In line with conventional medical training, training in naturopathic medicine requires a minimum of seven years of post-secondary education from a recognized school before being allowed to register as a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) in Ontario. She or he must have an undergraduate degree, have completed premedical undergraduate coursework, and have completed a four-year, accredited, naturopathic medical education. Graduates must pass two sets of provincial licensing board exams and are required to keep their registration current throughout their career by completing at least 70 hours every three years of approved continuing education.
Naturopathic education encompasses basic and diagnostic sciences – including anatomy, clinical physiology, biochemistry, pathology, embryology, immunology, pharmacology, physical and clinical diagnosis, and lab diagnosis – as well as conventional and naturopathic approaches to improving and maintaining patients’ health.
NDs collaborate closely with other healthcare professionals through consultation and referral.
NDs identify and manage the root cause of a disease or disorder, not just its symptoms. Naturopathic medicine involves a functional medicine approach to healthcare, identifying the biochemical and physiological imbalances within the individual, using natural, scientifically proven solutions to rectify these imbalances.
NDs focus on naturally occurring substances, minimally invasive methods, and the promotion of natural healing. The emphasis of naturopathic medicine is on the prevention of illness through stress reduction and a healthy diet and lifestyle.
NDs are trained in a variety of modalities (therapies) and techniques, focusing on the individual patient. NDs take the time to complete a full history and screening of each patient and work collaboratively with other professionals in the patient’s health care team to get to the root of health concerns. An ND’s bottom line is to help patients achieve an optimum level of health.
Training and Disciplines
With over 4,100 hours of classroom training in basic medical science courses, naturopathic principles, and therapeutics, as well as 1,200 hours of supervised clinical practicum, Naturopathic Doctors receive extensive training in a variety of disciplines including (please see definitions at bottom of page):
- clinical nutrition
- Botanical Medicine
- Asian Medicine
- Physical Medicine
- Lifestyle counseling and
In Ontario, Naturopathic Doctors offer alternative avenues for access to primary general health care and health promotion. Naturopathic Doctors can provide early diagnosis of, and treatment for, many health-related conditions. With lab analysis, and the use of diagnostics, Naturopathic Doctors can obtain additional insight into an individual patient’s health.
What to expect during a visit with a Naturopathic Doctor
The first visit with a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) may be one hour or more. Your Naturopathic Doctor will take an extensive patient history eliciting information about your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health before performing a complaint-oriented physical exam. If required, your ND may then suggest further specialized testing. By using one or more disciplines (e.g. clinical nutrition, acupuncture, botanical medicine, Asian medicine, physical medicine, lifestyle counselling, and homeopathy) your ND, with your input, will develop a personalized treatment plan to help you achieve your health goals.
Currently Naturopathic Doctors are regulated under the Drugless Practitioners Act, 1990 with the Board of Directors of Drugless Therapy-Naturopathy as the regulator.
Naturopathic Doctors are awaiting proclamation of the Naturopathy Act, 2007 that will bring naturopathic medicine under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991.
Working with your health care team
Because Naturopathic Doctors are highly educated general primary care providers who integrate standard medical diagnostics with a broad range of natural therapies, they are an integral part of the health care team.
Clinical nutrition- Involves managing the amount of nutrients (i.e. protein, vitamins, and minerals) in a patient’s diet to create a healthy energy balance.
Acupuncture – A healing methodology that treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles that have been inserted into the skin.
Botanical medicine – The study and use of medicinal properties of plants
Asian medicine – A broad range of medicinal practices sharing traditional theoretical concepts developed in China, including various forms of acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage (Tui na), exercise, and dietary therapy.
Physical medicine – May include massage therapy or manipulative therapy.
Lifestyle counselling – Providing support and enabling patients to make healthy choices in order to build and maintain health on all levels: mental, physical, social, and spiritual.
Homeopathy – A form of alternative medicine based on the idea that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people will cure that disease in sick people.