Although I am a naturopathic doctor and follow naturopathic principles in my every day practice, I have great respect for the life saving techniques of ‘modern’ (or allopathic) medicine. Although I do not agree with the basic tenets of this system of medicine, I do believe it has its strengths and weaknesses, just as does naturopathic medicine. A recent event in my personal life highlighted the need for both and to recognize both approaches as valid but distinct. This event was the catalyst for this post.
Naturopathic medicine is strong in addressing chronic disease and promoting health using preventative medicine. Medical doctors and surgeons do not address the underlying cause of disease for any disease process that I am aware of. Rather, it is a system of medicine that prescribes drugs to suppress symptoms or uses a ‘cut and burn’ strategy to remove diseased or dead body parts or organs. There is no attempt to really understand the root causes of the problem, nor how to go about removing those causes so the body can then heal and be healthy. The allopathic approach, aside from leading me away from medical school, leaves me shaking my head as to how we can understand the body in such great and minute detail, yet ignore how to use that knowledge to really heal the body.
On the other hand, allopathic medicine presents strong in life saving techniques, whether that be IV antibiotics for a raging infectious disease, or an Epi pen to save the life of a child with an allergy to peanuts. There is nothing in my tool box or doctors bag that will save someone in acute distress and I recognize this limitation in my job and gladly refer to 911 or the hospital as needed.
Although I am naturopathic doctor I do see a medical doctor every few years for a physical check in and check up. I am not objective when it comes to my personal health nor the health of my son and husband, and rely on my medical doctor to take on this role in my family’s health care. I take my son regularly for well child visits with our MD as I believe it’s important to have someone else assess him and to develop a long standing relationship with the doctor. This way she sees my son in both health and illness. I also take my son to see a naturopathic doctor, not because I’m not confident in my skills, but because I’m not an objective party to the situation and value another set of eyes and ears on my son’s health. A lot of people may think I (or other naturopaths) shun MDs like the ebola virus, but this is not true for all naturopathic doctors. I think it is incredibly irresponsible as an parent to deny your child the care of a medical doctor, especially if their health situation really requires allopathic care and its medicines. To rely solely on a bagful of supplements or herbal remedies is not helping your child attain true wellness if what they really need is to take less vitamins or an antibiotic. The first tenet of the Hippocratic oath, which is taken by both naturopathic and allopathic doctors at graduation is ‘to do no harm’; this means that whatever treatment or plan we put into place should not be at the expense of a patient’s health, nor make them sicker than when they walked in the office door. I believe denying a child the care of a medical doctor, whether for well child check ins or when medication is needed, breaks this oath.
I see babies and children frequently in my office, both in health and when sick. I am up front with parents in my office and tell them that my care is complimentary to their family doctor or pediatrician; meaning that two sets of eyes and ears on a child are better than one. We tend to ask different questions and approach health in different ways, and as such, will better cover all the bases of a child’s health versus one person.
There is a need for both systems in everyone’s health care and I think everyone should have a naturopathic doctor as well as a medical doctor. Using both, as needed and played to their strengths will make you and your family healthier in the long run. The dynamics of how this actually plays out in real life and the ability of both doctors to willingly cooperate with each other is another story and certainly another post altogether.