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Disclaimer: The Parent-tested series is based upon personal experiences of those who have tried a particular intervention or service. It is NOT medical or financial advice, nor a substitute for professional advice. It is neither an endorsement or opposition to any intervention or service. This is an opinion piece.
The doctor recommended Ritalin for our 4 year old, and so we began to seek alternate help for tummy ache complaints and hyperactivity issues. After research on the medication, we decided to try a more holistic approach, so we sought out a Naturopathic Doctor (ND).
What is a Naturopath
According to the American Association of Naturopathic Doctors,
Naturopathic doctors are educated and trained in accredited naturopathic medical colleges. They diagnose, prevent, and treat acute and chronic illness to restore and establish optimal health by supporting the person’s inherent self-healing process. Rather than just suppressing symptoms, naturopathic doctors work to identify underlying causes of illness, and develop personalized treatment plans to address them.
We found that our Naturopath spent much more time than our pediatrician or other specialists, in order understand and address underlying causes.
What to expect
Prepare to spend 1 to 2 hours on an initial visit. We were also asked to bring the following:
- Any recent blood work or imaging results
- A journal of the last 3-5 days of all food, snacks, and drinks
- A list (as well as the actual bottle) of any medications and/or supplements
- Health form with personal and family medical history; speak with your family ahead of time and write down any pertinent information ahead of our visit.
Check Insurance Coverage
- Not all states recognize licensed Naturopathic Doctors, so it’s important to check with insurance to see whether it will cover the visit.
- If paying privately, ask about the costs upfront; sometimes there are sliding scales or payment plans, other times payment is due at the time of the visit.
- Additionally, if there are further medical tests required, and NDs are not recognized in your state, you may need to ask your primary care medical doctor for a prescription, otherwise be prepared for out-of-pocket costs.
Our experience was positive; we learned a lot about nutrition and how, in particular, different foods were impacting my daughter’s behavior and sleep patterns. In addition, we learned about natural supplements to support our efforts as well as where to purchase pharmaceutical-grade supplements without additives.
Out state, unfortunately, doesn’t license Naturopathic doctors so all of our costs were out-of-pocket. We spent upwards of $200 per month on supplements.
Don’t expect a quick fix
Working to get to the root cause of an issue (or multiple issues) takes time and work. If you’re looking for an immediate resolution, traditional medicine may suit your needs better.
In our case, we completed an elimination diet , started a gluten and dairy free diet and ultimately found resolution for the stomach ache complaints. Additionally, we learned about supplements like magnesium, to help with calming. I am now much more apt to seek a supplement or food before implementing a medication.
Did it work?
My daughter has an ADHD diagnosis. Although we hoped that we might be able to avoid the need for medication completely, based on what we learned from the naturopath we were able to delay the start of medication until age 7. Moreover, we were able to use a time-released, non-stimulant medication which doesn’t impact sleep or her appetite. Furthermore, she has been on a very low dose for several years (and it’s still effective), and her pediatrician attributes that to all of the other (natural) things we do to support her overall heath and well-being.
What to look for
When choosing a Naturopathic Doctor, it’s important to look for the following
Your practitioner should have an accredited degree. For example, when seeing a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine, this means that they have completed an undergraduate degree, followed by specialized post-graduate degree and standardized licensing exams.
Check the Referral network/Website
Ask friends and family for recommendations. People are happy to recommend someone that they are having good results with.
Likewise, check their webpage – is it updated? Are they routinely posting about current health issues? Make sure they are engaged.
Experience with your Concerns
Just like Medical Doctors, some Naturopathic Doctors have specialties. Don’t take your child to a ND who specializes in adult issues.
You’ll want to know if the ND has a proven track record for treating the concern(s) you have. If so, he or she will be able to speak to several different approaches and strategies that might help. Some practitioners keep a book of handwritten testimonials from their patients as well.
Look for someone you’ll feel comfortable sharing details and concerns with, and who you’re also comfortable saying “no” to about treatment options you’re uncomfortable with.