Naturopathic Q & A

Alternative therapies have become increasingly popular. Recent statistics, in fact, tell us that over half the global population uses some form of alternative medicine annually, with naturopathic medicine leading the pack. In this spirit, let’s take a closer look at what naturopathic medicine is, what it offers, what the associated costs are, and what’s involved.


What is Naturopathic Medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct form of medicine that combines natural therapeutic traditions with modern science to restore and optimize health and wellness. It is founded on the belief that, given the right support, the body has the innate ability to heal itself. To do this, ND’s examine everything from one’s lifestyle habits, including diet, sleep, stress levels, exercise status, genetics, health history, beliefs, behaviours, family life, work-life, psychological state, and many others. In doing so, naturopathic doctors take a whole-person approach to health and wellness and propose tailored treatment plans adapted to each patient's unique needs. Contrary to conventional medicine, naturopathic medicine does not focus on symptoms but rather sees these as the body’s way of trying to communicate an imbalance. In turn, ND’s aim to stimulate the body’s innate self-healing capacities with the use of a wide range of therapeutic modalities including clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, TCM, acupuncture, supplementation, and more.


Are Naturopaths Doctors?

While it cannot be denied that conventional medical doctors (MD’s) and naturopathic doctors (ND’s) approach health care differently, when it comes to their actual training, education, experience, and wish to help others, there are an incredible amount of similarities. Indeed, both MD and ND students can apply to medical school once they have completed a Bachelor of Science degree, including classes in English, humanities, math, physics, psychology, as well as chemistry and biology. Once accepted into the medical school of their choice, Naturopathic Medicine students enter a four-year, full-time, accredited naturopathic medicine program. The training ND students receive includes a standard medical curriculum, in addition to training in a range of other areas including diagnostics, clinical sciences, anatomy, naturopathic principles, as well as training in a variety of Complementary Alternative Medicine modalities (CAM). In their last two years, ND students must also intern in clinical settings under the close supervision of licensed teaching or practicing ND’s. Once their studies are completed, finishing students must pass the NPLEX (Naturopathic Physicians Licensing Examinations) to become licensed and receive the title “N.D.” or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine.
So, to recap, yes, ND’s, like MD’s, are actual doctors, they simply adhere to a different view of health, and employ different tools.


How Much Does an Appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor Cost?

The costs associated with visiting a naturopathic doctor usually vary according to the type of consultation. Typically, the initial consultation is a far lengthier one in which you and your ND complete a thorough intake form. This first in-person consultation can last anywhere from 1 ½ and 2 hours, and the associated cost is, unsurprisingly, a little higher, usually around $240 for adults, and $195 for children. Second consultations typically last between 45 to 60 minutes depending on the complexity of the case and health status. The cost for these second consultations is usually between $140 and $170 for adults depending on the length of the appointment, or $115 to $136 for children. Subsequent follow-ups or check-ins are typically much shorter, 15 to 30 minutes, and the associated cost is usually between $50 to $85 for adults and $40 to $70 for children.


Is a Naturopathic Consultation Covered by OHIP (or other provincial plans)?

Unfortunately, naturopathic visits are not currently covered by OHIP; however, most extended care plans do cover the full or at the very least, partial cost of the visit. It should also be noted that Naturopathic Doctors have access to medical labs for blood work and a range of other diagnostic tests, and these services are also not covered by OHIP. This currently applies to all Canadian provinces at this time.


What Kinds of Tests do Naturopathic Doctors Use?

Like Medical Doctors, Naturopathic Doctors make use of a wide range of conventional tests and diagnostic tools to assess health concerns and determine the most appropriate treatment plans for their patients. Comprehensive laboratory testing including urinalysis, blood work, and saliva testing is often required to paint a complete picture of a person's health status, and pinpoint any imbalances that may exist. Indeed, standard laboratory testing is an integral part of a complete naturopathic assessment. In addition, your ND may request a copy of all previous medical reports and diagnostic testing on your first appointment to gain a better understanding of the cause(s) of your health concerns, as well as to provide the best possible quality health care.


What kinds of treatments do Naturopathic Doctors Use?

In addition to the standard medical curriculum, Naturopathic Physicians are trained in a wide range of treatment modalities and use these to treat their patients. These include:


• Nutritional Therapy
• Lifestyle Modification
• Behavioural Change
• Botanical Medicine (Herbalism)
• Homeopathy / Low-Dose Medicine
• Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM (notably, Acupuncture)
• Physical Medicine
• Chelation Therapy
• Colonic Irrigation
• IV Vitamin Therapy


What’s the Difference Between the Treatment I’ll Receive from my GP and an ND?

The biggest difference in the care you will receive from a conventional medical doctor and an ND is in the approach each takes. Meaning that while conventional MD’s focus on symptoms, conditions, and diseases first, ND’s, adopt a whole-patient approach to health and wellness. As such, an ND will consider the person in their entirety, starting, of course with the symptoms (or the initial reason for the consultation), but will build on that in order to paint a more complete picture of the person and hopefully, to uncover the root cause(s) of the health concern. This is done by investigating everything from dietary habits, lifestyle hygiene/habits, home life/work-life environment, exercise frequency, stress levels, sleep habits, beliefs, and others. Another major difference between the treatment you can expect from a Naturopathic Doctor versus an MD is ND’s always select the least invasive treatment possible and make use of a range of therapeutic modalities such as; nutritional therapy, supplementation, botanical medicine, homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, and bodywork, that all aim to stimulate the body’s innate healing capacities and long-term health restoration. In stark contrast, MD’s typically focus on working with medications to quiet symptoms rather than on getting to the root cause(s) of illness.


What Kinds of Conditions do Naturopathic Doctors Treat?

Naturopathic Doctors, like general practitioner MD’s, treat a broad range of conditions and are especially focused on early diagnosis and treatment of chronic conditions. Records tell us that some of the top patient conditions treated by practicing Naturopathic Doctors include: digestive disorders such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, diverticulitis, and lactose intolerance, women’s health concerns including PMS, perimenopause, and menopause, mental health, stress, and sleep issues, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions, immune concerns, allergies, fertility and reproduction concerns, cardiovascular health, and pediatric consultations.


Therefore, both practices cover and treat a wide range of health concerns and with this knowledge, it’s up to you to choose which approach you prefer and whether an MD, ND or an integrative approach is best for you.