When I tell people I am a doctor, the conversation goes something like this:
“What’s your specialty?”
I reply, “Naturopathic medicine.”
“Is that like a massage therapist?”
No, not quite. I’m like a primary care doctor that uses a holistic approach.
“Huh, well it’s not like you had to go to school for that?”
“Actually it was 4 years post graduate schooling – just like any other medical school. I went to Bastyr University in Seattle.”
“Is that good? I mean is it a real school?”
This is like telling someone you went to Harvard Law and they mutter back, “huh, never heard of it.”
Bastyr is one of 6 accredited naturopathic medical schools in the US and it’s well respected in both medical and research circles, but what a naturopathic doctor does is still not popular knowledge.
In a nutshell, Bastyr and other naturopathic schools train primary care doctors in alternative medicine. Students learn to do what any family practice doc does: check ups, yearly Pap smears, and management of any condition that brings you into the doctor’s office from allergies to fibromyalgia to IBS. Referrals are made for imaging, further testing or to a specialist when warranted— just like your family doctor would do.
What makes them different? It’s not that they dose St John’s Wort vs. Prozac for your depression, it’s that they look at you in entirety— as a whole person. Your ND will help you see how your breakouts, PMS, digestive upset and tendonitis are connected and then treat the cause.
Treatment ranges from more conventional approaches like prescription drugs to more natural treatments like nutrition and botanical or herbal medicine, but in any case the following principles are upheld:
- choose treatments that will do no harm
- docere (be a teacher and guide to the patient)
- vis medicatrix naturae (the body has a natural ability to self-heal)
- identify and treat the cause of the illness rather than the symptoms
- aid in prevention (the ideas is to become more healthy rather than less ill)
- treat the whole person, not merely any one symptom or disease.
While the word “naturopathy” has been used in the US for about 100 years, the natural therapies and philosophy this medicine derives from have been used to treat diseases since ancient times. Hippocrates, sometimes considered the first physician in the naturopathic tradition, operated on the premise that “nature is healer of all diseases” and formulated the concept vis medicatrix naturae.
Today, the licensed ND promotes self-healing by helping maintain balance in the various systems of the body— hormonal, immune, nervous, elimination, etc. While licensed NDs rely heavily on natural and nutritional therapies, they are also skilled in conventional diagnoses and treatment, meaning that your health is always in medically trained hands.
If you want to see what an ND can do support your health, first make sure you choose a licensed ND. The license means that he or she attended a four-year graduate-level naturopathic medical school (it was a little less like Hogwort’s and more like any other medical school), completed internships, and passed two levels of rigorous board exams.
The following are the only four year, resident, graduate level naturopathic medical schools in North America: Bastyr University, University of Bridgeport College of Natural Medicine, National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, or Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. To find a licensed ND in your area, log onto the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website at www.naturopathic.org.
Dr Brooke Kalanick, ND, MS, LAc is a naturopathic doctor and graduate of Bastyr University, the leader in natural medicine education, research and the training of holistically minded primary care providers. Dr Brooke specializes in fat loss, PCOS, hypothyroidism, fertility and women’s health. Her knowledge of both conventional and alternative medicine helps her give patients back the control of their body and their hormones. Dr Brooke’s down to earth approach reminds us it’s not always about being perfect, but at least being better.
Dr Brooke is the co-author of Ultimate You: 4 Phase Total Body Makeover. She’s been featured in the NY Times as well as being a consulted expert for various print and online publications including FITNESS, Women’s Health, Prevention Magazine, Allure and iVillage. She is also a regular contributor for Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Radio and WholeLiving.com.
To contact Dr Brooke or to learn more visit www.betterbydrbrooke.com.