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Naturopathic Doctor (ND)

Naturopathic doctors (ND) are primary care physicians who practice naturopathic medicine to treat their patients. This form of medicine utilizes therapeutic methods and modalities which support and enhance the body's innate ability to heal itself. Naturopathic philosophy emphasizes disease prevention through healthy lifestyle, education, treatment of the whole person, identification and treatment of the cause of disease, and personal responsibility for one's own health. This medicine utilizes ancient healing practices as well as current medical advances.

Currently, there is licensure for NDs in 14 US states and 4 Canadian provinces, plus the District of Columbia and the US territories of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. To receive licensure, NDs are required to graduate from a four-year doctoral program at one of the six accredited schools of naturopathic medicine in North America as well as pass the postdoctoral board examination written by the Naturopathic Physician's Licensing Examinations (NPLEX) board. Following licensure, NDs must complete state-mandated continuing education requirements annually to maintain their license. The scope of practice for an ND is dictated by licensure laws in the particular state where the ND practices.

The scope of practice for naturopathic physicians includes all aspects of family and primary care, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and all natural medicine modalities. The majority of NDs have a private office-based practice where they offer primary care. They can perform a broad range of health care services which may include giving a physical exam; recording a patient's health history; ordering laboratory tests; diagnosing, treating and managing acute and chronic illness; writing prescriptions; providing referrals and encouraging healthy lifestyle choices in collaboration with the patient. The core modalities utilized in treatment are herbal medicine, diet modification and supplementation, massage, hydrotherapy, manipulation and lifestyle counseling. It is not uncommon for an ND to complete additional training in a variety of other healing techniques to expand their services. These modalities include but are not limited to acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Ayurvedic medicine, midwifery, homeopathy, and psychotherapy.

Diagnostic techniques and therapies utilized in naturopathic medicine are supported by scientific research drawn from peer-reviewed journals from a variety of disciplines. Some examples of these disciplines are clinical nutrition, allopathic medicine, natural medicine, homeopathy, pharmacognosy, psychology, European complementary medicine, and spirituality. In response to the increasing importance of research in naturopathic medicine and similar disciplines the federal government has formed the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). NCCAM is a component of the National Institutes of Health and is the leading federal agency in scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

More Information:

American Association of Naturopathic Physicians

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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