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What Do Naturopathic Doctors Do?

Herbal medicine may be used by naturopathic doctors to treat various disorders.
Naturopathic doctors typically suggest vitamins, herbs, and other natural treatments rather than prescription drugs.
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  • Written By: S. Gonzales
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2014
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Naturopathy is a type of primary health care devoted to using natural materials and remedies to treat various disorders and diseases in a patient. Naturopathic medicine is usually practiced by licensed physicians who have been trained by accredited schools. Every aspect of a disease or a disorder, including diagnoses, treatment and prevention, can be treated by naturopathic doctors. Naturopathic doctors may use herbal medicine, clinical nutrition, homeopathy, naturopathic manipulation and Eastern philosophies to formulate a proper course of treatment.

One of the main goals of naturopathic doctors is to identify the underlying cause of an illness. They may examine physical, genetic, emotional and dietary factors that may have contributed to patient's present state. With natural remedies, they may suggest modifications to a patient's exercise regime and dietary habits and may advocate lifestyle changes.

Naturopathic doctors are required to undergo specific training in five provinces of Canada, the District of Columbia and at least 15 different American states. They are required to complete naturopathic education at a school accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education. Upon graduating, they must pass exams administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners. Failing to complete any of these things will result in the inability to obtain a legitimate naturopathic doctor's title and practice privileges. It should be noted that not all procedures that naturopaths train for can be performed in certain jurisdictions.

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Despite an emphasis on natural treatment, doctors who practice naturopathy may use some of the same tools that medical doctors use to treat patients. Blood tests and medical imaging can help naturopaths determine the exact cause of a disease, for instance. Minor surgery may even be performed on a patient. However, minor surgery, intravenous therapy and natural childbirth are areas that need to be further studied by the naturopath before he or she can perform them on patients.

Naturopathic doctors do not undergo the same training as medical doctors do. For example, they are not required to complete residency training. In training, there may be less emphasis on clinical science and they may be educated in areas like homeopathy and vitalism, which contradict or stand in opposition to conventional medical treatments; for example, naturopathic doctors may suggest the use of vitamins, mineral supplements and other natural materials instead of prescription drugs. However, at the end of their training, they can be board-certified and practice as primary care providers. Those interested in seeing a naturopath should be aware that traditional naturopaths don't undergo as much official training as board-certified naturopathic doctors.

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