What is a naturopathic doctor?

Maybe you’ve heard this term once or twice but thought nothing of it.  Or perhaps you’ve seen an ND before or are currently under the care of one and still don’t fully understand what it means.  Don’t worry, you are not alone.

Naturopaths are sometimes also referred to as naturopathic doctors and naturopathic physicians.  All three terms refer to someone who is licensed to practice naturopathic medicine and can be used interchangeably.  ND is the title abbreviation for a licensed naturopath.  All NDs attend a 4 year accredited graduate-level medical school and are educated in all of the same basic sciences as medical doctors.  Unlike medical doctors, NDs also study holistic and nontoxic approaches to therapy with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness.  NDs believe in the healing potential of each person and in nature.

The ND approach involves looking at each patient as a complex system that is greater than the sum of its parts, and treating the person rather than the disease.  NDs are not interested in treating symptoms alone.  Instead, they use a patient’s symptoms as clues to help identify the underlying cause.  The ND will then treat the root cause of the disease or symptoms, using natural methods (for example; herbal medicine, nutritional prescription, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, manipulation therapy, physiotherapy) wherever possible.

Take the example of a patient who comes in complaining of frequent stomach aches.  Rather than just administering a treatment aimed at alleviating the patient’s symptoms (the stomach ache) when they appear, an ND will identify and treat what is causing the stomach aches in the first place.  In this way, the goal is to make a healthier patient, not just a patient with less symptoms.


~ Dr. Laing

Abby Laing