Finding Medical Allies


Choosing a health care practitioner is often a gruelling, time consuming task. Here in the U.S it is difficult to find a family doctor and even more so to find one that you feel comfortable with. In recent years several different types of alternative practitioners have become popular to meet the growing demand.

Yet with so many different types of practitioners and so many different acronyms following their names (M.D, D.O, etc…), how do you know which physician can provide you with the best care, and how each doctor differs in their method?

In turning to alternative health care providers to attend to your health needs it is important that you are aware of their qualifications, strengths and limitations. Whenever possible you should seek care from licensed health care practitioners with as much training as you can possibly find, preferably from four-year post-graduate institutions. There are three designations that fit that description–M.D.s, D.O.s and N.D.s.

M.D (Medical Doctor)

MDs are your family doctors and the physicians that attend to your needs in the hospitals. They are the ones that take out your tonsils and prescribe your antibiotics. This is the doctor that most of us are familiar with.

There are, however, many MDs that believe in the natural healing powers of the body and choose to incorporate holistic medicine approaches into their treatment. These holistic MDs, as they are called, incorporate at least one type of complementary medicine — perhaps acupuncture or herbal therapy — into their medical practice.

The advantage of using a holistic M.D. is that they have the ability to prescribe medicines that are not attainable without prescription, but they will also be open to giving suggestions on corrective therapies for your illness that involve no pharmaceuticals or painful surgeries.

Try choosing a holistic M.D. that is part of the American Holistic Medical Association. Members of this group abide by a high ethical code and are constantly being revised by the association’s committee.

D.O (Osteopathic Doctor)

There are many similarities between M.Ds and D.Os, including the fact that both are fully licensed physicians who are authorized to prescribe medication and perform surgery. However, two key differences that separate these two types of doctors are:

1. D.Os practice a “whole person” approach to medicine. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard your body as one and understand that a seemingly unrelated body part could easily be the culprit of the illness being shown. The focus is on preventive health care.

2. Unlike an M.D., a D.O has extra training in musculoskeletal manipulation.

As described by Dr. Eric J. Dolgin, on the Osteopathic Home Page, “The Osteopath’s job is to “set” the body up to heal itself. To restore this normal function, the Osteopath gently applies a precise amount of force to promote movement of the bodily fluids, eliminate dysfunction in the motion of the tissues, and release compressed bones and joints. In addition, the areas being treated require proper positioning to assist the body’s ability to regain normal tissue function.”

Many Americans, in fact may have a D.O. as their family physician and not even realize it. Individuals, however, who are contemplating a change in physician and are looking for a D.O, can find a complete list of licensed osteopaths at http://www.aimmembers.org/boarddirectory/.

N.D (Naturopathic Doctor)

N.Ds are privately trained physicians that graduate from their programs with a licence distinct from other practitioners; they are doctors of homeopathy.

These practitioners, similar to D.Os, seek the underlying causes of your illness, rather than the elimination of symptoms. They quite frequently spend longer periods of time with their patients going over patient, history, diet, lifestyle and other personal information that could give them insight into where the patient’s illness stems from. They are always looking for the least invasive treatment with minimal side effects for the body.

NDs utilize alternative medicinal methods which include: therapeutic nutrition, homeopathic remedies, botanical remedies, nutritional supplementation, and physical medicine including spinal manipulation.
Naturopathic doctors do not usually use synthetic drugs, although they do have a limited scope to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs such as antibiotics.

Most insurance plans and coverage cover a certain percentage of medical expenses received in complementary and/or alternative medicine. Individuals should, however, consult their specific plan to see what their coverage entails. Vitamins, herbs, natural supplements and tinctures are not currently covered by insurance plans.

The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) is the professional organization that represents licensed naturopathic doctors, www.naturopathic.org

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