By Sophia Ma ND
Health care, whether naturopathic or conventional, should always have the same goal: to support you as the patient. Though the ways in which care is delivered may be different, naturopathic and conventional medicine are not mutually exclusive; in fact, you may benefit the most when they are used together.
Working together for your health
A health care practitioner with your best interest at heart will work with you and with other providers to ensure that your needs are met.
This means that providers should practice:
- open and respectful communication with each other
- willingness to consider a different approach
- recognition of the limitations of each approach
- respect for the patient’s right to choose their methods of care.
What does this look like?
You may be wondering what a combined approach would mean for you. This might mean:
- Writing a “summary letter” for you to share with your medical doctor or other practitioners like a physiotherapist. These letters typically detail my findings, including results of blood work completed, naturopathic treatments being incorporated and what may need further assessment or investigation.
- Referring you back to your medical doctor or a medical doctor that I work closely with if there are specific tests, prescription medications or other treatments that may benefit you which I am not able to offer as a naturopath.
- Discussing with you if there are particular issues or times when you may prefer to take a conventional approach or to seek other opinions, and creating a plan that takes this into account.
The benefits of a combined approach
A number of studies looking at care for diabetes(1), heart disease(2) and anxiety(3) have shown that naturopathic care and conventional medicine can be practiced in conjunction, and often work better when used together.
This makes sense. Though I feel passionate about naturopathic medicine and its effectiveness, no one approach has all the solutions; each style of medicine has its set of tools which may provide benefit. Sometimes one tool will be all that’s required, and sometimes tools from both medicines will be most beneficial. The only winning is when the patient feels better and that is what is at the heart of both naturopathic and conventional medicine.
1 Bradley R, Sherman KJ, Catz S, Calabrese C, Oberg EB, Jordan L, Grothaus L, Cherkin D. Adjunctive naturopathic care for type 2 diabetes: patient-reported and clinical outcomes after one year. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Apr 18;12:44. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-44. PMID: 22512949; PMCID: PMC3403984.
2 Seely D, Szczurko O, Cooley K, Fritz H, Aberdour S, Herrington C, Herman P, Rouchotas P, Lescheid D, Bradley R, Gignac T, Bernhardt B, Zhou Q, Guyatt G. Naturopathic medicine for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: a randomized clinical trial. CMAJ. 2013 Jun 11;185(9):E409-16. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.120567. Epub 2013 Apr 29. Erratum in: CMAJ. 2016 Sep 6;188(12 ):901. PMID: 23630244; PMCID: PMC3680587.
3 Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, Mills EJ, Bernhardt B, Zhou Q, Seely D. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PLoS One. 2009 Aug 31;4(8):e6628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006628. PMID: 19718255; PMCID: PMC2729375.