In the early days of this country, some of the more common health care practitioners were homeopaths. They practiced a brand of medicine defined by an approach based on the principle of "like cures like." It means that they treated a disease by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would, in larger amounts, produce in healthy persons symptoms similar to those of the disease.
It was a widely accepted form of treatment until around 1910 when the Flexner Report was issued. That report established the strong foothold that allopathic medicine has today. Allopathic treatment uses substances and methods that suppress a patient's symptoms while doing the opposite of what patients are experiencing.
Both methods have their shortcomings, and if a person wants to have a more holistic approach to their health, they usually have to look for other types of practitioners to help move closer to that holistic model.
One of those practitioners is a naturopathic doctor. Their training is similar to that of allopathic doctors. They go to medical school for four years after obtaining a bachelor's s degree and they may also do post-graduate residencies.
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), "Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals' inherent self-healing process. The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods."
I recently spoke to Laurel Erath, ND who is in the process of establishing a local practice in the building formerly occupied by the Woodcock Clinic next to the Guilford Country Store. She calls her practice Enduring Vitality, healing for a life of wellness.
She explained that when a patient comes to her with a problem she tries to find the root cause of the symptoms. As she sees it, symptoms are the body's reaction to something going on within that body.
The AANP web site identifies six principles that form the foundation of naturopathic medical practice. Two of those provide a good understanding of how NDs approach treatment.
"The Healing Power of Nature: Naturopathic medicine recognizes an inherent self-healing process in people that is ordered and intelligent. Naturopathic physicians act to identify and remove obstacles to healing and recovery, and to facilitate and augment this inherent self-healing process. Identify and Treat the Causes: The naturopathic physician seeks to identify and remove the underlying causes of illness rather than to merely eliminate or suppress symptoms."
Naturopaths often uses herbal substances and tinctures to treat problems such as colds and viruses. The goal of that kind of treatment is to work with the body instead of against it. Some treatments aim to stimulate the body to work better, as is the case with a treatment Erath uses that employs warming socks to improve systemic blood and lymphatic flow.
Erath noted that natural remedies generally have fewer side effects than the prescription drugs that are widely used in the practice of allopathic medicine. If someone has high blood pressure she first tries to find out what the underlying causes are for the problem, as would most practitioners of any form of medicine.
ND's have the ability to prescribe medicine and they also must meet state licensure standards. Erath accepts insurance from Vermont Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Vermont, Cigna and MVP but Medicare does not cover treatment by a naturopath. She offers a sliding fee scale to patients without insurance.
As her practice evolves Erath hopes to be able to establish working relationships with the variety of practitioners in the area from physical therapists to local MDs. She values the need for collaboration and sees her role as that of a coordinator who can develop a treatment plan and holistically manage a patient's care.
She recognizes the complexity of living in today's world and said, "Between stress, time restraints, work and family related responsibilities ... society doesn't make it easy for human beings to maintain healthy lifestyles. I strive to meet my patients where they're at." As people become more comfortable with a variety of health care practitioners they may find that an ND may best serve their health care needs as a primary care practitioner or they may find that a combination of ND and MD works best for them.
If they choose to be cared for by the new ND in Guilford they may benefit from a new approach to their health. If they develop a relationship with Erath they will come to understand the meaning of her approach to treatment. "My goal is to make sure you are taken care of and know that somebody cares." And she makes home visits.
Richard Davis is a registered nurse. He writes from Guilford and welcomes comments at email@example.com. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.