The difference between Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) and Naturopaths


Loving Your Doctor

The difference between Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) and Naturopaths

Naturopathy sets the body’s natural healing mechanisms in motion by promoting a balance in mind, body, and spirit which can help create long-term health and vibrancy.

By Mark Zuleger-Thyss



Imagine being in Cannes, France, when your husband suddenly gets a whopper-size kidney stone. This results in a blockage and an infection, making its way into his bloodstream. One hospitalization brings him a life-saving surgery to treat the sepsis, a second surgery to remove the stone, outpatient IV antibiotics, x-rays, and a CAT scan. The pressure, worry, and difficulty of it are exacerbated by not speaking Occitan, a language spoken across the southern region of France.

You decide to call your primary care doctor in the U.S., asking her to consult with other specialty physicians for advice. What you end up with is one three-word reply: “I’ll look into it,” one no reply at all, and one “I cannot charge the hospital for a long-distance phone call.”


Naturopathy is a highly effective natural form of medicine

Alternative health is enormous in the U.S., and patients seek out, in ever-greater numbers, practitioners of TCM, homeopathy, chiropractic, herbs, naturopathy, dietary approaches to physical health, and many others.

Some people look for the care that most alternative health providers offer. Patients want to feel cared for and cared about. They want to have warm, honest, unhurried interactions with professionals trained to cure and heal.

In the system we have in the U.S., power has moved away from people and towards paperwork and business, where medical practices have morphed into billing machines. As a result, doctors often hire business consultants to improve their bottom line. This can result in putting the patient second to the main goal, which is one of profit.

Naturopaths like nutritionists and herbalists can assist you on your journey to optimal health and wellbeing. You will find your naturopath comes from a place of genuine caring, offering personalized health advice and treatment plans that best suit your needs. They are experts in natural medicine that focuses on restoring whole health balance.

Your naturopath will provide a health plan that is evidence-based, safe, and personalized. They can also work alongside your medical doctor or other allied health professionals if you so desire. A naturopath prevents and relieves the symptoms of the disease by treating the whole person and the root causes of the disease.


The qualifications and competencies of a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) differ from those of a naturopath

There is probably no detrimental consequence of perceiving naturopaths and naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) as the same group of practitioners.

You want to avoid the unschooled and self-proclaimed naturopathy practitioners who will ultimately defame a respected field. Instead, look for legitimate naturopaths and naturopathic doctors by investigating their experience and credentials.



Do not think that naturopaths are less competent and effective than naturopathic doctors (N.D.s). Legitimate naturopaths are professional practitioners with licenses and certifications. Many countries have certified, licensed naturopaths whose practice is regulated by organizations and governmental bodies.

Naturopaths are schooled in various levels of medical science and traditions. They are trained on clinical therapies and often also on Eastern medicine principles. Some naturopaths will even go the extra mile to study Ayurvedic medicine.


Naturopathic Doctors (NDs)

Naturopathic medicine is a traditional form of primary healthcare that combines the science, philosophy, and practice of diagnosing, treating, and preventing illness. In addition, an N.D. will focus on disease prevention and encouraging the body’s natural healing know-how.

A naturopath’s role is to seek, restore, and maintain optimum health by supporting the body’s innate healing abilities. This is accomplished through lifestyle education and the use of evidence-based natural medicines.

Some medical doctors combine the theories and applications of naturopathy with mainstream Western medicine. They are general practitioners with a medical doctorate degree backed by accompanying schooling and specialization in naturopathy.

Medical doctors who have additional training in naturopathy have an N.D. appended to their M.D. title and are licensed to practice naturopathy to care for their patients.

Naturopathic doctors, also licensed as medical doctors, may recommend a patient undergo chemotherapy, surgery, or radiation therapy. They can perform the usual treatments, provide medical advice, and prescribe medication. What makes naturopathic medicine unique is offering alternative support when a patient feels she is running out of options. This special care can enhance the quality of life during most Western medical treatments and procedures.


Naturopathy focuses on preventative medicine

Practitioners will identify and treat the root causes of health problems before they result in serious illness. Naturopaths set out to strengthen the ability of the immune system to resist infection and disease. 

Many people turn to holistic forms of traditional medicine such as naturopathy for relief from health problems that Western medicine has failed to treat. 

Naturopathy assists in relieving symptoms related to:


  • Allergies
  • Arthritis, rheumatism, and osteoarthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS/ME)
  • Colds and flu
  • Constipation
  • Diabetes
  • Digestive and gastrointestinal issues
  • Energy and vitality
  • Fatigue, burnout, and exhaustion
  • Food allergies and intolerances
  • Hay fever/rhinitis
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hormonal issues
  • IBS and bowel disorders
  • Menopause and hot flushes
  • Pain relief
  • PMT/PMS and menstrual issues
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • Pregnancy, birth, and antenatal support
  • Stomach/gastric ulcers
  • UTI and urinary conditions
  • Weight control and obesity


Naturopathy is the general practice of natural therapies. To a naturopath, the presence of disease is considered a reflection of the patient’s balance between physical, mental, social, environmental, and spiritual health.

It is a blend of modalities, including nutrition, herbal medicine, wellness, and lifestyle medicine. Depending on the practitioner, it may also include homeopathy, Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, counseling, energetic work, and even hands-on therapies like chiropractic or kinesiology. Basically, any modality that also encompasses a holistic approach to health.

Naturopathy was formalized in the 19th century by the hydrotherapy and nature cure movement in Austria and Germany. It became popular due to social and cultural change characterized by patients exercising individual responsibility and freedom of choice.



Complementary medicine; Integrative medicine; Natural therapy; Naturopathic medicine; Naturopathy; Whole system practice.


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