Updated: Sep 7
One of the main tenets of naturopathic medicine is the idea that the body, mind and spirit are an integral whole. Taking care of just one of them won’t help you your achieve highest level of health and wellness. When you put the whole person first — and look at all aspects of their life, you discover more ways to help them reach their wellness goals. That’s why my primary goal of treatment is to address the underlying cause of illness and to avoid just treating symptoms.
Having recently attended this year’s annual meeting of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, I was struck by just how far-reaching the naturopathic medicine model is and am very optimistic about its future and the future health of citizens all over the U.S. Tracy Gaudet, MD, Executive Director Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, spoke on the importance of integrative medicine and the key role that naturopathic doctors play in the movement towards prevention and wellness as opposed to a disease-based model. “The root cause of the crisis is that we have put the disease at the center, not the person,” writes Dr. Gaudet.
Gaudet has called on the medical community to embark on “unprecedented partnerships” in order to treat the whole person. Through my practice, I have found that many MDs are more than willing to integrate their approach with a naturopathic approach. As the body of research grows and patient outcomes continue to improve, I have no doubt that this trend will continue to grow.
And, the trend toward integrative medicine must grow. Our nation is facing a crisis that must be mitigated if we are to continue to be able to compete in a global market. Health care consumes 18% of our GNP and it is estimated that by 2021 it could reach 31% of our GNP. And, it would appear that all that money we spend on health care is not really making the nation healthier. According to the US Army, 80% of people who want to enlist must be turned away because they are not healthy enough for the job.
Gaudet also pointed out the problems facing our Veterans Administration, including an ever-mounting issue of soldiers who are battling PTSD, depression, sleep disorders, pain and substance abuse. “We did the clinical reminders, we met the measures, but missed their suffering,” says Gaudet. And this is why the problem not only persists, but it continues to grow.
So, when you consider rising healthcare costs, unsatisfactory results, and the fact that many in the health care community agree that medicine needs to integrate mind, body and spirit, why are many of the nation’s state legislatures loathe to recognize the importance of naturopathic medicine in prevention and wellness? This needs to change quickly. I worked hard with the Maryland Naturopathic Doctors Association (MNDA) to see that naturopathic doctors (NDs) became licensed in Maryland. We have so many more states to go!
Currently, NDs are licensed in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and the state of Washington. Naturopathic doctors are also licensed in the District of Columbia, the US Territories of Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. Maryland NDs will be officially licensed in March, 2016. In 2013, legislation that would license naturopathic doctors was introduced in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. As more states license NDs, more US citizens have access to the integrative patient care that can truly guide them on the path to optimal health.
The health care system needs to also recognize the importance of putting people first. In the words of Gaudet, “Modern medicine starts with the body, rather than the soul; the mind, rather than the heart. The soul and heart are the doorways to healing and health of the body and mind. Now we can design for this approach and lead the way.” I couldn’t have said it better myself. With a health care design that centers on an integrative approach where naturopathic medicine is a strong component, we will finally be healing the whole person.
Dr. Porter is a passionate advocate in the healing power of natural medicine. She is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (ND) who practices as a family care practitioner with a specialty in cancer, women’s health and gastroenterology. She can be reached at The Bodhi Clinic, 701 Morris Tongue Drive, Millersville, MD 21108; Phone: 410-923-8888; or by email at email@example.com.