Even though we work hard to exercise, eat right and take care of ourselves, there still may come a time when our bodies stop functioning properly and we need the help of a doctor to make things right. Most of us are very familiar with Western medical approaches, but naturopathic medicine can be a viable alternative, offering a more natural path towards healing.
I am very pleased to have Dr. Juniper Martin from Westside Family Practice offer us some valuable information to help us understand what naturopathic medicine is so that we can make the informed decisions about our health and choose the best option for our situation:
1. What is naturopathic medicine?
Naturopathic medicine recognizes that the human body is designed to maintain its health. If you are not feeling at full health, it does not mean your body is breaking down. The symptoms you feel are your body’s attempt to adapt to some strain. Symptoms are signals for us to start investigating that strain and eliminate it. Naturopathic medicine is holistic and understands the interconnectedness of all the body’s systems.
2. What is the difference between a naturopathic doctor and a traditional medical doctor?
A Naturopathic physician looks at the symptoms the body is exhibiting as clues to a root cause. Symptoms are not just eliminated. When the underlying cause of your symptoms is discovered, a Naturopath has the knowledge and training to recommend methods to support your body’s healing. Being a Naturopathic Physician is like being a Medical Detective. The first step in the investigation is to listen to you. An ND understands that the best information regarding your health is going to come from you. Different bodies lose their healing ability for different reasons, and Naturopaths work closely with their patients and listen to those individual symptoms for clues about each unique case. A Naturopathic investigation includes a detailed history, physical exams, laboratory analysis, and other diagnostic procedures. When the underlying cause of your symptoms is discovered, an ND has the knowledge and training to recommend methods to support your body’s healing.
3. Are naturopathic doctors licensed? How are they educated?
Naturopaths are licensed health care providers in 5 Canadian provinces and fifteen states. The scope of practice varies within each of those states. In Oregon and Washington, for example, ND’s are licensed as primary care physicians and are covered by insurance, can perform minor surgery, and have the same prescriptive rights as MD’s, and can order the same diagnostics (lab work and any needed imaging). Naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care physicians and attend a four-year professional post-graduate medical program. The first two years consist of the same basic sciences as one would find at a traditional medical school such as anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, etc. The final two years consist of over 800 hours of clinical training and learning complementary treatments like herbal medicine and nutrition.
4. What are some of the conditions and diseases you treat most often?
My practice is truly a family practice. My youngest patient is 1 month old and my oldest is near ninety. Because of this, I see and treat just about everything you can imagine! If I had to pick something, I’d say that health issues that are a direct result of stress would be the most common thing I see and treat…hormonal imbalances, insomnia, weight problems, cardiovascular issues (like high blood pressure).
5. What is homeopathy and herbal medicine? Are prescription drugs ever used?
Homeopathy is a specific modality that is sometimes used in a treatment plan. It is a science unto itself, and is based on the idea that like cures like. The theory is that if a particular substance causes certain symptoms when taken in large quantities, then if that same substance is taken in extremely miniscule quantities that substance will cure those same symptoms it can cause. The fact is, as with many things in medicine, we don’t know for sure how homeopathy is working. But I can tell you that clinically, I’ve seen it do wonders! Prescription drugs absolutely have their place. Of course, as an ND, I want to choose the least invasive treatment possible, the one that will best support the body and it’s natural mechanisms of healing. However, sometimes the best way to do that is with a pharmaceutical. Every case is different!
6. Does my diet play a role in my treatment? Will I need to modify my diet?
What we put in our bodies DOES play a role in our health. NO question there! The food that we put into ourselves is our most basic medicine. During a visit, your diet will be reviewed, what you eat and drink and how much. Then, what changes may be necessary to attain the goals desired will be discussed, and we’ll discuss what you feel able to take on. It’s very important to me that we agree on a plan that is doable and not overwhelming.
7. Can you work together with my medical doctor for treatment?
While I generally prefer to work as your primary care provider, I am happy to work in conjunction with your other care providers and provide consultation for options not available in conventional medicine. I routinely work with other practitioners to create the best plan. It takes a village of proper caregivers to heal and make you your best you!
8. Is naturopathic medicine covered by insurance?
Naturopathic care is often covered by insurance, especially in Washington and Oregon. However, each plan is different, and it is best to call your insurance company and find out what your exact coverage is. Most companies now recognize and cover ND’s as primary care providers, but in some instances, we’re still covered under alternative medicine coverage.
9. What is a visit to your office like?
A first visit will include a thorough history of your case and a physical examination. Pertinent lab work will be ordered. There will be time for you to ask any questions pertaining to my background and approach. Follow-up visits will be shorter, and we will continue treatment or address any acute needs you may have. You will leave each visit with a detailed, individualized, easy-to-follow treatment plan. I also encourage you to call or email with any concerns or questions you may have.
10. How long will it take for me to find relief and/or see results?
When someone notices real change is very dependent on what exactly we’re treating. For something like a common cold the results are fairly quick. Even for something like PMS symptoms, noticeable change is fairly obvious from the get-go. Lasting change will take longer…generally 3-6 months. Also, it’s important to remember that while sometimes pharmaceuticals are used, Natural medicine is NOT pill-popping medicine…meaning, one doesn’t just take a pill and see immediate change. Effecting real, lasting change means changing habits and attitudes, and rebuilding neural pathways and hormonal pathways to function in the way they are meant to. This does take time and effort. But that time and effort does pay off in you being able to be your true authentic self and shine!
About the Author:
Juniper Martin, ND is mother to three children, two boys and a girl. She has history as a biologist, an actress, a chemist, and a waitress. She has helped nurse a parent through cancer and has trained as a midwife. She’s been blessed with having experienced both great joy and deep grief. Her passion is the human condition: why are we here, what is our purpose, what brings us, as individuals meaning? Her goal is to help her patients and their families live at their highest potential. Dr. Martin practices as a family primary care physician. She uses an integrated approach, combining her study of complementary treatments such as herbal medicine, homeopathy, and nutrition with her training in western diagnostics, pharmacology, and laboratory interpretation.
Dr. Martin can be contacted at her practice in Tigard, Oregon:
Westside Family Practice
11825 SW Greenburg Road, Suite A2
Tigard, OR 97223