The field of naturopathic medicine is becoming increasingly popular and more widely accepted as a vital component of healthcare delivery. 1 Naturopathic medicine has been in use for hundreds of years, and traditional/world-medicine for thousands, however the evidence base for natural therapies has grown substantially in the last few decades. 2
Many people are interested in visiting a naturopathic doctor (ND) in order to safely incorporate natural treatments for a wide variety of health issues. 3 They may be unsure of what their first visit will look like. If you are considering visiting an ND and would like to know what to expect during your first appointment, here is a breakdown of a typical first visit.
Length of Appointment
Your first visit with a naturopathic doctor may take anywhere from 60 to 90 minutes, which is significantly longer than a conventional medical visit (generally, a conventional appointment will be 20 minutes to an hour long). 4 This first visit is extended in order to give your ND a chance to get to know you and gain an in-depth knowledge of your health, both past and present.
On your first visit, your ND will want to know about your health goals and desired outcomes. This may mean getting particular health issues under control or simply helping you feel more energetic and healthier all around. If you have particular ailments that are a concern, or a specific outcome or goal that you want to work towards, communicate that to your ND in this initial appointment.
Your ND will ask you questions in order to make a detailed record of your health history and concerns. This will involve inquiry into your current and past health, medications, and lifestyle. You can expect a large portion of your first visit to be dedicated to having a discussion with your ND and giving them a lot of information. It is important, on your first visit, that your ND gets an honest and comprehensive look at your health history and truly understands your individual experience in order to properly recommend the best plan for you going forward.
Questions About Diet
Food is a focal point in naturopathic medicine, so your ND will be asking a number of questions regarding your diet, including what you eat regularly, any supplements that you take, and how you feel after eating certain foods. They will also connect the dots to GI health, energy, stress and sleep. This will enable the ND to come up with a plan that fits your individual situation and is root-cause-focused. You may be asked to complete a food diary and other paperwork prior to that first visit.
Physical Exam and Tests
On the first visit, your ND will conduct a physical examination and prescribe any laboratory tests that are relevant in order to complete an assessment and diagnosis. When making their assessment, your ND will use conventional diagnostic tactics and the principles and practice of naturopathic medicine. They may incorporate East Asian Medicine diagnostic techniques and attention to physical details that can provide a holistic understanding of the patient’s complaints.
At the end of the appointment, your ND will make some initial suggestions and talk with you to collaboratively create an individualized treatment plan and follow-up appointment schedule. Depending on the findings from the intake and examination, your ND may recommend any or all of these following treatments: focused therapeutic nutrition, herbal medicine, supplements, IV nutrition, mind-body techniques, homeopathy, physical medicine, stress reduction approaches, lifestyle counseling, East Asian Medicine, hydrotherapy, referrals to other providers, and more.
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