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What is Naturopathic Medicine?

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature,
he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
— John Muir

Naturopathy or naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine that understands that the body has an innate ability to maintain, repair and heal itself. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) strive to find the cause of disease by understanding the whole person: body, mind and spirit. Treatment is directed at root causes rather than eradicating symptoms. It stresses health maintenance, disease prevention, patient education, and patient.

Modern naturopathy can be traced to 18th- and 19th-century natural healing systems. Benjamin Lust, a German immigrant, first introduced naturopathy to the United States in 1902 when he founded the American School of Naturopathy. The school emphasized the use of natural cures, proper bowel habits, and good hygiene as the tools for health. This was the first time that the principles of a healthy diet, like increasing fiber and reducing saturated fats, became popular.

Unlike most other health care systems, naturopathic medicine is not identified with any particular therapy, but with the philosophy of life, health and disease: the healing power of nature. Fundamental to this belief is a deep confidence in the ability of the body/mind to heal itself given the opportunity. All true healing is a result of the organism’s inherent and natural capacity, and ‘desire’ to be as healthy as possible. Naturopathic physicians help to remove the obstacles to cure and employ natural therapies that strengthen and stimulate each person’s own healing process.

A naturopathic doctor will look at the whole person. They may recommend one or more natural therapies that work with your vital life force, and that respects the intelligence of the natural healing process, to support your return to good health, and to prevent future problems from manifesting.

A first appointment can last much longer than with a conventional doctor, since naturopathic doctors will take the time to get a complete personal history, and do a physical exam. Like conventional medical doctors, a naturopathic physician keeps up-to-date with the latest scientific medical research, and may use diagnostic tests. He or she will work with you to create a customized management strategy, with the main difference being that they use natural, gentle therapies first, whenever possible, such as nutrition, herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture. If needed, a naturopathic doctor may refer you to other health care practitioners.

A good way to understand naturopathy is to look at its
six fundamental principles.

Principle Explanation
1. Healing power of nature. The body has an inherent wisdom to heal itself.
2. Identify and treat causes. Looks at underlying causes, not symptoms
3. First do no harm. Uses most natural, least invasive/toxic therapies
4. Doctor as teacher. Educate patients to achieve and maintain health.
5. Treat the whole person. Body is an integrated whole in spiritual/physical.
6. Prevention first. Focus on overall health, wellness & disease prevention.

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Dr. Michael Lipelt, founder and practitioner at Stillpoint Family Health Services received a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University of Naturopathic Medicine in Seattle, WA in 1989, his Naturopathic Medical License for the state of Hawaii in 1990, and his Naturopathic Medical License for the State of California in 2004. Note that in 2003 the California Naturopathic Doctors’ Act was passed that permits a Naturopathic doctor to diagnose and treat disease, similar to an MD. Dr. Lipelt, a Primary Carre Provider, has practiced naturopathy now for over 20 years.