Q&A: Nutritional Medicine

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Q: In a recent newsletter you discussed new findings in nutritional medicine. I’ve never heard of nutritional medicine. Would you define it?

A: A physician who practices nutritional medicine utilizes a combination of lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, stress reduction) along with vitamins, minerals, and herbs, rather than first reaching for a prescription pad.

In many ways, nutritional medicine is similar to naturopathic medicine, except naturopaths can’t prescribe prescription drugs. Virtually all MDs who call themselves “holistic”–meaning they care for the whole person (mind, body, and spirit)–practice nutritional medicine.

Nutritional medicine is not taught in medical school or during residency training. Except for a few relatively short post-graduate courses in nutritional medicine, doctors who choose to incorporate it into their practice must learn it on their own. I learned a great deal about it by reading the textbooks used by naturopaths.

My recommending St. John’s wort, 5HTP, and B complex for depression; chasteberry for premenstrual syndrome; and black cohosh for menopause symptoms are all examples of nutritional medicine. In addition to the lifestyle changes, of course.

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