Alex Steelsmith
How Do You Find a Doctor Who's Trained in Natural Medicine?
From pages 274-275 of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman's Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine (published by Hay House)

Your choice of personal physician is one of your most important and potentially game-changing lifestyle decisions, but if you're looking for a doctor who offers natural medicine, you may be perplexed by your options. The popularity of natural health care has given rise to many "integrated" clinics that offer combinations of conventional pharmaceutical medicine and natural alternatives. Some may provide useful services, but unfortunately not all are what they seem.

The key question is no longer how you can find a doctor who offers natural therapies, but one who was actually trained in them. Anyone with a license to practice medicine can offer natural therapies, without ever having taken a single college course in them. Buyer beware: no government agency regulates such offers or protects you from misleading claims about natural health.

To be savvy about this, you need to understand the important distinction between licensed naturopathic physicians and conventional doctors. It's all about the education: naturopathic medical students study the same basic sciences as conventional medical students, but their education diverges sharply when it comes to the study of therapeutics-methods of treating all types of conditions-reflecting vastly different philosophies of health and disease. While conventional medical students learn to use mainly pharmaceutical drugs and surgery, their naturopathic counterparts study a wide range of natural alternatives that include nutritional science, herbal and botanical medicine, hydrotherapy, massage therapy, counseling, and other therapies.

You might think conventional medical schools have become open to alternative medicine in recent years, but research shows the curricula of most have changed surprisingly little; the focus is still on pharmaceutical treatments, with few if any requirements in alternative medicine. (If alternative courses are offered, they may be only electives.) As a result, no matter how well-intentioned conventional doctors may be, they aren't adequately trained to provide natural therapies. As Mark Hyman, M.D., concedes, "I, like almost every other doctor in the country, was trained to be a clinical pharmacologist... I was trained to dispense medication."

Naturopathic schools continue to stand alone as the only medical programs requiring enormous amounts of coursework-more than 700 hours-in therapeutic nutrition and naturopathic therapeutics. Considered among the most demanding of any type of medical training in the United States, they blend rigorous study of natural therapies with much of the best that Western medical science has to offer. This makes naturopathic physicians-by definition, the only doctors whose training is truly "integrated"-uniquely qualified to offer you the full range of alternative therapies, backed by a solid foundation in the sciences.

In the United States, the only way to be sure your doctor had this kind of extensive natural-health training is to find a licensed naturopathic physician. It's important to verify that your doctor graduated from one of the naturopathic schools listed below, since they're accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education-the gold standard when it comes to naturopathic training, recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as the national accrediting agency for programs leading to the doctor of naturopathy (ND) degree. (In some states, which don't yet license naturopathic physicians, anyone can claim to be a "naturopath" without legitimate training.)

To find a licensed naturopathic physician in your area: Contact the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (www.naturopathic.org). If you are in North America, make sure your naturopathic doctor graduated from one of these schools: Bastyr University, Seattle, WA (www.bastyr.edu), Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine, Vancouver, BC (www.binm.org), Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, Toronto, ON (www.ccnm.edu), National College of Natural Medicine, Portland, OR (www.ncnm.edu), National University of Health Sciences, Chicago, IL (www.nuhs.edu), Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, Tempe, AZ (www.scnm.edu), University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine, Bridgeport, CT (www.bridgeport.edu).

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