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It’s Complementary Archives
Fall 2007- Naturopathic Medicine
Naturopathic medicine, or Naturopathy, is a distinct healthcare profession that combines natural, non-toxic therapies with current advances in health and medicine. It uses a wide range of approaches such as nutrition, herbs, manipulation of the body, exercise, stress reduction and acupuncture. A cancer patient might consider using naturopathic medicine as a complementary therapy in conjunction with his or her regular conventional treatments, primarily for symptom relief.
According to The American Cancer Society, naturopathic treatments can be helpful in treating minor illnesses but should not be thought of as a curative treatment for serious illnesses such as cancer. However, the Society says that while the emphasis in naturopathic medicine is to uncover and treat the cause of disease, as opposed to merely treating symptoms, many of the individual treatment modalities are thought to help relieve some symptoms of disease and side effects of treatment cancer patients might experience.
The practice of naturopathy is based on six key principles:
•Promote the healing power of nature. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery and to facilitate and augment an inherent self-healing process.
•First do no harm. Naturopathic practitioners choose therapies with the intent to keep harmful side effects to a minimum and not suppress symptoms.
•Treat the whole person. Practitioners believe a person’s health is affected by many factors including physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental and social and consider all of them when developing a treatment plan.
•Treat the cause. Practitioners seek to identify and treat the causes of a disease or condition rather than simply suppress symptoms.
•Prevention is the best cure. Practitioners teach ways of living they consider to be most healthy.
•The physician is a teacher. Practitioners consider it important to educate their patients about taking responsibility for his or her own health.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) naturopathy appears to be a generally safe health care approach, especially if it is used as complementary (rather than alternative) medicine. However, there are several qualifying points to consider:
1. Naturopathy is not a complete substitute for conventional medical care.
2. Some therapies used in naturopathy have the potential to be harmful if not used properly or under the direction of a trained practitioner. For example, herbs can cause side effects on their own and can interact with prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
3. Restrictive or other unconventional diets can be unsafe for some people.
4. The education and training of practitioners can vary widely.
NCCAM provides this advice if you are considering integrating naturopathy into your care plan:
Tell your health care providers about any complementary and alternative practices you use. Naturopathic physicians are trained to know that herbs and some dietary supplements can potentially interact with drugs and to avoid those combinations. Therefore, you need to tell them about all drugs (whether prescription or over-the-counter) and supplements you are taking.
Talk to the naturopathic practitioner about his or her education and training (including any licensing or certifications they may have); any special medical conditions you have and whether the practitioner has any specialized training or experience in them; and costs and whether the services are covered by your medical insurance plan.
For more information about naturopathy, talk to your doctor and check these web sites:
NCCAM at www.nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy
The American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org and type Naturopathic Medicine into the Search box
The Alternative Medicine Foundation www.amfoundation.org.
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