Naturopathy is a distinct system of primary healthcare – an art, discipline, science, philosophy and practice of diagnosing, treating and preventing disease. It is a system of medicine, which seeks to facilitate and promote the body’s inherent self-healing mechanisms. The procedure of naturopathy range over a wide spectrum of modalities, which are always nontoxic and non-suppressive, and are always based on nutrition – dietetics, structural readjustments, physical therapies and psychological counseling. Naturopathy or healing power of Nature (Vis Medicatrics Nature) underpins almost all the therapeutic techniques of holistic alternative medicine. Naturopathy emphasizes upon the treatment of the whole person rather than just treating the disease. Although Naturopathy is a relatively recent ward its approach and principles represents the essence of a broad holistic attitude to health and disease.
Naturopathy is a natural approach to health and healing that recognizes the integrity of the whole person. Naturopathic Medicine represents the “vitalistic” tradition of medicine. That is, it treats disease through the stimulation, promotion, and support of the body’s inherent healing capacity. These treatments are chosen to work with the patient’s vital force, respecting the natural healing processes of nature.
The practice of Naturopathic Medicine includes six underlying principles of healing. These are based on the observation of health and disease. This observation process involves the use of modern scientific methodologies and language. The following principles make Naturopathic Medicine different from all other medical approaches:
First do no harm: Primum Non Nocere
Illness is a purposeful process of the organism. The process of healing includes the generation of symptoms which are, in fact, an expression of the life force attempting to heal itself. Therapeutic actions should be complementary to and synergistic with this healing process. The physician’s actions can support or antagonize the actions of the vis mediatrix naturae – the healing power of Nature. Therefore, methods designed to suppress symptoms without removing the underlying causes are considered harmful and to be avoided or minimized.
The healing power of nature: Vis Mediatrix Naturae
The body has an inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. The healing process is ordered and intelligent; nature heals through the response of the life force. The physician’s role is to facilitate this process, to identify and remove obstacles to health and recovery, and to establish or restore a healthy internal and external environment.
Identify and treat the cause: Tolle Causam
Illness does not occur without cause. Underlying causes of disease must be discovered and removed or treated before a person can recover completely from illness. Symptoms express the body’s attempt to heal, but are not the cause of disease. Symptoms, therefore, should not be suppressed by treatment. Causes may occur on many levels including physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. The physician must evaluate fundamental underlying causes on all levels, directing treatment at root causes rather than at symptomatic expression.
Heal the whole person: Tolle Totum
Health and disease are conditions of the whole organism, a whole involving the complex interaction of many factors. The naturopathic physician must treat the whole person by taking these factors into account. The harmonious functioning of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects are essential to recovery from and prevention of disease. This requires a comprehensive approach to diagnosis and treatment.
The physician as teacher: Docere
A cooperative doctor-patient relationship has inherent therapeutic value. The physician’s major role is to educate and encourage the patient to take responsibility for their own health. The physician is a catalyst for healthful change, empowering and motivating the patient to assume responsibility. It is the patient, not the doctor, who ultimately creates/accomplishes healing. Teaching with hope, knowledge, and understanding, the physician acts to enable patients to heal.
Prevention is the best cure: praevenire
The ultimate goal of any health care system should be prevention of disease. This is accomplished through education and promotion of life-habits that create good health. The physician learns to assess risk factors and to sharpen their deductive reasoning, and understand the patient’s circumstances. Appropriate interventions are then sought to avoid further harm or risk to the patient. Building health works better and more surely than fighting disease.
The key-points of Naturopathic philosophy are as under:
- All diseases, their cause and treatment are one. Except for traumatic and environmental conditions, the cause of all diseases is one i.e. accumulation of morbid matter in the body and their elimination from the body is treatment.
- The primary cause of disease is not bacteria or virus. Bacteria and virus enter and survive in the body only after the accumulation of morbid matter when a favorable atmosphere for their growth is established in body. Hence, the basic cause is morbid matter, not the bacteria. They are the secondary causes.
- Acute diseases are self-healing effort of the body. Hence, they are our friends, not the enemy. Chronic diseases are outcome of wrong treatment and suppression of the acute diseases.
- Nature is the greatest healer. Body has a capacity to prevent itself from disease and regain health if unhealthy.
- In Naturopathy, patient is treated and not the disease.
- Patients suffering from chronic ailments are also treated successfully in comparatively less time by Naturopathy.
- After emerging, suppressed diseases can be cured by Naturopathy.
- Naturopathy treats all the aspects like physical, mental, social and spiritual at the same time.
- Naturopathy treats body as a whole instead of giving treatment to each organ separately.
- Naturopathy does not use medicine. According to Naturopathy, “Food is Medicine”.
- According to Gandhiji “Rama Nama is the best Natural Treatment”, means doing prayer according to one’s spiritual faith is an important part of treatment.
Naturopathic philosophy serves as the basis for naturopathic practice. The current scope of naturopathic practice includes, but is not limited to:
Therapeutic Fasting & Clinical Nutrition
A cornerstone of naturopathic practice is that food is the best medicine. Clinical fasting & nutrition is a very important therapy in Naturopathy. The simplest way of using nutrition is to work with the patient in improving their diet. This is usually done after the naturopathic physician studies the patient’s eating habits. This often involves asking the patient to write down what they ate, and this includes: quantities, types of food, and beverages. Nutrition is the building block of the body’s tissues and proper levels of nutrients are essential to normal physiological function. Naturopathic physicians supplement the diet with concentrated preparations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Naturopathic physicians use dietetics, natural hygiene, fasting, and nutritional supplementation in their practice.
Many plant substances are powerful medicines. Whereas a single chemically derived drug may address a single problem, botanical medicines are able to address a variety of problems simultaneously. Their organic nature makes botanicals compatible with the body’s own chemistry; hence, they can be gently effective with fewer toxic side effects. Their availability and safety make them more useful and affordable for home care of chronic conditions.
Hydrotherapy is an integral part of naturopathic practice, and a very traditional one. The early naturopathic doctors made great use of hydrotherapy in their practice. As the name implies hydrotherapy involves the use of water as a healing agent. Water has a long history of use in medicine. Virtually every medical tradition has some kind of hydrotherapy as a part of its therapeutic arsenal. The original idea of hydrotherapy in Naturopathic medicine was to assist in the process of detoxification. It was also used to stimulate the healing powers of the body. There are specific hydrotherapy techniques such as: wet sheet packs; constitutional treatments (alternating hot and cold to back / chest and abdomen); steam baths and many other types and variants of treatment applications. Naturopathy grew out of a central European “nature cure” tradition, that involved curative water treatments.
The naturopathic physician traditionally has used “all of nature’s forces” and this includes: heat, light, vibration, electricity, magnetic fields and more. This is still a part of naturopathic medicine. Various therapies include: Electrotherapies; Therapeutic ultrasound including phonophoresis; Interferential Current Therapy; Russian muscle stimulation; Iontophoresis; T.E.N.S. stimulation; Diathermy; Magneto therapy; Manual Therapies; Spinal and peripheral joint manipulation; Swedish Massage; Deep massage; Stretching; Muscle energy technique; Trigger point therapy/massage. These therapies are carefully applied, but can help with general healing, reduction of pain, and improvement of joint and muscle function.
Oriental medicine is a complementary philosophy of natural healing brought to the medical community, largely through naturopathic medicine. Asiatic and Oriental systems offer an important understanding of the unity of the body and mind, which add to those of the West. Unification between philosophy and practice in the East and West offers health benefits for all of our cultures. Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda provide ancient understandings and methods of treatment. These promise to help harmonize the imbalances present in disease conditions and restore the dynamic balance of health.
Acupuncture works very effectively when combined with other therapies to treat various conditions including digestive complaints, hormonal imbalances, mood disturbances, skin conditions and Headaches. Acupuncture may also be used in the treatment of acute or chronic pain. Specialized acupuncture techniques are especially useful for muscle injuries, trigger point release, muscular tension, headaches and migraines.
Lifestyle counseling is a foundational component of naturopathic therapy and yet, it is not a singular approach or set of procedures. Practically, all naturopathic physicians incorporate lifestyle counseling into their practice. This term encompasses a wide array of skills which have as their central theme assisting the patient in making changes to their thought and action which supports the healing process. In this respect, the naturopathic physician plays a role of teacher, coach, and source of information. Naturopathic physicians actively listen and try to understand the obstacles to change and healthy adaptation in their patient. A tenet of naturopathic medicine is that emotional health and physical health are interdependent. Naturopathic practice includes the integrated use of counseling techniques along with such methods as stress management and biofeedback when indicated.
Naturopathic physicians provide natural childbirth care in either an out-of-hospital setting, or in a hospital. They offer prenatal and postnatal care using modern diagnostic techniques. The naturopathic approach strengthens healthy body functions so that complications associated with pregnancy can be prevented or minimized.
Mental attitudes and emotional states may influence, or even cause, physical illness. Counseling, nutritional balancing, yoga, stress management, hypnotherapy, biofeedback, and other therapies are used to help patients heal on levels other than only the physical.
The modalities commonly practiced include: Acupuncture, Applied kinesiology, Botanical medicine, Brainwave therapies, Chelation therapy for atherosclerosis, Colonic enemas, Color therapy, Cranial osteopathy, Hair analysis, Homeopathy, Iridology, Live blood analysis, Nature cure – a range of therapies based upon exposure to natural elements such as sunshine, fresh air, heat, or cold, Nutrition (examples include vegetarian and whole food diet, fasting, and abstention from alcohol and sugar), Ozone therapy, Physical medicine (includes naturopathic, osseous, and soft tissue manipulative therapy, sports medicine, exercise and hydrotherapy), Psychological counseling (examples include meditation, relaxation, and other methods of stress management, Public health measures and hygiene, Reflexology, Rolfing, and traditional Chinese medicine.