The practitioner of naturopathic medicine considers the person as a whole, treats symptoms such as fever as a natural manifestation of the body's defense mechanism that should not be interrupted, and works to heal disease by altering the patient's diet, lifestyle, or work habits. The basis of naturopathy can be traced back through Native American practices, to India, China, and ancient Greece.
In naturopathy, the body's power to heal is acknowledged to be a powerful process that the practitioner should enhance using natural remedies. Fever, inflammation, and other symptoms are not the underlying cause of disease, but are reflections of the body's attempt to rid itself of the underlying cause. The disease itself originates from spiritual, physical, or emotional roots, and the cause must be identified in order that effective therapy may be applied. The patient is viewed holistically and not as a collection of symptoms; the cure is gauged to be safe and not harmful to the patient. The practitioner is a teacher who is trained to recognize the underlying problems and teach the patient to adopt a healthier lifestyle, diet, or attitude to forestall disease. The naturopathic practitioner is a specialist in preventive medicine who believes prevention can best be achieved by teaching patients to live in ways that maintain good health.
In addition to advising the patient on lifestyle changes to prevent disease, the naturopathic practitioner may also call upon acupuncture, homeopathy, physical therapy, and other means to strengthen the patient's ability to fight disease. Herbal preparations as well as vitamin and mineral supplements may be used to strengthen weakened immune systems. Stressful situations must be eased so that the digestive system can function properly, and any spiritual disharmony is identified and corrected.
Naturopaths are trained in herbal medicine, clinical dietetics, hydrotherapy, acupuncture, and other noninvasive means to treat disease. They provide therapy for chronic as well as acute conditions, and may work beside physicians to help patients recover from major surgery. The naturopath does only minor surgery and depends upon natural remedies for the bulk of patient therapy. Naturopathy is not widely accepted by physicians, although some practitioners are also doctors of medicine (M.D.).
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