Contrary to common belief, naturopathic doctors are not just doctors who prescribe natural remedies to patients. (This means that a visit to the health food store is not a substitute for advice from a licensed healthcare practitioner!) After all, many previously “naturopathic” therapies have earned their place in mainstream scientific literature, and more up-to-date medical doctors are prescribing things like meditation, red light therapy, fish oil, and probiotics to their patients.
Naturopathic doctors differ from the traditional medical model, not so much in what we prescribe, but in our principles (do no harm, treat the whole person, prevent disease, doctor as teacher, support the body, treat the cause), which traditional medical doctors arguably should share with us. The biggest thing that sets Naturopathic physicians apart from medical doctors, chiropractors, and other health professionals is something called the Therapeutic Order.
The Therapeutic Order is a hierarchy that governs a naturopathic doctor’s clinical decision-making. It begins by offering minimally invasive therapies aimed at supporting the body and ends in more invasive procedures such as chemical therapies and surgery. We always aim to use the gentlest, most natural strategies but also understand when more invasive strategies are needed.
Tenet # 1: Remove Obstacles To Health
Naturopathic medicine begins by creating the conditions for health by focusing on lifestyle factors that contribute to our health and well-being. This involves cleaning up the diet and promoting healthy eating, ensuring adequate and restful sleep, managing stress, fostering healthy relationships and social support, fresh air and clean water, adequate movement, encouraging the pursuit of hobbies and passions and even supporting spiritual and moral fulfillment. Setting the foundations for optimal health is the first step in managing or preventing disease and promoting a lifetime of health and happiness. In the GLOW Protocol, we spend the first 6-8 weeks in this step while getting initial assessments and testing done.
Tenet # 2: Stimulate The Healing Power Of Nature
Sometimes, a long-term lack of a proper health foundation, genetic disposition, environmental factors, prolonged significant stress or chronic disease can result in a weakening of the vital force. In Ayurveda it is called prana, traditional Chinese medicine calls it Qi, homeopathy refers to it as Wesen, monotheistic religions refer to it as God, conventional medicine or the biological sciences call it homeostasis or, perhaps, metabolism. In naturopathic medicine, this healing power is called just that, The Healing Power of Nature or, in Latin, the Vis Medicatrix Naturae.
This force is stimulated in a variety of ways, but mainly by using therapies that have a gentle stimulatory, energetic effect. These therapies act to strengthen the vital force, awakening its ability to heal the body. Therapies used to stimulate the vital force include homeopathy, hydrotherapy, light therapy, prayer, visualization, journaling, meditation, mind-body medicine, fasting, yoga exercise, nutrition, relaxation, among others. Most of us are born with the power to heal and thrive, we just need to awaken that energy.
Tenet # 3: Strengthen Weakened Systems
This level of the Therapeutic Order is implemented when long-standing disease or lack of a solid health foundation results in a prolonged weakening of the body’s ability to heal, resulting in damage to organ systems. This is where we start to group symptoms together and name conditions.
Conditions to be treated at this stage include hypertension, diabetes, digestive concerns, autoimmunity, hormone imbalance, pain, and fatigue, etc. Unfortunately, this is the stage at which most people seek medical attention and, although at this stage there are still a few more rungs on the Therapeutic Order’s hierarchy, this is the stage at which most people are given medications to manage symptoms, rather than being told how to support their health naturally.
At this stage of the Order, naturopathic doctors opt for targeted therapies using some of the previously-mentioned modalities (homeopathy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy) but also implement high doses of vitamins, minerals, supplements, such as fish oil and probiotics, food prescriptions and botanicals to target the healing of specific organs or organ systems. It is of the utmost importance for clients at this stage to take some time to focus on the foundations of health while implementing their holistic healing protocols. It is also important to avoid “spot treating” a condition and instead aim to heal the whole person using a systems-based approach as we do in The GLOW Protocol.
Tenet # 4: Correct Structural Integrity
Correcting structural integrity has to do with encouraging proper alignment and strength of the skeletal and muscular systems as well as the blood vessels, organs, skin, and cellular membranes. This is achieved through proper nutrition, supplementation, corrective exercise, massage, exercise, proper posture, physical therapies, acupuncture, and stretching.
The importance of proper structural integrity can’t be emphasized more, as it contributes to the way we feel by affecting our circulation and nerve conduction and by keeping our organs in their proper places.
Tenet # 5: Use Natural Substances To Control Symptoms
At this stage of the Therapeutic Order, finding the root cause of the disease is bypassed and symptoms are addressed directly. Symptom management is necessary in cases where:
- Symptoms are so unpleasant that immediate relief is necessary in order to move forward
- Addressing symptoms first establishes trust in the doctor-patient relationship
- The case is complicated and the root cause cannot be identified or is too complex to target immediately
- The patient is suffering from an acute condition
- The disease state is unresponsive to treatments for the top four rungs of the Therapeutic Order and the only thing left to do is palliate symptoms naturally, and so on.
Symptoms are treated with many of the same modalities as in the first four steps of the Therapeutic Order: acupuncture, hydrotherapy, botanicals, supplements, physical medicine, etc., but with the therapeutic goal of treating symptoms, not stimulating healing by treating the cause of disease. This stage is temporary, and once the symptoms are under control, we can then work backward to remove blocking factors and stimulate the innate healing potential.
Tenet # 6: Use Pharmaceutical Substances To Control Symptoms
Contrary to popular belief, Naturopathic Physicians are not against the use of pharmaceuticals, we are simply against their unnecessary use when less invasive measures can be taken. At this stage, patients are not responding to naturopathic modalities in terms of symptom management and the disease stage is so far gone that the patient will not experience success unless they resort to pharmaceutical intervention. In terms of the naturopathic scope of practice, when we recognize that a patient has reached this stage and would benefit from drug therapy, our job is to refer out.
Most of the time, the patient is co-managed and receives medical interventions while being supported naturopathically with treatments that create the foundations for health, stimulate the vital force, support organ system-healing, correct structural integrity and naturally manage symptoms.
Many naturopathic patients are already taking medications when they come to see us. The good news, however, is that some patients find that with proper implementation of therapies from the upper 5 steps of the Therapeutic Order, medications are no longer necessary and, with the consent of their medical doctors, can be discontinued.
Tenet # 7: Use High-Force Interventions Such As Chemotherapy, Radiation, And Surgery
This last stage of the Therapeutic Order. At this stage patients have a disease that has progressed enough to warrant more invasive interventions: burning, drugging and cutting. Most of the time these interventions are given in life-or-death situations. Most patients in this stage have only been under the care of conventional medicine. There is still a lot we can do naturopathically to increase their comfort and extend their lives.
When a patient’s condition warrants these treatments, which do not facilitate healing but rather the removal of invasive disease, their bodies can also be supported naturopathically: by supporting the healing power of nature, supporting organ systems, managing symptoms (or side effects of interventions) naturally and, eventually, establishing a healthy lifestyle foundation that will prevent re-occurrence of the same disease process. Many patients go on to live full, vibrant lives and become huge fans of Naturopathic Medicine!
As you can see, no matter where you fall on the spectrum, the goal is always to put you on the quickest and most effective path to healing.
Interested in using Naturopathic Medicine for yourself and your family? I believe natural medicine should be practiced in every home, and you should not have to spend a fortune to get access to it. This is why I created The GLOW Protocol.