In 2013, the US Senate passed a resolution designating the second week in October (October 8-14, 2017) as Naturopathic Medicine Week to encourage Americans to learn more about this unique healthcare profession.
My own journey towards naturopathic medicine started in high school, when I discovered the impact of exercise and nutrition on my energy level and mood. I earned an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and worked as an engineer for several years after graduating. While I enjoyed the challenges and problem-solving skills that the work entailed, I discovered I was more interested in a holistically oriented career in healthcare. I knew I was interested in studying medicine but longed for a system that allowed doctors to have more time with their patients, as well as one that emphasized a healthy lifestyle as the foundation.
I began using botanical medicine and nutritional approaches for my own health concerns, and loved how effective these approaches were without accompanying side effects. Then one day I read the words ‘naturopathic doctor’ in an article one day, and knew that this was the profession I was looking for.
After researching the schools, I was impressed with the rigors of the programs but felt uncertain about returning to school for another four years. My mother lived in a state where naturopathic doctors were licensed at the time, so I suggested that she see an ND to discuss her chronic allergies. Months later, when I was still leaning towards not going back to school, I returned home for a visit to hear my mother excitedly describe how amazing she felt, and how she was able to discontinue all of her medications which she had taken for years by following a comprehensive naturopathic plan. This inspired me to complete my school applications. The following fall I attended Bastyr University in Seattle, and have been fulfilled in my career as a naturopathic doctor since graduating and moving back to Austin 10 years ago.
One of the most common questions encountered by naturopathic doctors (NDs) is “What exactly is a naturopathic doctor and how are you trained’?
Before answering this question, it’s important to point out that although naturopathic doctors are now licensed in 20 states, there are currently no licensing laws to regulate our profession in the state of Texas. Interestingly enough, Texans have historically supported the licensure of naturopathic doctors, who were licensed to practice medicine in Texas from 1949 to 1957.
Naturopathic doctors (NDs) are guided by the following principles:
- Identify and Treat the Causes – naturopathic doctors work like detectives to uncover and address underlying factors leading to disease, rather than merely suppressing symptoms.
- Doctor as Teacher – patients are educated to understand their health on a deeper level, thus empowering them to make better healthcare decisions and advocate for themselves.
- Treat the Whole Person – mental, physical, social, environmental and spiritual aspects of health are all considered important facets of one’s health and are factored into an individualized plan of care.
- First Do No Harm – naturopathic doctors utilize a therapeutic order, emphasizing therapies and methods which do not have harmful side effects. NDs are also trained to recognize when a stronger or more forceful intervention is in the patient’s best interest, or when a referral to another provider is warranted. In many licensed states, NDs may serve as primary care doctors, contract with insurance companies, and prescribe pharmaceuticals when necessary.
- The Healing Power of Nature – naturopathic doctors strive to remove obstacles to health, with the understanding that there is an inherent self-healing process in humans.
- Prevention – Naturopathic doctors emphasize disease prevention, taking into account hereditary factors, risk factors, and appropriate screening tests.
Naturopathic doctors are trained at four-year, graduate level naturopathic medical schools. The curriculum includes the same basic sciences as conventional medical school (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, histology, pharmacology, immunology, microbiology etc.), along with extensive training in botanical medicine, nutrition, hydrotherapy, physical medicine, counseling and other holistic modalities. Clinical training includes supervised shifts at teaching clinics as well as preceptorships. An increasing number of residencies are becoming available as the profession grows.
In North America there are seven naturopathic medical schools, accredited by the Council of Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) and members of the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC). The American Association of Naturopathic Medical Colleges (AANMC) is a great resource to learn more about accredited naturopathic medical education. In addition to 20 states, naturopathic doctors are also licensed in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If you would like to find a naturopathic doctor who has attended a CNME accredited school in your area, please visit the Texas Association of Naturopathic Doctors (www.txand.org). If you would like to support the advancement of the naturopathic profession, please consider joining as a supporting member or making a donation to support legislative efforts.
Amy Tyler, ND* received her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University and also holds a BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. She takes the time to listen closely to her clients and to educate them, empowering them to gain a deeper understanding and ownership of their health. Her individualized wellness plans, incorporating herbs, homeopathy, nutritional supplements, and nutrition and lifestyle advice, are designed to support the body’s innate healing abilities.