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What Does a Naturopathic Doctor Do?

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You may or may not have heard of Naturopathic Doctors (NDs), but have you ever wondered what they do? Just like Medical Doctors, NDs care for the health of their patients, but much of their focus is on addressing the underlying causes of disease to resolve a health problem vs. use of pharmaceuticals to suppress symptoms. Continue reading to discover what an ND is and how they help individuals and communities.

What is a Naturopathic Doctor?

According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, naturopathic medicine is a distinct healthcare profession that combines the wisdom of nature with the rigors of modern science.

Naturopathic medicine originated as an organized profession in North America in the 1600s and 1700s when European doctors started combining herbal medicine and traditional therapies.Although naturopathic medicine dates back centuries, it has witnessed a rapid increase in the public interest as a result of the growing consumer movement toward prevention, wellness, and respect for nature's inherent healing ability.

Naturopathic Doctors serve as primary care providers who blend conventional medical practice on with centuries-old knowledge and philosophy that nature is the most effective healer. They have graduated from a four-year naturopathic medical school program, have passed licensing exams, and have over 1,200 hours of clinical, hands on- patient care.

NDs help prevent, treat, and manage acute and chronic conditions using natural remedies to help heal, all while addressing disease and dysfunction at the root level, as well as its effects on the mind, body, and spirit. They use natural therapies along with medical and clinical science, emphasizing disease prevention to help the body heal itself. NDs typically spend more time with each of their patients than their counterparts in conventional medicine, allowing them to form deeper and more meaningful patient-provider relationships and better determine the root cause of illness.

What Are The Conditions Treated by Naturopathic Medicine?

NDs diagnose patients by focusing on the underlying causes of disease and promote self-healing and wellness through therapies that integrate conventional, scientific, and empirical methodology. Naturopathic therapies are supported by research drawn from peer-reviewed journals in a variety of disciplines, including (but not limited to) naturopathic medicine, conventional medicine, clinical nutrition, psychology, and spirituality.

Some of the chronic and acute conditions NDs treat include:

  • Allergies
  • Digestive issues
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Infertility
  • Mental health
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Infections
  • Influenza
  • UTIs
  • Musculoskeletal conditions

Naturopathic Doctors can treat their patients with a variety of naturopathic diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. These modalities include:

  • Botanical medicine
  • Homeopathy
  • Clinical nutrition
  • Counseling/behavioral medicine
  • Clinical laboratory diagnostic testing
  • Naturopathic physical medicine
  • Public health measures
  • Prescription medication
  • Intravenous and injection therapy
  • Naturopathic obstetrics

How Can You Become a Licensed Naturopathic Doctor?

Licensed NDs are educated in the same rigorous biomedical sciences as MDs and must complete a four-year, accredited, graduate-level naturopathic medical program. NDs, however, also study holistic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and promoting wellness. In addition to a standard medical curriculum, NDs are trained in clinical nutrition, supplementation, homeopathic medicine, botanical medicine, psychology, physical medicine, and counseling.

NDs are also required to work in a clinical setting for the last two years of their program and must acquire 1200 patient contact hours to graduate and be able to sit for the NPLEX-1 and NPLEX-2 exam. Some states have restrictions on naturopathic medicine, and NDs are only licensed in:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • District of Columbia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • US Territories: Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

Legal provisions allow the practice of naturopathic medicine in several other states. Full licensure for naturopathic medicine in other US states is underway.

To earn your ND licensure, all states and provinces with licensure laws require a resident course of at least four years and 4,100 hours of study from a college or university recognized by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). To qualify for a license, applicants must satisfactorily pass the Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations (NPLEX), which includes basic sciences, diagnostic and therapeutic subjects, and clinical sciences.

Become a Naturopathic Doctor: ND Program at Bastyr University

An ND degree from Bastyr is worth the time and financial investment. At Bastyr, you’ll receive quality and evidence-based practice and training in natural medicine education that’s focused on developing leaders in the evolving field of natural health arts and sciences.

We offer the Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program at both locations:Seattle, Washington, and San Diego, California.

Are you interested in becoming a Naturopathic Doctor?

Access our new guide “How to Become a Naturopathic Doctor” to learn more.

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Written by Bastyr

Bastyr University's academic and research programs have received international recognition for pioneering work in science-based natural medicine. We offer a learning environment that fosters serious inquiry, professional dedication and lifelong relationships. Your career begins here, where comprehensive training makes the difference.