The [Natural] Path Taken 2

Achieving Wellness by Asking 
One Question: Why?

It seems to me that “everyone’s got something,” and I’m struck by how many of my friends and family are flocking to naturopathic medicine for healing and experiencing amazing results. To understand this seismic shift so many are making in the quest to feel better, I sat down with South Denver-based Naturopathic Doctor (ND) Dr. Mark Carney. It’s a busy day at the Thriveology offices in South Denver, but Dr. Carney takes plenty of time to answer my many questions about naturopathic medicine.  

What is naturopathic medicine?

Naturopathic medicine is its own health care system that includes Western medicine and elements from Eastern medicine and other parts of the world.

How does your approach differ from that of a “conventional” doctor?

I don’t treat the disease; I work with the whole person, who just happens to have a particular issue. We were born to be healthy. Built into us is a self-healing mechanism that engages when things are out of balance: you get a paper cut on your thumb, your thumb magically heals on its own. That same part of us has the power to heal the physical—diabetes, cancer, a broken bone, the common cold—as well as the non-physical, whether that’s anxiety, depression or a broken heart.

When someone isn’t well, I ask one question: Why? Why isn’t that self-healing engaging properly? Often there is something interfering with a person’s ability to heal, like a food they’re eating, exposure to an environmental toxin or a household item. The “something missing” might be a feeling of purpose, a partner or the absence of sunshine, air, sleep, exercise or water.

Do naturopathic doctors share the same regulatory status as conventional medical doctors?

Yes—in Colorado and many other states. Naturopathic doctors (NDs) can register as legal health care providers if they’ve: (1) completed a four-year graduate program at an accredited naturopathic medical school; and (2) passed national science and clinical board exams. Although post-grad work is not required, I did a family practice residency, and that was very important to me.

What should a new patient expect on their first visit?

The first visit includes a very thorough medical history, physical examination and four in-house tests, all of which are non-invasive and pain-free.

Do/will insurance carriers cover naturopathic medicine?

It’s happening in several other states, so it’s possible that insurance will eventually cover the services of a naturopathic doctor in Colorado. That said, insurance coverage requires the provider to do certain things and not others… so will it tie our hands?

What surprises folks most 
about naturopathy?

People are pleasantly surprised at how thorough I am in learning who they are and what’s taken place, as well as the thoroughness of the exam itself. When they come back to discuss my recommendations they’re surprised again by the many treatment options they never knew existed.

The “over-prescribing of America” is a major public health concern right now. What is your take on the use of pharmaceutical prescriptions in treating physical and non-physical ailments?

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. For conventionally trained practitioners who haven’t studied other types of treatments, prescription medicine may be the only tool in their bag. I’m not opposed to pharmacotherapy; there are times when they can be important therapies to use. But in my experience, they’re often not necessary and often cause varying degrees of harm. For patients who are motivated to make changes in their habits, e.g., their diets, prescription drugs may be unnecessary.

Legally I can’t take someone off a prescription that I didn’t prescribe. But with the patient’s written permission, I can contact their doctor and say, “We have a mutual patient, and their goal is to get off this medication. Are you open to collaborating me to help them achieve their goals?”