How Does a Doctor of Natural Medicine Compare to an MD?

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Is there any difference at all between the two professions, or even between doctors of different types of healing arts in general.The truth is that while some people may find a doctor who practices Western medicine more appealing, and others might prefer Eastern treatments, the differences really boil down to personal preference.

If you want to know more about how they work and what their respective advantages are, keep reading!

By contrast to Western medicine, naturopathic doctors emphasize using natural means to heal. They focus on prevention by addressing underlying causes of disease and employing treatments that do not produce adverse side effects. Naturopathic doctors believe in individualizing care for each patient. They tailor their approach to the unique needs of each person, taking into consideration physical, environmental and emotional factors as well as an individual’s genetic makeup.

Although a naturopath is trained in classical medicine, he or she also studies many alternative forms of treatment – including homeopathy, herbalism, Ayurvedic medicine and nutrition. In fact, many NDs are well versed in traditional medical procedures like surgery and drugs too, but use these only when necessary. This is because naturopathic doctors rely on natural therapies whenever possible to control or cure an illness.

Dr. Josh Axe from draxe.com says:

There are several key differences between naturopathic doctors and medical doctors (MDs). For example, unlike MDs who have been trained in a single field of medicine, NDs undergo rigorous training that enables them to diagnose and treat patients suffering from any condition. In fact, some states allow NDs to fully practice without the help of an MD. Unlike conventional medicine, naturopathic medicine is based on the idea that your body has an innate ability to heal itself. Because of this, naturopathic therapies focus on stimulating and supporting the body’s innate ability to heal itself. In addition to treating disease, NDs also work to prevent it by addressing underlying causes that often go ignored in conventional medicine.

I’m no expert but I can tell you what my experiences are. Being an MD vs a ND is a very different experience. Not only is the amount of studying and schoolwork completely different, you also have an entirely different outlook on what’s wrong with people and how to fix them. I’m sure they feel the same way about us too! Perhaps someone who has gone through both types of training can share their experiences in the comments section below.

All kidding aside, I think the idea has merit. If you have been following my blog for any time at all, you know that I discuss a lot of different remedies and approaches to health. Sometimes my readers will find something from one of my posts that helps them.

Other times they want more information about a topic or a particular remedy so they do some research and find a completely different story from the one I originally told. It can be frustrating for both of us because they are looking for something that will work for them and I just gave them information about something that didn’t help at all or may even have harmed them. If we were on the same page, sharing a common goal, I would know whether or not they can do the thing I suggested and if it’s something that will help them.

Recently, another licensed naturopath reached out to me on Facebook. We had a few discussions about different things that we do with our practice (they are in Canada so some of their rules / regulations are slightly different than where I am). Since they are a naturopath they have to see patients with “western medicine” first and then if the problem is not resolved or whatever, they can treat them using natural methods.

So in our discussions we were talking about what conditions might be helped by a Naturopath vs an MD. I was actually surprised (in a good way) to discover that we were on the same page. We both want to help people get well and stay well so there is no need for medical intervention (if not necessary).

The more I talk about this idea, the more I like it. My hope is that if you are sick, you will always go see a licensed physician – if necessary. An ND should be your first option if you are sick because they have a lot of information and tools to help you get well as quickly as possible.

Now, let’s pretend that there was an MD / ND clinic in town, what would the process look like?

First, your primary care physician (MD) would refer you to the naturopath (ND) for an appointment.

In that appointment you would discuss

1.) your health history,

2.) what’s wrong with you, and

3.) where they will begin looking to fix things.

The ND may order some lab work or other testing in order to build a picture of your situation.

If I’m correct, naturopaths have to take the same boards and are licensed in all 50 states. They practice primarily as primary care physicians with a focus on holistic health (think of it like family medicine, but more natural).

So what conditions would an ND treat?

I’m thinking irritable bowel syndrome , gastritis  (and other gastrointestinal issues), allergies , headaches & migraines, cold and flu symptoms, skin diseases / rashes (like eczema ), diabetes , metabolic syndrome & obesity and probably much more.

In conclusion, I think there is a lot of good to come out of this idea. I like the fact that naturopaths would be going through the same training as MD’s and not just hanging out a shingle somewhere because they passed their board exams.

They have to prove they know what they are doing in order to get licensed. The standard will be raised and the education they received will be solid.