I’m often asked the question “So what exactly is a naturopathic doctor, what do they do and can they really help me?” Many people are surprised to hear that naturopathic doctors are primary care providers and that their scope of practice is so broad. Read on to find out how a naturopathic doctor can help you and why you need to have one as part of your health care team.
1. In today’s health care climate, everyone needs to be his or her own health advocate.
A naturopathic doctor (ND) will empower you to take charge of your own health and become your own advocate. They will educate you on how to obtain the information you require, ask the right questions and seek the health care you need. Think of a naturopathic doctor as your advocate as well, a member of you health team that truly cares about your health and provides options for care from other providers that you may not have considered.
2. A naturopathic doctor will dig deep to get to the root cause of your illness.
If you answer yes to one or more of these questions, naturopathic medicine can help:
- Are you not feeling your best and no one has been able to figure out why?
- Are you tired of getting temporary relief of your symptoms?
- Do you feel like sometimes you are simply putting a band-aid on your issues but desire deeper healing?
- Do you have a chronic condition and have been told it is just something you will have to live with?
A naturopathic doctor will work with you and take a look at your bigger picture. They will then put the pieces together to figure out the root cause of what ails you. Once you know the cause, it is much more effective to treat from this perspective and in doing so, can provide long-lasting relief from your symptoms and oftentimes resolution of your illness.
3. A naturopathic doctor has the luxury of spending time with you.
In the first visit with an ND, there is time to get to know you, do a thorough health history, physical exam and talk to you about your health concerns. There is time to provide answers to your questions, explain why you may be feeling they way you are and what you can do about it. The more you know as a patient, the better equipped you are to improve your health. The therapeutic relationship between a naturopathic doctor and patient is undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of the medicine.
4. Naturopathic doctors have many tools in our toolbox.
Naturopathic doctors tailor treatment plans to suit your individual health goals and personal preferences. Dietary and lifestyle changes are usually foundational, as well as the hardest to changes to make long-term. Don’t worry, naturopathic doctors will be your health cheerleaders and motivate you to stay on track.
An ND will determine your individual needs, whether it’s correcting nutritional deficiencies with supplementation, botanical medicine to help boost your body’s immune system or balance your hormones, homeopathy to help shift a stubborn condition and enable other therapies to become more effective or perhaps acupuncture for your migraine headaches (and just about any other condition you can think of). If you are going through a tough period in your life and need some support, naturopathic doctors are experts in stress management and counseling, while also providing the resources for additional care when required.
5. You take medications and are experiencing side effects.
Perhaps you are even taking medications to counter the side effects of medications. While taking pharmaceuticals might be a requirement of your condition (and even save your life), naturopathic medicine can help to manage many of the side effects from pharmaceuticals. Some side effects can also be caused by drug-induced nutrient depletions and can be effectively and safely managed by correcting for these deficiencies.
It’s also important to note here that naturopathic doctors are not anti-pharmaceutical. We advocate for their use when required. And yes, there are times where your condition requires them or, as I mentioned above, they can save your life. We endeavor to help you manage your condition before it gets to the point where pharmaceuticals are required. Do not put off seeing a naturopathic doctor. Further to this point, in Ontario, many naturopathic doctors now have prescribing rights, which means we can now access and prescribe certain controlled substances.
6. You are in pain and need some relief.
Naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer in terms pain relief and addressing the root cause of pain. We have safe and effective therapies to target chronic pain (caused by conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease) and acute pain (caused by conditions such as muscular tension, post-surgery, injuries and low back pain). An ND will also take a look into physical, mental and emotional factors that may play a role in your experience of pain.
7. You are generally healthy, but want to optimize your health & mental wellness, boost your energy and feel your best.
Don’t wait until you’re sick to see a naturopathic doctor. Many patients who feel healthy often remark that they didn’t know how poor they were actually feeling until they felt better. Naturopathic doctors can help you set up or strengthen the foundational pillars of health in your life and assist your body to run like a well-oiled machine. A commonly used analogy is that the body is like a car. If you take care of it with regular tune-ups and oil changes, you will be able to enjoy driving it for much longer than would simply fixing things when they go wrong or break down. You deserve to take good care of your health. You deserve to live life to the fullest and feel your best. Make sure you are proactive and put your health first. You are worth it.
8. You are trying to get pregnant or are pregnant and would like support through this time.
Naturopathic medicine has a lot to offer in terms of prepping the body for pregnancy. Ideally, this process should begin about a year from when you desire to conceive and at latest four to six months prior. There are also evidence-based therapies for moms-to-be to provide the best start for baby. A naturopathic doctor can help guide you and also offer resources for additional health care options throughout your pregnancy in addition to your primary care provider during this time – and OB/GYN or midwife - such as a doula or pelvic floor therapist.
Struggling with infertility? It can be the most frustrating and trying time in a couple’s lives. Naturopathic doctors can support you through this period, offer therapies designed to boost fertility or uncover the root cause of fertility issues. Naturopathic doctors can also utilize therapies such as acupuncture to help to increase the effectiveness of in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
9. You have any of the following conditions (or any condition for that matter).
- An autoimmune condition
- Digestive issues, heartburn or an upset stomach
- You feel depressed or anxious or are having problems sleeping at night
- You feel like your hormones are all over the place
- You are tired. All. The. Time.
Cancer deserves special mention here. Naturopathic medicine is used as an adjunctive therapy with regards to cancer, to help mitigate the many effects of the medications currently used in cancer therapy and to prevent recurrence. There are naturopathic doctors who have a special interest in cancer and have devoted their practice to naturopathic oncology and helping patients with cancer.
10. You want a primary care doctor who can provide a second opinion and help you to improve your quality life in the long run.
Naturopathic doctors are primary care providers, meaning we can be the only health care provider a patient sees. We are trained to treat what is within our scope and recognize when we need to refer out. We can order lab work and specialized tests when required. We are happy to work along with a medical doctor and other members of your health care team. We can also provide a second opinion on the state of your health or medical diagnoses. Oftentimes a less invasive approach may be tried in an effort to shift your health back into balance. If not, we will have that discussion and provide education surrounding what your next options are.
For naturopathic doctors prevention is paramount. This is conceivably the most important point of them all. Preventing illness or disease from occurring in the first place and enjoying a fulfilling quality of life from beginning to end are perhaps the most important health goals you can have. If you agree, it’s time to become your own health advocate and seek out a naturopathic doctor to join your health care team
Dr. Kristen Agg, ND is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a general family practice in Burlington, ON, Canada. She is passionate about helping her patients feel their very best. You can contact Dr. Agg by calling 1.905.634.5495 or emailing her practice at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about here, visit her website, here.