Regulations needed for naturopathy

Regulations needed for naturopathy

Naturopathy believes ‘food as medicine’ and consists of a tried and tested treatment modality to cure diseases and heal the body without the need for drugs or invasive treatments. iStock/Representative image

Naturopathy as a healing practice in India can be traced back to the Vedic times. However, the modern naturopathy movement started in the 19th century from Europe, and also led to the revival of the ancient science in India.

Naturopathy believes ‘food as medicine’ and consists of a tried and tested treatment modality to cure diseases and heal the body without the need for drugs or invasive treatments.

A Naturopath will first diagnose the underlying condition, and then try to identify the principal cause behind the condition, even if it involves taking into account factors that are more immediate than the biochemical and biomechanical.

The patient is then put on a healthy regimen for ameliorating the body’s vital power and initiating self-healing.

The healing crisis is promoted by improving the body’s inflammatory response, boosting the immune system and reviving the metabolism.

Harmful pathogens and toxins are removed from the system with the help of naturopathic interventions such as fasting, hydrotherapy, mud therapy and yoga therapy. Last, but not least, the patients are closely counselled by doctors to ensure that they stick to the recommended lifestyle changes.

To establish naturopathy as evidence-based medicine, it is important to undertake regular and long term clinical trials on a large scale that help collect scientific evidence of the efficacy of naturopathy treatments.

Without the backing of sufficient evidence, it remains easy to dismiss naturopathy as an anecdotal science without enough evidence to prove its efficacy.

Although the central government established the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy to facilitate research in yoga and naturopathy, it is an area that definitely remains underexplored.

Some naturopathy hospitals and medical institutions are making concerted efforts to explore their potential as a legitimized alternate system of medicine. However, their hard work has been severely impeded by unethical people who exploit gullible patients, and erode their trust in naturopathy. 

In India, both naturopathy and yoga come under the umbrella of the AYUSH ministry. There are proper councils for all alternative systems of medicine except naturopathy and yoga, with extensive guidelines on medical education, code of professional conduct, as well as recognition of accredited institutions and hospitals.

Although the central government has taken steps to promote the benefits of naturopathy and yoga with the help of autonomous bodies, we still have a long way to go before it gains legitimacy in the public eye as a scientific, methodical, and relatively harmless system of drugless and alternative treatments. 

We need regulatory bodies governing the practice of naturopathy, much like the way the Indian Medical Council governs allopathic medicine.

Laws must be instituted to make clinical trials mandatory for manufacturers selling naturopathy based products and institutes claiming them as Naturopathy Institute / Hospital. Just as is the case with any other science, its principles have to be adhered to closely by all practitioners to ensure efficiency and efficacy.

Failure to do so should be nothing less than a punishable offense. Naturopathy differs from other traditional systems of medicine in that its approach is completely drugless.

Although the treatment modalities prescribed by naturopaths have visibly benefited patients over the ages, we still lack solid evidence. However, this is more the result of poor documentation of treatment results or a lack of awareness of the right documentation procedures. It is also difficult to make patients understand how naturopathy differs from other complementary and traditional systems of medicine.

These two factors make it difficult for certified, educated naturopaths to do their job well and get the recognition they need from their colleagues in other streams.

However, as lifestyle diseases are taking a lead, all over the world, naturopaths are only set to assume bigger importance as healthcare providers.

( The write is Senior Chairman, Jindal Naturecure Institute)

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