What they are
They are trained health care practitioners that emphasize proactive prevention and traditional healing methods. Naturopathic doctors, or NDs, attend four-year schools after college where they learn much of the same basic science as MDs (including how to utilize prescription drugs), but are also trained in holistic therapies like nutrition, acupuncture, homeopathy, and botanical medicine. They cannot practice major surgery.
What to expect
The first time you and your child meet with a naturopath, be prepared to get personal. “I like to have parents come in and tell me everything that’s going on in inside the house. We go through the cup- boards, go through the medicine cabinet, and talk about who’s getting sick,” says Heather Manley, N.D., a Hawaii-based naturopathic doctor. Having a complete picture of what’s happening at home helps naturopaths figure out the reasons for your child’s ailments— and tailor their treatments accordingly. There could be something deeper at play if, for in- stance, your child keeps coming down with sinus infections: Sure, she could be catching it from classmates, but she could also have an undiagnosed allergy that’s irritating her nasal passages and creating blockages.
A naturopath will also help your family build a natural pharmacy that works to help your child find relief when she’s sick. Supplements like vitamin C, homeopathic remedies, and herbal tinctures like elderberry syrup are all fair game, but sometimes the doctor’s orders are even simpler. Manley’s a big fan of making sure families drink enough water, and even employs H2O in a technique called hydrotherapy, where you warm your child’s feet and then have her wear a pair of cool, wet socks to bed. “The application of hot and cold opens and constricts the blood vessels to increase the blood flow, so you’re flushing in the good stuff and flushing out the bad, as well as stimulating the immune system,” Manley says.
What to look for
Depending on your state, practicing naturopaths may need to be licensed just like MDs and DOs (find a list of states that require licensing at naturopathic. org). No license needed? You should still ask questions about the naturopath’s training and experience, and make sure that she’s a member of a professional organization, like the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. If your naturopath doesn’t treat kids exclusively, it’s also a good idea to find out whether she’s received any specific pediatric training and how many children she sees per week.
Are they covered by insurance?
It depends. Natural and alternative therapies aren’t always approved for coverage, so it’s a good idea to check your individual policy before scheduling a visit.