By Dr. Mike Baker

Pioneer Columnist

Natural Health

Every year during May, naturopathic medicine is promoted across Canada during Naturopathic Medicine Week. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) can be found promoting and educating their communities about healthy living, disease prevention and the value of integrative medicine.

In honour of this week, I thought I would give an overview of naturopathic medicine; specifically, how it started and where it is today.

The roots of naturopathic medicine extend as far back as the late 1800s to medical practitioners in Germany. During this time, gravely ill patients were getting better with the relatively simple treatments of Nature Cure that involved clean water, clear air and wholesome, healthy food.

These practices eventually migrated to America and then began to trickle into Canada throughout the early 1900s. During this time when a patient sought out a naturopathic physician, they were likely treated with a healthy diet, herbal medicines and hydrotherapy the use of water to encourage healing. Have you ever noticed how energized you are after a cold shower, or how steam baths soothe achy joints? Thats the healing power of water!

Today, youll find that not all naturopathic doctors practise the same. There are still some NDs who use more traditional treatments such as hydrotherapy and herbal medicine.

Other NDs are more inclined to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs in addition to healthy diet and lifestyle promotion.

Lastly, there are those who blend modern evidence based therapies with the tried and true treatments of the past.

Although some therapies have evolved over the past century, the principles of naturopathic medicine have remained the same. The goal of all naturopathic doctors is to treat the cause of a patients illness and support the bodys innate ability to heal itself.

Over the past few years, I have noticed a shift in the attitude of the general public and medical practitioners. More and more patients are looking for alternatives to pharmaceutical-based medicine. Patients are more inclined to seek out whole food diets, meditation, exercise and various alternative therapies. The medical field is responding to these calls. Every year there are more NDs graduating from registered naturopathic medical schools and there are more medical doctors who are seeing the value in alternative-based medicine for their patients.

We may not be far off from a time of true complimentary medicine where the necessity of pharmaceutical drugs and alternative therapies go hand in hand. It appears as though medicine is coming full circle by integrating our latest scientific discoveries with practices from a time when all that a patient needed was a good dose of nature.

Dr. Mike Baker is a naturopathic physician practicing in Invermere. For more information, call 250-342-1457 or visit