While there are many similarities in how NDs and MDs are trained and practice, there are also important differences. MDs are taught to focus on obtaining a scientifically-based diagnosis that then guides the therapy offered. Often these therapies are aimed at blocking or suppressing a symptom, such as using pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines for arthritis or using an antibiotic to treat an infection. This approach is very effective especially for treating emergencies and life-threatening health problems, but it often does not work to correct the causes of health problems and has a poor track record in the treatment of chronic diseases which are difficult to diagnose, such as chronic fatigue.
MDs by in large tend to take a reductionist approach to health care; that is they focus on treating the disease not the patient. While also using scientific methods and arriving at many of the same diagnoses as MDs, naturopathic doctors take a more holistic approach and try to understand causes behind a patient’s diagnosis so these can be effectively managed. So, for example, an ND may use herbal or nutritional substances to relieve pain and reduce inflammation in a patient with arthritis, while at the same time use therapies to support healthy joint function and restore damaged tissues. Using a more holistic model, the ND may also look into the role that food intolerances or gastrointestinal health may play in the patient with arthritis.
Uncovering these clues can be important in helping patients understand the causes of their conditions and empower them to take a more active role in improving their general health while managing their current “diagnosis.” All California-licensed naturopathic doctors will appear on the following list:
Naturopathic Physician’s Oath
“I dedicate myself to the service of humanity as a practitioner of the art and science of Naturopathic Medicine. By precept, education and example,
• I will assist and encourage others to strengthen their health, reduce risk for disease, and preserve the health of our planet for ourselves and future generations.
• I will continually endeavor to improve my abilities. I will conduct my life and practice of Naturopathic Medicine with integrity and freedom from prejudice.
• I will keep confident what should not be divulged.
• I will honor the principles of Naturopathic Medicine: First, to do no harm.
• To cooperate with the healing powers of nature.
• To address the fundamental causes of disease.
• To heal the whole person through individualized treatment.
• To teach the principles of healthy living and preventive medicine. With my whole heart, before these witnesses, as a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, I pledge to remain true to this oath.”