NDs and MDs should work together

March 27, 2016 Dr. Martin Gleixner, MSc, ND

Published by Dr. Gleixner on Wednesday April 28th, 2010 in Times & Transcript

Our present health care system is experiencing difficulties.

Every province in Canada, including New Brunswick, is faced with spiraling health-care costs. New technologies are becoming more expensive, baby-boomer retirements create increased health care needs, and rates of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are on the rise. The reasons for higher health-care costs appear endless.

Many citizens in the Greater Moncton Area are without a family physician (MD). An orphan list has been created with a present wait time of between two to three years.

For many patients with serious chronic disease, referral to specialists is paramount. However, long wait times, anywhere from months to years, force patients to remain untreated while their disease progresses.

Citizens lacking MDs are using our hospitals to address their non-emergency health concerns, further clogging the outpatients’ area at our local hospitals.

The upcoming Naturopathic Medicine Week (May 3 to 9) provides us with a timely opportunity to look at feasible solutions that address our present health care crisis. Let’s discuss an integrated approach that sees MDs and naturopathic doctors (NDs) working side-by-side with the aim of improving health care in New Brunswick as well as for all Canadians.

Naturopathic doctors are regulated health care professionals in Canada who have undergone rigorous medical training and have passed standardized North American Board exams. Naturopathic doctors undergo training similar to MDs (practicing family medicine) plus additional naturopathic disciplines and therapies. Both NDs and MDs are equally trained in the diagnosis of health conditions, in the core medical sciences (anatomy, pathology, physiology, etc”¦) and in specialty medical fields (pharmacology, gynecology, obstetrics, oncology, geriatrics, etc).

In Canada, legislation regulating the practice of naturopathic medicine exists in six provinces. In 2009, both British Columbia and Ontario amended legislation to grant naturopathic doctors prescribing authority for certain substances including pharmaceutical drugs previously only prescribed by MDs.

Naturopathic medicine is not yet regulated in New Brunswick, however, the members of the New Brunswick Association of Naturopathic Doctors (NBAND) are presently working with the provincial government to achieve that goal.

NDs that form NBAND (www.nband.ca) currently maintain a registration with the regulatory colleges in either British Columbia or Ontario and will continue to do so until legislation regulating the profession is passed in New Brunswick.

Both NDs and MDs have their specialties and strengths. Although both practitioners have training in pharmacology, MDs dedicate much more of their treatment to treating symptoms with drug interventions. NDs on the other hand treat the root cause of disease and are more specialized in naturopathic disciplines including clinical nutrition, botanical medicine, traditional Asian medicine and acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, hydrotherapy, naturopathic manipulation and lifestyle counseling. An NDs’ training in pharmacology includes an in-depth understanding about drug interactions with other medications or herbs and supplements, enabling them to trace and treat any potential side-effects.

Patients who are motivated to make lifestyle changes and/or with a desire to reduce or eliminate their prescription medications can be supported with naturopathic treatments. This can be done by NDs working with a patient’s MD, to adjust drug doses accordingly as their condition improves. The use of specific vitamins or minerals in medicinal doses as well as individualized herbal or homeopathic combinations can address underlying functional or pathological imbalances. As an ND, I have successfully worked with patients to decrease their need for anti-depressants, anti-cholesterol medications and high blood pressure medications.

The use of naturopathic medicine in conjunction with conventional medicine is an important first step in addressing our present health care crisis. NDs and MDs can work together because their roles in patient care are complementary, and treatments become more effective in resolving a patient’s health concerns.

Interested in learning more about naturopathic doctors? Check out the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND) website (www.cand.ca) which is an excellent reference. Also, to celebrate health in our community as part of Naturopathic Medicine Week, don’t miss our open house on May 4 from 4 to 6 p.m.