Is a Naturopathic Doctor a Real Doctor?
Naturopaths can be very helpful for treating common health conditions, such as allergies, asthma, indigestion and heart disease. They often use natural herbs, supplements and other non-traditional methods to help patients achieve and maintain health, reducing the need for pharmaceutical medications.
The answer to this question can vary depending on where you live, but in general, a licensed naturopathic doctor (ND) earns four years of graduate school from an accredited medical school and is then eligible to become licensed as a physician by the United States Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline. In addition to completing a rigorous, academic curriculum, NDs complete training in clinical nutrition, homeopathy, botanical medicine and other holistic modalities.
Unlike medical doctors, who complete four-year graduate programs and then go on to a residency to gain experience in medicine, naturopathic students typically are able to work with patients on their own after graduation. In fact, the number of naturopathic doctors graduating each year is so low that there aren’t enough spots available in most naturopathic medical schools to allow students to do their residency.
Many naturopaths, like Hermes, are self-taught in alternative healing practices such as herbal and nutritional therapies. Others may have completed a non-degree certificate program or an undergraduate degree from a university.
Some naturopathic doctors may even have a background in other fields, such as nursing or pharmacy, and may incorporate their knowledge of these subjects into their practice. But it’s important to note that naturopathic physicians are trained to provide primary health care and not secondary health care such as surgery or diagnostic procedures.
The qualifications to become a naturopathic physician include an accredited four-year bachelor’s degree, which must be in the sciences or a similar field. In addition, naturopathic medical schools require applicants to complete a variety of coursework in physiology, biology and chemistry, among other subjects.
A naturopathic doctor must also complete three to six years of a post-graduate program in naturopathic medicine. These degrees are accredited by the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education and qualify graduates to be licensed in all jurisdictions that recognize naturopathic physicians.
During the first appointment, a naturopathic doctor will ask you about your medical history and your current diet, along with questions about lifestyle habits, stress levels, family health histories and social and emotional issues that could impact your health. They will then take time with you to assess your overall health and create a plan that addresses your specific health needs.
Your naturopathic doctor will keep you informed of any tests that are being done and the results, and will help you manage your health through lifestyle changes, natural treatments and other therapies. The naturopathic doctor will also teach you how to implement these changes into your daily life.
The naturopathic physician will then monitor your progress and help you recommit to your treatment plan if needed. They can prescribe medication if they feel you need to.
A naturopathic doctor can also perform minor surgery and use herbal and nutritional supplements to treat certain ailments. This includes repair of superficial wounds, removal of foreign bodies and cysts and treatment of acute and chronic conditions. Some naturopathic physicians specialize in women’s health and fertility care, as well.