, there are very few illnesses or conditions that naturopathic medicine cannot alleviate. Naturopathic medicine may be a great adjunct to more conventional medicine for ailments that might otherwise be considered outside the naturopathic doctor’s scope.
Certain conditions and ailments, however, have been shown to be particularly receptive to naturopathic care. Some, but certainly not all, of these are gastrointestinal disorders, environmental and food allergies, chronic sinusitis, weight gain or loss, asthma, skin conditions, obesity, blood sugar disorders, painful or heavy menstrual periods, migraines, fatigue, infertility, mood disorders, PMS, menopause, chronic heartburn and insomnia.
What sort of treatments will a naturopathic doctor prescribe?
Naturopathic doctors may prescribe things like botanicals, vitamin and mineral supplements, exercise, dietary adjustments, aids for coping with stress and other lifestyle changes designed to help strengthen your body’s immune system and health. Much time will be spent on education – about your condition, how to make you feel better, and things you can do to improve your health without conventional medication. In states that recognize our license (not RI), naturopathic doctors have the ability to prescribe more conventional treatments such as antibiotics, thyroid medication, hormones, birth control medications, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications. In Rhode Island where we are not recognized as licensed physicians, we can still integrate your care with any existing prescriptions or treatments your conventional doctor has chosen for you.
Will Insurance Cover my Visit?
In Rhode Island, insurance does not cover naturopathic care. I am happy to work with your primary care physician, who can order necessary labs and prescriptions under your current policy. Some patients have been able to use a Health Savings Account to pay for some of their care.
Is there a difference between a “naturopath” and a “naturopathic doctor”?
Yes, although the differences can be confusing. The term “Naturopathic Doctor” can only be used by licensed medical practitioners who have attended an approved naturopathic medical school and practice in a licensed state. In an unlicensed state, both terms can be freely used by anyone, regardless of their background or training. Some of these practitioners may have an extensive background of information and years of experience treating patients. Others may have only attended a weekend workshop. Naturopathic doctors are very proud of their schooling and the education they have received.
NDs are trained to be primary care physicians with an emphasis on holistic health, nutrition and prevention. Our training includes all aspects of diagnosis using blood work, imaging and physical exam as well as pharmacology, minor surgery, IV therapy, chiropractic manipulation, nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy and counseling. Naturopathic medical training differs from conventional medical school in the following ways: (much) more time studying nutrition, physical medicine, botanical medicine, homeopathy, nutritional supplements and less time in pharmacology. Additionally electives can be taken in Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, sports medicine, advanced botanical medicine. NDs are considered experts in complementary and alternative medicine as well as drug/nutrient and drug/botanical interactions.
Is there a difference between a naturopathic doctor and a homeopath?
Yes. Naturopathic doctors learn many modalities during their training, such as botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, counseling, nutrition and homeopathy. Naturopathic doctors have extensive training in most modalities and tend to specialize in several. Homeopaths learn one modality – homeopathy. They are also not medical practitioners and do not practice medicine. They will not do physical exams, blood tests, or diagnose your medical condition (all things that a naturopathic doctor does) and cannot prescribe medications other than homeopathic remedies.
I already have a Primary Care Physician (PCP). Is there a reason to see a naturopathic doctor as well?
Definitely, especially while in Rhode Island, where an ND can not be a PCP. Keep in mind that a visit to a naturopathic doctor is like a tune up is for your car – just like scheduled maintenance keeps the tow truck away, regular visits to your naturopathic doctor can keep you healthy and out of your medical doctor’s office. Disease prevention and wellness optimization are basic tenets of the philosophy of naturopathic medicine, while the education of medical doctors tends to focus on emergency care and crisis resolution. Your naturopathic doctor and your medical doctor can be part of the same team, focused on different methods to keep you healthy.
Aren’t naturopathic doctors against all conventional prescriptions and medical treatments?
Absolutely not. Ever since the discovery of penicillin, scientific advances in pharmacology have saved countless lives and improved wellness for generations of people. There are some modalities in conventional medicine for which naturopathic medicine provides no substitute. However, there are many levels of intervention that can be used to return a person to health and the most modern method may not be the healthiest method for the patient.
As a general rule, naturopathic doctors favor using the least invasive methods. This might mean rest, hydration, or immune-boosting herbs with antimicrobial properties for a respiratory infection. If that approach fails, then a naturopathic doctor can refer the patient out to another specialist – the health of the patient is the ultimate concern of any doctor, regardless of whether they are naturopathic or allopathic.
In fact, I believe the best healthcare is where naturopathic doctors work with medical doctors to provide adjunctive care, such as natural treatments for the side effects of oncologist-prescribed chemotherapy. The basic philosophy of the naturopathic doctor is that the patient has the ultimate responsibility for their own health and always has the final say about what level of intervention is used for their care.