29 May A Union of Care: Naturopathic and Conventional Medicine Working Together
Guest Post By: Dr. Jennah Miller
As a naturopathic doctor, I’ve been asked this same question more times than I can count: “Can I see both you and my family doctor at the same time?”. The answer is consistently a resounding and enthusiastic “YES!” on my part. Nothing will make your naturopathic doctor more thrilled than to hear that you have an integrative health care team backing you up, because each practitioner serves a different, yet equally important role in helping you achieve your health and wellness goals.
How do two seemingly very different healthcare practitioners like your family doctor and your naturopathic doctor work together to best serve you? If you’re not working with a naturopath already, I strongly recommend you check out my earlier post on what you can expect when working with an ND to understand exactly what we offer. Naturopathic and conventional medicine make a great pairing, as we tend to fill in the gaps in each others scope of care, and ensure that you are empowered in your treatment options. Having both an ND and MD as part of your healthcare team allows you to be educated on both the conventional care options (for example, pharmaceutical treatment in the form of medications) as well as the naturopathic (diet, lifestyle, herbal, and nutritional supplementation) for your specific health concerns.
Naturopathic medicine also serves an important role in adjunctive and complementary care. This means that naturopathic doctors can use their scope of practice to provide additional support that complements your current conventional treatment. In the context of a topic that might resonate for Eve Kit users, naturopathic doctors can provide adjunctive support for cervical dysplasia and HPV in the form of dietary, herbal, and supplementation recommendations. These naturopathic options can be used to improve HPV clearance as you continue with regular conventional screening guidelines, and undergo any indicated medical procedures such as LEEP to remove abnormal cervical cells.
To best understand how naturopathic and conventional medicine can coexist, let’s outline the scope of practice of naturopathic medicine in Ontario; essentially what we can do, what we cannot do, and how we can work collaboratively with your family doctor.
What Naturopathic Doctors Can Do
Naturopathic doctors are lucky enough to have a pretty broad scope of practice in Ontario. We offer a variety of “modalities” to our patients and may combine any number of them into your treatment plan at a given time. It’s with these numerous modalities that we’re able to provide patients with highly individualized care. Naturopathic doctors take into account which treatments have the best research to back them up and whether or not they resonate with the patient’s values and goals. For example, if acupuncture and needles just really aren’t your style, then your naturopath should be more than happy to suggest other effective treatment options.
In the province of Ontario, naturopathic doctors are able to provide the following treatment options:
- Dietary and Nutritional counselling
- Lifestyle counselling – exercise, stress management, etc.
- Herbal and Supplement recommendations
- Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment
- Physical Examinations, including full gynecological examinations
- Chiropractic-Style Adjustments (often referred to as Naturopathic Manipulation)
- Lab testing – although not covered by OHIP
What Naturopathic Doctors Cannot Do
As you can see, naturopathic doctors have a wide array of treatment options available to complement each patient’s conventional care. It’s important to note, however, that naturopathic doctors do not serve the same role as medical doctors. While we have extensive additional education in diet, nutrition, and herbal support, we are not equipped to handle acute and emergent care. If you break your arm or require immediate care, your naturopathic doctor should not be your first point of contact. For these situations, your family medical doctor or nearest hospital emergency room will always be the best option.
Naturopathic doctors (at least in Ontario, since regulation differs from province to province) cannot requisition specific lab tests like HPV DNA or STI testing. Eve Kit is an amazing option to help fill in this gap, if the individual doesn’t have a family medical doctor to administer this testing. In addition, ND’s cannot make direct referrals to gain access to a specialist or request specialized imaging. We also cannot prescribe controlled substances, although our scope of practice may be shifting in this area within the next few years. Currently, ND’s must pass an optional Ontario Prescribing Exam to be able to administer specific high dose supplementation (i.e. B12 injections or high dose Vitamin D) and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.
Requesting Lab Work & Referrals – Working alongside your Family Doctor
Fortunately, there are various ways in which your naturopathic doctor can work with your family doctor to fill in these aforementioned gaps. At times when my patients have needed referral to a specialist or added imaging to complete their work up, I’ve been more than happy to write their family doctor a letter detailing a request on my behalf to refer the patient to the appropriate channels. The same goes for added blood work; if a patient cannot afford to pay for additional testing out of pocket, I’m able to write them a letter for them to take to a walk-in clinic or their family doctor, requesting that they have specific lab tests completed (and why we’re requesting these tests). This way, access to OHIP coverage is more readily accessible.
The majority of my patients have a family medical doctor and see them regularly for prescription medications and conventional screening procedures (routine blood work, regular PAP tests, etc.). Without you even being entirely aware of it, your naturopath is likely already working collaboratively with your family MD by:
- Checking in with them to make sure you haven’t missed any routine screenings based on your age, family medical history, and personal risk factors
- Ensuring your herbal or supplement prescriptions support your current prescription medications, and do not have adverse interactions
- Assessing for adverse effects of your current medication regimen, which includes checking for nutrient deficiencies and recommending supplementation or added dietary support as needed.
Whether you’re looking to explore alternative options, or are interested in natural treatments to complement your conventional care, naturopathic medicine can be an amazing addition to your health journey. Your healthcare team should be just as individualized and unique as you are, and serve the important role of educating and empowering you to make informed choices about your health. You deserve the absolute best that both naturopathic and conventional medicine have to offer, so why limit yourself to only one?
Jennah Miller is a Toronto based Naturopathic Doctor who believes that the strongest step a woman can take towards empowerment, is in taking care of her health. She works with weird, wild, and badass women in co-creating their own unique brilliance. Dr. Jennah understands that women are not just small men, and she thinks it’s high time your health care took that into account. Don’t you?
Dr. Jennah graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine with a special interest in fertility and reproductive health, as well as a passion for teaching women how to love their periods and connect with the shifting tides of their own bodies. With an undergraduate degree in Nutrition, she has an in depth knowledge of how to fuel the female body. She believes above all, that you are important and worth your own time. You can find out more about her and her naturopathic practice at www.jennahmiller.com, or book with her at https://jennahmiller.janeapp.com/
From time to time, we invite guest experts to share their professional opinions and thoughts on our blog. Views, opinions, and positions expressed within these posts are those of the author alone, and do not represent those of Eve Medical.