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June 9, 2019

Hot Button Issue: A Naturopathic Doctor for Your Health Care Team

I recently found myself in a yarn shop, riveted to the button section. I never considered how many types of buttons might be found, organized by shape, size, color, and function. I watched, mesmerized as the clerk zipped through row after row, pulling out narrow drawers and flicking them back, as she helped a discerning customer find the perfect set of pearly button squares for a project. The clerk had a kind of agility and broad understanding of the options and was able to find the perfect match.

If only it were that easy in medicine! Patients present describing complaints, we perform physical exams, order lab work and other appropriate tests.  A diagnostic decision tree is followed and a treatment plan designed. Sometimes it is easy like that, straight forward, regardless of the complaint or the kind of doctor seen, the path is clear, a match is made between the patient and the proper, effective treatment.

But not always. Patients come in all shapes and sizes,  too, with all manner of  health histories, current complaints and personalities. Increasingly, the medical problems are overlapping and serious. I have practiced as a naturopathic physician for over 30 years and often bemoan to colleagues, does anyone just have a sore throat anymore?        Chronic diseases, autoimmune disorders, and other complicated physical ailments are layered one over another. Complex and serious health histories are playing out in individuals who may also suffer with anxiety, depression and insomnia. Poly-pharmacy is commonplace with patients serving as veritable test tubes experiencing the impact of 4, 5, 6, 7 different drugs at one time. There are no easy fixes.

What licensed naturopathic doctors bring to the table is a fresh perspective, an interest in whole-person medicine and a toolbox filled with approaches beyond the strictly pharmaceutical. Trained to work in concert with other medical providers, licensed naturopathic doctors have the science education to help make appropriate diagnoses. Broad training in evidence-based approaches including therapeutic nutrition, botanical medicine, lifestyle modification, mindfulness approaches among other non-drug therapies enable naturopathic physicians to create effective treatment plans. Some naturopathic physicians are duel licensed as acupuncturists.

Naturopathic physicians refer to and accept referrals from medical colleagues for both diagnostic and treatment support.  Like all providers, naturopathic doctors are trained  to be agile and creative when tackling our most challenging patients and are necessarily trained in a wide breath of approaches so many options are available. We know how to work with patients who are also taking conventional medications.

If you do not have a naturopathic physician on your healthcare team, consider adding one. This is especially germane for those who do not tolerate pharmaceuticals or for whom conventional medicine does not have all the answers. Naturopathic physicians welcome patients who have overlapping illnesses that are likely connected, but are currently being treated as separate entities.

Naturopathic physicians love working with patients who are healthy, too,  who want to focus on preventive care based on genetic predispositions or because of past illnesses.

Knowing which doctor to go to for what concerns and how to put together your health care team is a little bit like finding the right button in a yarn store. The choices are many and patients are fortunate that to have options. Find a licensed naturopathic doctor near you.

Amy Rothenberg ND is a licensed naturopathic physician in Northampton, MA. Her writing can also be found on the Huffington Post,Medium & Thrive Global.


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