Dear Barb – Naturopaths

Dear Barb:

Sometimes when I go to my family doctor I feel rushed, especially if my reason for being there is not really serious. Because of the shortage of doctors I’m concerned that maybe I’m taking up time that someone with a more serious condition may need. A friend of mine has been seeing a naturopathic doctor and she has been urging me to go as well. I am seriously considering this, but I’m wondering what kind of training and education a naturopathic doctor receives? Also what conditions do they treat and what sort of treatments do they provide? I would appreciate any information you could offer.

Confused Carolyn in Oklahoma

I will try my best, Carolyn, to give you some information to clear up your confusion and aid you in making an informed decision.

You are probably justified in feeling rushed as family doctors today are stressed to the limit. Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any immediate relief in sight. Some of the reasons for this were expressed in The Voice Article – July 7, 2004, “Taking Notes Doctor Shortage” by Debbie Jabbour (v12 i26). “In a survey of medical students, 80 percent indicated intentions of specializing rather than remaining in family medicine. Higher pay and a less demanding workload are the main reasons cited, with high student debt load the driving force.”

Due to this health care crisis many people may be searching for additional sources of medical treatment. Perhaps a naturopathic doctor working in conjunction with your family doctor could to offer some relief to this situation. However a naturopathic doctor is not meant to replace your family doctor, as each has their area of expertise.

In regards to what kind of education and training naturopathic doctors receive, it is quite extensive. Initially four years of university education is required before being considered for admission into an accredited College of Naturopathic Medicine. Once accepted they must then complete four more years, which includes three years of premedical studies. Graduates receive a degree providing them with the designation “Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.”

A naturopathic doctor’s approach to illness is to treat the entire person, not just the symptoms. Therefore your first visit will require quite an in-depth investigation of your lifestyle, diet, etc. As a result, treatment varies from individual to individual. Some treatments naturopathic doctors offer may include nutrition counseling, botanicals and homeopathy, massage therapy, acupuncture and lifestyle counseling. Naturopathic medicine is about assisting the individual in finding balance in all aspects of their life.

Naturopathic doctors treat many conditions. For example arthritis, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, heart conditions, as well as skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. Even common, every day maladies such as colds, ear infections, and headaches can be treated with naturopathic medicine. Emotional and mental health issues may also be discussed with a naturopathic doctor.

I hope I have been able to shed a bit of light on this situation, Carolyn. However, you are the only one who knows if naturopathic medicine is the kind of treatment with which you will feel comfortable.

Perhaps the family of the future will include a naturopathic doctor along with a medical doctor and dentist as a fundamental part of their health care.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.