Would You Ever Use A Naturopath?

Suzanne Murray

naturopath vs. pediatrician for babyOne of my friends uses a naturopathic physician (ND) instead of a pediatrician for all of her little one's health-care needs. She raves about the way her daughter is treated, and she has a great relationship with the naturopath. I, on the other hand, am on the hunt for a new pediatrician. I thought I'd find out more about naturopaths while I'm at it. Luckily, there's a group on CafeMom called Naturopathic Care. I spoke with jellyphish, the group owner, who was really helpful. Here's what she told me about using a naturopath instead of a pediatrician.

Cafe Suzanne: You use a naturopathic physician rather than a pediatrician for your 17-month-old daughter's primary health care. How did you come to make this decision?

jellyphish: I took a few very light naturopathic intro courses in school and it's something I've since been very passionate about.  When I was pregnant with Isis I was still unsure about whether to use a pediatric ND or MD for her, so my husband and I met with a both kinds of pediatricians and we both felt much more comfortable with the ND.

Cafe Suzanne: What is naturopathy?

jellyphish: In a nut shell, naturopathy is using natural treatments to improve and maintain health.

Cafe Suzanne: Have you ever used a pediatrician?

jellyphish: No

Cafe Suzanne: Why not?

jellyphish: Western medicine definitely has its values, I just feel it should be used as a last resort instead of a first.

Cafe Suzanne: Can you give some examples of times when your daughter was sick and how the naturopath treated her?

jellyphish: Last winter Isis caught some kind of bug and had a fever of 102* so I took her to see her ND. The doctor asked all kinds of questions about how she had been behaving, what times of day she felt worse and better, what we had been doing for her at home. After getting a feel for exactly what was going on with Isis, the ND gave her a vitamin C, echinacea supplement to encourage her body's healing mechanisms.  She also reassured us that her fever was her body's way of fighting the infection and that the temperature wasn't high enough to be too concerned yet, but to watch it.  She suggested that we give her Tylenol for the fever should she become too uncomfortable, otherwise it was fine for her to ride it out. I didn't take her to an MD for this because I didn't need to, but I can guess from my own personal experiences that one would have prescribed one-size medicines to suppress the symptoms.

Cafe Suzanne: What are a naturopath's credentials?

jellyphish: This varies by state. Unfortunately, most states currently don't require licensing for NDs, so it's really important to read up on your state's laws and research your ND's background. In the states where licensing is not required, many qualified practitioners practice under complimentary licenses like DO or even MD. From the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP):

"A Licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year graduate level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as an M.D. but also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness."

Cafe Suzanne: Is it important to choose a naturopathic physician that specializes in children?

jellyphish: Because naturopathic medicine is so broad, NDs tend to have specialties both in modalities and clientele, and it's really a personal preference of what kind of ND to use. It's the same as making the choice between a pediatric MD and a general family practitioner.

Cafe Suzanne: How would someone go about looking for a credentialed naturopath-pediatrician?

jellyphish: The AANP and the CANP are the best places to start looking, these are the respective accredited associations of America and Canada.

Cafe Suzanne: What questions should someone ask a naturopath they are considering hiring as their child's primary health-care provider?

jellyphish: It's important to ask all the same questions you would as of an MD, as well as any other concerns there may be.  I also think it's really important to make sure the ND is willing and able to refer an MD when it's necessary.

Cafe Suzanne:
Do naturopathic physicians take health insurance?

jellyphish: This varies by insurance plan, unfortunately most plans don't cover NDs.

Cafe Suzanne: Most traditional pediatricians are affiliated with a hospital and if a child gets seriously ill or in a serious accident, the child would go to that hospital. Are naturopaths affiliated with hospitals?

jellyphish: This also varies by state and ND.

Cafe Suzanne: Is there any illness, condition, or accident that could affect your child that you would not trust a naturopath to handle?

jellyphish: I wouldn't not trust my ND, so to speak, but there are definitely times when western medicine is applicable. I trust my ND to make reference to an MD if he needs to. If Isis was ever seriously injured I would take her to an ER just like any other mother would. A reputable acupuncturist once said to me, "if you're sick, come to us. If you're broken, go to them."

For more information on naturopaths, check out the group Naturopathic Care.

Have you ever used a naturopathic physician for your baby's health care? Did you have a good experience? If you've never used a naturopath, would you consider using one?

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