The Philosophy Underlying Our Practice
“Health is simple, disease is complex.” This simple aphorism means that health is normal and natural, and disease (“dis-ease”) is always a sign that the bodymind is out of balance. Thus, treating disease is always a matter of restoring the body and mind’s normal, natural, physiological function. We deviate from health by deviating from the diet, lifestyle, and environment our bodies were designed for. Thus, the stress of modern 21st Century American life (especially in the Tri-State Area); our diet that is so unlike what our ancestors ate 7000 or 20,000 years ago; our environment, which exposes us to noxious and toxic chemicals which we cannot metabolize; our sedentary lifestyle; the medications which suppress disease symptoms and alter the normal functioning of our systems; our genetics; and several other factors combine to create disease. We have observed that when diet and lifestyle are changed, and natural remedies (such as nutritional supplements, herbal and homeopathic medicines, acupuncture, and other natural measure, herbs, nutrients, home remedies, manual therapies, acupuncture, detoxification, and others) are judiciously applied, the body heals itself naturally. Just as light dispels darkness, the building of natural health dispels disease.
The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians has adopted the following six-point philosophy to guide the naturopathic profession
1) Vis Medicatrix Naturae – The Healing Power of Nature: The fundamental underpinning of naturopathic medicine is that the bodymind heals itself. The doctor is a helper and guide, not the force behind the healing. Nature, operating through the body as an innate self-healing intelligence, is what guides healing, whether recovering from a cold, healing a cut, or overcoming cancer. Everyone has this natural healing power, to varying degrees (depending on a variety of factors.) Conventional medicine does not recognize this natural healing power, and relies instead on drugs and surgery to suppress symptoms (which are, in fact, an expression of the body’s attempt to heal itself.)
2) Tolle Causum – Treat the Cause: When the cause of illness is removed, the natural healing ability of the body can assert itself. In fact, disease is caused by things that block the natural healing ability of the body. In some cases, when causative factors are removed, little or nothing else is required to restore health. Causative factors of disease and dysfunction can include dietary, pharmaceutical, environmental toxins, psychological, and lifestyle factors.
3) Treat the Whole Person: There is no such thing as a naturopathic gastroenterologist or naturopathic opthalmologist. Naturopathic Physician specialize in treating the whole person. This is because naturopathic physicians recognize that 1) health must be holistic – meaning you are only as healthy as your weakest link; and 2) the notion of specialization implies that disease rather than health should be the focus of the physician. For instance, an endocrinologist specializes in diseases of the endocrine system, not the health of the endocrine system. It is only by attending to the health of the whole person – meaning all body systems as well as the mental and emotional levels – that true healing can take place. So while naturopathic physicians may have an area of special interest, such as pediatrics or gynecology or autoimmune disease or the like, they recognize that factors as diverse as psychological health or a dietary issue or an imbalance in the state of the digestive tract may be the causative factor. A specialist in diseases of specific systems or areas of the body is unlikely to be able to take such a holistic view. In contrast, a naturopathic physician should take a truly holistic approach.
4) The multifactorial nature of disease: This is actually an elaboration of the point above. Health is determined by a multitude of factors. While conventional medical science tends to point to genetics or some unexplained, isolated biochemical defect as the sole factor in disease, in fact every aspect of your life impacts your health. Diet, lifestyle, exercise (or lack thereof), medication history, exposure to environmental pollutants, stress, relationships, job and home life – are all crucial factors in the functioning of your bodymind. Any one of these could be as important as genetics in a given condition. The role of a naturopathic doctor is to look at any aspect of your life that might be contributing to your condition, and to address that, or to refer you to someone who can address it.
5) Prevention: Naturopathic medicine truly believes that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Of course, when you consider that naturopathic doctors create health in order to treat disease, it becomes obvious that prevention and cure often overlap. Conventional medicine tends to view preventive medicine as mammography or vaccination or PAP smears – in other words, early disease detection or in the case of vaccination, disease-focused prevention. Naturopathic physicians take a different view: that supporting Vis Medicatrix Naturae, and building health, is the true meaning of prevention.
6) Docere – Doctor as Teacher: The word doctor is derived from the Latin docere, which means “to teach.” So the true meaning of medicine and doctoring is not simply to treat disease, but to educate people in the ways of health so that they can maintain it for themselves. This will contribute to prevention, since education about health is the best preventive medicine there is. Naturopathic physicians spend more time with their patients (compared to medical doctors, osteopaths, and chiropractors) because they understand this vital link. While people usually leave a medical doctor’s office with a prescription for a drug that they know nothing about, and often little other information about their condition or its cause, it is not uncommon to leave a naturopathic doctor’s office with the feeling that you’ve been respected, listened to, and that the doctor gave serious thought to you and your situation.