Is it Naturopathic Doctor or Naturopathic Physician?
Both naturopathic doctors and naturopathic physicians practice naturopathic medicine. Getting a consensus on what naturopathic medicine is can be difficult. I’ll cover that in the next part. For now most states do not license naturopathic doctors as physicians. This is because physicians like medical doctors or osteopathic doctors have the right to diagnosis and prescribe drugs reserved for themselves. Regardless of whether a state is licensed or not they cannot take away my doctorate of naturopathic medicine. I chose to become licensed in Utah because naturopathic doctors are seen as physicians in Utah.
I will give you my take on it and hopefully that helps. Simply put naturopathic medicine is recognizing that there is a way to live that promotes health and well-being. Naturopathic medicine does not have a monopoly on this belief but it guides our education and approach to medicine. The first two years of naturopathic medical school are focused on how the body works and what can go wrong. We take classes like anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, neurology, pathology, pharmacology, and etc. After the first two years we focus on how to move the body from a diseased state towards a healthy state. This could include improving sleep, detoxification, supporting optimal digestion, exercise, stress management, using nutraceuticals, and etc. The potential list of support goes on and on because there are a lot of environmental factors that might be out of balance. As a naturopathic doctor, we take a thorough history and try to find out when you were last well. Is there a genetic component? Do certain things in the environment make you feel better or worst?
Because the number of things that go wrong can be numerous we do not have a standard of care. Ten patients with hyperglycemia may present to the office and I may give ten completely different recommendations based on their needs, age, and desires. For example, one person’s treatment plan may be focused on exercise, another on intermittent fasting, and still another on eating a lower glycemic diet. My job is to understand what is going on with the disease but more importantly to figure out why this patient is experiencing these symptoms. Using drugs and surgery are necessary at times but before going to that point many people would like to exhaust natural, drugless options. Because of this I always say naturopathic medicine is not for everyone. If you are not willing to make changes to your lifestyle or at the vert least take supplements then conventional care may work best for you. So with that said there is no one modality that naturopthic doctors use. Based on our personality we may gravitate more towards herbal medicine, exercise, or nutrition. What makes us who we are is that the focus is on using natural medicine to prevent and reverse pathology.
Naturopathic Physicians vs Naturopathic Doctors
I put naturopathic physician vs naturopathic doctor because naturopathic doctors can not use the word physician in their title in unlicensed states (that might be considered impersonating a medical physician) and most states that are licensed do not allow naturopathic doctors to call themselves physicians. I chose to get my license in Utah because that state refers to their naturopathic doctors as physicians. A naturopathic doctor is anyone that graduated from a naturopathic medical school. After we graduate we are eligible to sit for boards called the Naturopathic Physician Licensing Examination (NPLEX). Once we pass our boards we can become licensed in a state that licenses naturopathic doctors. There are about 22 states at this time that license naturopaths, when I started there were 15. Just about every state has an organization that helps push for licensure in that state. For Michigan it’s Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians. So to answer the naturopathic doctor vs physician question there really isn’t any difference just some states do not allow the use of physician outside of osteopaths or medical doctors.
Naturopathic Doctor vs Naturopathic Practitioner
This is where all the arguing starts. I mentioned in the first paragraph that naturopathic doctors do not have a monopoly on healthcare. I refer patients to physical therapy, chiropractors, personal trainers, yoga instructors, and etc. If a person is a lifestyle coach or an herbalist or a massage therapist they can still help people. With that said naturopathic doctors are trained to be primary care physicians. That means we do physical exams, testing, and depending on the state you are in diagnosis. In order to call yourself a naturopathic doctor, it is usually understood that you have this level of training. If you are in a licensed state then it is required and illegal for someone without this training to say they are a naturopathic doctor. In states that are not licensed anyone can call themselves a naturopathic doctor because the term is not defined by the state. Most practitioners that do not have the naturopathic doctor level of training call themselves naturopathic practitioners or simply naturopaths. They believe in the philosophy and honestly many consider naturopathic doctors traitors for learning too much conventional medicine. In Michigan there are lots of naturopathic practitioners, most do not call themselves doctors but there are a few that still do. That’s why unlicensed states still make sure they have a state association to make sure people in the community can look up naturopathic doctors that have gone to naturopathic medical schools and passed the NPLEX. Below is a comparison between naturopathic doctors and naturopathic practitioners.