It is no secret that people are fed up with the healthcare system in America. The medical system is great for emergencies like a broken bone or a heart attack. However, where it does not shine is in chronic illnesses such as anxiety, diabetes, chronic stress, and complex hormone imbalances.

People are increasingly choosing more holistic approaches to their health and working with Naturopathic Doctors for primary care as well as adjunct healthcare providers.

When it comes to selecting a Naturopathic Doctor, functional medicine doctor, or holistic practitioner, there seem to be many options. The choice is a personal one. However, there are some factors to take into consideration to get the best results.

In this blog, we will talk about the top factors to consider when choosing a Naturopathic Doctor.

  1. Choosing Between a Naturopathic Doctors or Functional Medicine Doctor or Functional Health Coach

The classic office visit at an MD or DO’s office includes a ten-minute consult followed by a written prescription for your concern or a referral to a specialist. Many patients feel do not feel heard by their conventional doctors and are want a more personal, intimate relationship with the doctor who is guiding their most precious asset, their health. 

More and more people are shifting their mindsets about their health. They want to take control and have a say in how their healthcare is conducted. People seeking an active role in their health allows the focus to shift from treating acute medical conditions to preventing them all together and working toward optimal wellness.

This is where Naturopathic Doctors (ND’s) come into the picture.

Naturopathic Doctors attend a four-year Naturopathic Medical School accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME). Here they learn both conventional medicine as well as alternative medicines. They diagnose and test for disease much like MD’s and DO’s, but believe in addressing the underlying factors that are contributing to illness. 

On the other hand, functional medicine doctors tend to be MDs, DOs, or chiropractors who attended conventional medical school. But they do not receive the same training in holistic medicine that a Naturopathic Doctor does. They are not taught nutrition, Chinese medicine, acupuncture, herbal medicine, or homeopathy like Naturopathic Doctors are. It is common for them to seek out weekend conferences and other short training sessions which gives them surface-level knowledge of holistic medicine, unlike the in-depth education in Naturopathic medical school. There are also functional health coaches or different types of holistic coaches who have no medical training whatsoever.

Functional medicine doctors commonly run several specialized tests and treat with a heavy emphasis on the test results. Naturopathic Doctors will also run these types of specialty testing. However, what is different is the Naturopathic medicine philosophy is to treat the person, not the disease, not lab results. Naturopathic Doctors use testing as a tool to get them closer to the true underlying cause of symptoms.

It is essential to understand that Naturopathic Doctors are true experts in holistic medicine. When looking for a holistic doctor, a Naturopathic Doctor is the first thing to look for.

Keep in mind a ‘Naturopath’ is different than a licensed Naturopathic Physician or Doctor (ND/NMD). This brings us to the next point:

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  1. Choose a Licensed Naturopathic Doctors, not a “Naturopath.”

Licensed Naturopathic Doctors complete four years of medical school and go through board examinations to ensure that they are competent to practice medicine safely and efficiently. Many years of training are involved in becoming a licensed Naturopathic Doctor.

While the name “naturopath” may occasionally be used to describe a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, the term “naturopath” also encompasses unlicensed laypersons who may or may not have attended a short course in “naturopathy.” 

These individuals are not able to practice medicine and diagnose disease. Individuals who call themselves “Naturopaths” often receive their title from an online school or have no training at all. These online programs do not sufficiently train people to diagnose, treat disease, or take the place of a licensed medical professional such as a Naturopathic Doctor, Nurse Practitioner, MD, or DO. Many of the online schools which grant the title Naturopath require only one to three months of training!

Note: Not all states have licensure for Naturopathic Doctors. If you are from an unlicensed state you should perform your research to make sure that if you are consulting with someone who calls themselves a Naturopathic Doctor that they have a degree from a school accredited by Council on Naturopathic Medical Education (CNME) 

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  1. The Relationship with Your Naturopathic Doctor

Much like any other relationship, it is important to feel comfortable and mesh with your Naturopathic Doctor. If you have seen a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in the past and for whatever reason did not mesh with the ND, remember every ND has his or her unique personality.

Many Naturopathic Doctors offer a free 15 minute consult to meet with the doctor before engaging in care. Take advantage of this! It will allow you to see how you feel when talking to him or her. If the conversation inspires trust and a connection, then chances are you will have a better experience than if you feel uncomfortable or awkward.

Naturopathic Doctor Treating Patient
  1. Ask About the Naturopathic Doctor’s Experience with Your Condition

Some Naturopathic Doctors have narrow expertise in specific areas such as digestive health or mental health. These individuals are proficient at treating the conditions they focus on more than other conditions or areas of medicine.

On the other hand, some Naturopathic Doctors are primary care physicians and will take you on as a patient for your general medical, health, and wellness concerns. If you are looking for treatment of a specific medical concern such as anxiety you may want to find a Naturopathic Doctor who focuses on treating this specific concern. If he or she does not, you can always as for a referral to another Naturopathic Doctor who does.

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There are many factors which go into choosing a Naturopathic Doctor. A lot are individual and depend on your personality and your health concerns. However, working with a licensed Naturopathic Doctor is key.

If you would like guidance on how to improve your health, schedule a free 15 minute phone consult with our Naturopathic Doctors to get started on your health journey.