Written by Dr. Sean Heerey. This is the second article of a six-article series on the efficacy, cost-effectiveness, and safety of naturopathic medicine when it comes to health promotion and disease prevention based on research from across the country.
Naturopathic medicine is a medical system defined by its philosophy of treating the “cause of disease” and not just alleviating symptoms. It includes health promotion, disease prevention and health care education for patient empowerment. Some of the tools Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) utilize include lab testing (especially looking for unhealthy trends to intervene early), dietary modifications, nutrients, herbal therapies, supplements and lifestyle changes to support patients with health.
U.S. Senate Resolution 221 of the 113th Congress states that “naturopathic doctors are skilled in preventing and treating chronic disease; that naturopathic medicine is a safe, effective, and affordable means of health care; and that licensure of naturopathic doctors helps address the shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, while also providing people with more choice in health care.”
Evidence Based Chronic Disease Prevention
According to the New York State Department of Health Division of Chronic Disease, it’s top priorities are:
- “Health system interventions to improve the effective delivery and use of clinical and other preventive services in order to prevent disease, detect diseases early, and reduce or eliminate risk factors and mitigate or manage complications due to chronic diseases.”
- “Strategies to improve community-clinical linkages ensuring that communities support and clinics refer patients to programs that improve management of chronic conditions. Such interventions ensure that those with or at high risk for chronic diseases have access to quality community resources to best manage their conditions or disease risk.”
The World Health Organization has estimated that if the major risk factors of chronic disease were eliminated, at least 80 percent of all heart disease, stroke and type-2 diabetes would be prevented and more than 40 percent of cancer.
Although the evidence is well known that chronic disease is preventable and reversible the MD (allopathic) dominated healthcare system to this day does not integrate it into treatment as the prevalence of chronic disease shows.
As far back as 1998 JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported:
- “Lifestyle change is the only intervention proven to reverse coronary artery disease.” (Ornish et al., JAMA, 1998)
- “One year of lifestyle intervention for patients with coronary artery disease not only improved all health outcomes and reduced the need for surgery but also cost significantly less then conventional treatment ($7,000 vs $31,000 –$46,000). “(Ornish et al., JAMA, 1998)
According the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002
- “58% of Type 2 diabetes is preventable by lifestyle modification (Diabetes Prevention Program)
A study done by the Department of Health in the State of Washington found:
- Non-complementary medical providers were not recommending lifestyle changes despite the evidence.
- Only 16% of adult respondents said they were advised by their doctor, nurse, or other health professional to eat fewer high fat or high cholesterol foods
- Only 20% were advised to eat more fruits and vegetables
- Only 23% were advised to be more physically active
(SOURCE: The Burden of Heart Disease and Stroke in Washington State 2004; WA State Dept. of Health)
Primary Care should be Preventive Medicine
- “Naturopathic doctors are trained specifically in the prevention and early intervention of chronic conditions thus reducing premiums for those employees utilizing naturopathic medicine.”
SOURCE: Am J Health Promot. 2000 Sep-Oct;15(1):45-52.The relationship between modifiable health risks and group-level health care expenditures. Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Research Committee. Anderson DR, Whitmer RW, Goetzel RZ, Ozminkowski RJ, Dunn RL, Wasserman J, Serxner S; Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) Research Committee.
- Naturopathic doctors are experts in guideline-directed, evidence-based lifestyle modification for diabetes. Four studies to date have demonstrated improvements in blood sugar control among patients working with NDs. Additional benefits of the treatment included weight-loss, lower blood pressure, and less depression.
SOURCE: Bradley RD, Oberg EB. Naturopathic Medicine and Diabetes: a Retrospective from an Academic Clinic. Alternative Medicine Review 2006
A 2013 study reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showed:
- One year of care under the supervision of a naturopathic doctor resulted in a 3.07% reduction in 10-year CVD event risk compared to patients receiving only conventional care.
- The same study found that after one year, naturopathic patients were 16.9% less likely to have developed metabolic syndrome than conventional care patients.
SOURCE: Seely, Dugald, et al. “Naturopathic medicine for the prevention of cardiovascular disease: a randomized clinical trial.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 185.9(2013): E409-E416.
Next week: Part III Training