Naturopathic Diaries Confessions of a former naturopath. A blog by a former ND and Bastyr graduate. "I left the profession of naturopathic medicine to pursue a career in biomedical research. Since my departure, I have been working to understand my former biases towards naturopathic medicine and explore the ethics and evidence, or lack thereof, of naturopathic philosophy and practice. I’ve concluded that naturopathic medicine is not what I was led to believe. It is a system of indoctrination based on discredited ideas about health and medicine, full of anti-science rhetoric and ineffective and sometimes dangerous practices. This blog reveals what I’ve discovered about naturopathic medicine. Herein lies my story based on my personal and professional experiences."
What is Naturopathy?
Naturopathy is based on “vitalism,” an ancient belief that some sort of unidentified and unexplained “energy” animates all living things and is responsible for health and disease. Before modern science figured out the basic biology of human life, vitalism was used to explain aspects of human functioning that were not understood at the time. As new discoveries in science and medicine eliminated the need for dependence on vitalism as an explanation, it disappeared from scientific thinking. There is no evidence that this “vital force” exists but naturopaths regard this shortcoming as irrelevant.
Naturopaths are generally divided into two groups, traditional naturopaths and so-called “naturopathic doctors” or “naturopathic physicians.” While traditional naturopaths use such disproven nostrums as homeopathy and recommend dietary supplements of dubious effectiveness, they make no pretentions to the practice of medicine and do not claim that they can diagnose and treat disease. They also give some sensible advice about diet and exercise. As long as they refrain from practicing medicine many, but not all, states allow them to engage in the practice of traditional naturopathy without regulation. Traditional naturopaths oppose licensing of naturopaths because it would make their practice illegal.
“Doctors of naturopathic medicine” also practice in accordance with the discredited notion of vitalism and use nonsensical treatments such as homeopathy. Their education consists mainly in the use of unproven, and often disproven, treatments such as herbs, and diagnoses of diseases that are soundly rejected by modern medicine, like “chronic yeast overgrowth.” These diagnoses rely on silly tests like “hair mineral analysis.” Despite the educational focus on these subjects, so-called naturopathic doctors or naturopathic physicians make the absurd claim that have the equivalent education and training as medical doctors and the ability to practice as primary care physicians with the same competency. They claim they can diagnose diseases and treat them with the same proficiency as primary care physicians, including the use of drugs. This is belied by their education and actual practice.
"Naturopathic medicine, despite its claims to the contrary, is not evidence-based. . . If you don’t believe me, I invite you to Google “detoxification and naturopath.” You will get a list of clinics offering things like colon cleanses (useless, potentially harmful, and a bit disgusting), ionic foot baths that create an “energy field similar to that found in the human body” (so scientifically ridiculous that it borders on parody), and infrared sauna therapy (ditto). Timothy Caulfield, PhD, Professor and Canada Research Chair in Health Law and Policy at the University of Alberta, "Naturopathy and the creep of pseudo-science," Toronto Star, Dec. 15, 2013.
"There’s an easy way to become legitimate: practice science-based medicine. This would be awfully difficult for naturopaths, whose practices include homeopathy, colloidal silver treatments, and chelation therapy, to name but a few." Steven Salzberg, PhD., Professor of Medicine and Biostatistics in the Institute of Genetic Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine,"Naturopathic Shenanigans in the Maryland Legislature," Forbes Magazine, Feb. 18, 2013.