Understanding Naturopathy

Although naturopathy is prevention oriented, older people, who already have a variety of afflictions, can benefit from this alternative health approach. It can alleviate and in many cases reverse ailments that seem to accompany aging. It is not, however, a complete substitute for conventional medical care.

This is how the The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) describes this approach to health: A central belief is that nature has a healing power. Another belief is that living organisms (including the human body) have the power to maintain (or return to) a state of balance and health, and to heal themselves. Practitioners prefer to use treatment approaches that they consider to be the most natural and least invasive, instead of using drugs and more invasive procedures.

The practice of naturopathy is based on six key principles:

  1. Promote the healing power of nature.
  2. First do no harm. Practitioners choose therapies with the intent to keep harmful side effects to a minimum and not suppress symptoms.
  3. Treat the whole person. Practitioners believe a person's health is affected by many factors, such as physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, and social ones. Practitioners consider all these factors when choosing therapies and tailor treatment to each patient.
  4. Treat the cause. Practitioners seek to identify and treat the causes of a disease or condition, rather than its symptoms. They believe that symptoms are signs that the body is trying to fight disease, adapt to it, or recover from it.
  5. Prevention is the best cure. Practitioners teach ways of living that they consider most healthy and most likely to prevent illness.
  6. The physician is a teacher. Practitioners consider it important to educate their patients in taking responsibility for their own health.

Treatments may include the following:

  • Dietary changes (for example, eating more whole and unprocessed foods)
  • Vitamins, minerals, and other dietary supplementsHerbal medicine
  • Counseling and education on lifestyle changes
  • Hydrotherapy (for example, applying hot water, then cold water)
  • Manual and body-based therapies such as manipulation and mobilization
  • Exercise therapy
  • Mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation

The number of physicians and practitioners in the United States is growing. Older people should consider this approach as an addition or alternative to conventional medicine. It may well reduce or eliminate the need for many prescription drugs which, taken long term, can be addictive, harmful or ineffective. Taking responsibility for our own health means giving our bodies natural nutrients and natural remedies rather than chemicals and invasive procedures.

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