March 5, 2018

Why do patients choose to see a naturopathic doctor?

1. When patients are looking for a doctor who will treat the body as a whole, not just the illness.

Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are trained to treat the whole person. This requires taking the time to listen and understand the genetic, environmental, and behavioral/lifestyle factors that can affect the patient’s health. At the initial appointment, they’ll spend up to an hour or more talking with their ND.

2. When patients want personalized treatment.

NDs understand there is no one-size-fits-all treatment that works for everybody. After the initial visit with an ND, patients leave the doctor’s office with a treatment plan uniquely tailored to them, their health status, health goals, and lifestyle.

3. When patients want to treat the root cause of an illness, not just the symptoms.

Sometimes having trouble sleeping, aches and pains, strange or hard to treat skin rashes, and indigestion or stomach discomfort are symptoms of an underlying illness. While these symptoms can be managed, it’s more important to understand and treat the root cause—which is the focus of naturopathic medicine.

4. When patients want to actively participate in managing their own health.

An ND will help patients learn what their body needs to get well and stay healthy. Patients have the opportunity to feel empowered and hopeful when they understand and are actively engaged in managing their own health.

5. When patients have chronic pain and don’t want to use pharmaceutical drugs such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or highly addictive opioids to manage it.

Pain that lasts longer than six months is more complex than acute pain and requires a holistic, long-term approach to manage. NDs are trained to work with patients to determine which combination of therapies will work best for them to heal or manage their pain safely so that they can resume daily activities.

6. When patients have tried all conventional medical options for diagnosing and treating a health condition.

Certain chronic health conditions that have symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, or gastrointestinal distress can be difficult to diagnose and treat, and can benefit from a holistic approach. NDs use diagnostic tools common in conventional medicine, such as detailed health, disease, and prescription drug histories, physical exams, and targeted laboratory testing and imaging. NDs also consider detailed diet history, lifestyle habits and choices, exercise history, and social/emotional factors to assess patients’ needs. These approaches can open doors to new treatment pathways and options.

Licensed NDs and their scope of practice

Licensed NDs combine knowledge of the body’s natural healing properties with the rigors of modern science to focus on holistic, proactive prevention and comprehensive diagnosis and treatment. By using protocols that minimize the risk of harm, naturopathic physicians help facilitate the body’s inherent ability to restore and maintain optimal health.

NDs treat all medical conditions and can provide both individual and family health care. They can work as primary care providers and as part of an integrated healthcare team. Among the most common ailments they treat are allergies, chronic pain, digestive issues, hormonal imbalances, obesity, respiratory conditions, heart disease, fertility problems, menopause, adrenal fatigue, cancer, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. Naturopathic doctors can perform minor surgeries, such as removing cysts or stitching up superficial wounds, however they do not practice major surgery. They are also trained to use prescription drugs, although they emphasize less toxic substances that promote natural healing first, following the Therapeutic Order™ to provide the greatest benefit with the least potential for damage. For more information on the Therapeutic Order, see a prior blog post, available here.

NDs can order all blood reference range and diagnostic imaging tests. They can also order individualized specialty functional medicine labs, such as those for assessing digestive impairment, hormone imbalances, heavy metal and/or environmental toxin exposure, nutritional deficiencies, and adrenal dysregulation. They evaluate their patients’ lab results in combination with their clinical presentation, health history, lifestyle and environmental factors that might be preventing them from having optimal health.

Choose an ND wisely

When seeking medical care from an ND, it is important to select a doctor who has a naturopathic medical degree earned from an accredited, four-year, in-residence, naturopathic medical college and is licensed or certified. For more information on how to choose a naturopathic doctor, see a prior blog post available here.

This information has been provided by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM).

About the INM

The INM is a national not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that provides public education about naturopathic medicine and increases consumer access to naturopathic doctors. As a close partner to the AANP, the INM strives to increase consumer and physician choice in safe, effective healthcare that improves patient outcomes and lowers costs. For more information visit or call 855-799-4490.

About the AANP

The AANP is the professional association that represents licensed naturopathic physicians. The AANP strives to make naturopathic medicine available to every American, and to increase recognition of naturopathic physicians as the identified authorities on natural medicine. Learn more at

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