Personalized medicine utilizes an individual’s genetic information to establish individualized treatments. Thus, it is where cutting-edge genetic technologies are applied to diverse areas of healthcare including naturopathic medicine. While genetic testing and naturopathic medicine may seem like unlikely partners at first glance, they are in fact based on some of the same principles.
Similarity #1: Individualized treatment
One of the major principles of naturopathic medicine is to heal the whole person through individualized treatment. There is nothing more individual than a person’s DNA, and so any treatment that strives to be individualized must first consider a patient’s unique genetic profile. Based on this genetic information, the patient and their naturopathic doctor can determine which conditions the patient is at an increased risk of developing. Armed with this knowledge, the naturopathic doctor can create a treatment plan that is customized for that specific patient.
Similarity #2: Prevention of disease
Naturopathic medicine also places a significant emphasis on the prevention of disease, where treating the underlying causes of disease take precedence over simply treating symptoms. Similarly, the goal of consumer genetic testing is to prevent or delay the onset of disease. The knowledge of one’s genetic risk factors can be used in a proactive manner to decrease the likelihood of disease development. A naturopathic doctor can work with the patient to make various diet and lifestyle recommendations, as well as advise on nutritional supplements and medications. Furthermore, knowledge of genetic risk will likely lead to patients who are more vigilant about disease screening, which is important since early detection is an important determinant of prognosis for many diseases.
Many of the patients that naturopathic doctors treat have ailments that are complicated and challenging to diagnose. These patients are often frustrated by the inability of traditional Western medicine to identify the cause of their ailments or to alleviate their symptoms. Genetic testing can be a useful tool for the naturopathic doctor to help identify the underlying cause of many conditions, well before the presence of overt symptoms.
Why Naturopathic doctors would benefit by partnering with genetic testing companies
The application of genetic testing in the context of naturopathic medicine is a natural fit and will likely become more prevalent in the years to come. However, in order for it to be effectively utilized, there are certain challenges that must be overcome. One challenge that genetic testing companies are faced with is educating healthcare practitioners on the benefits and limitations of different genetic testing technologies. The field of genetic testing is advancing at an incredible pace and older techniques, like single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)-based genetic profiling, are being replaced by newer DNA sequencing technologies. The newer technologies are associated with a significantly higher price tag so it is important to recognize why the increased investment is warranted. Another challenge is ensuring that the analysis and interpretation of genetic data is only performed by qualified individuals. Some companies offer consultation services that will explain genetic results to both the patient and their healthcare practitioners. These services are critical because they not only decrease the workload on the practitioner, but also ensure the faithful interpretation of results.
The wide-ranging adoption of genetic testing into the naturopathic clinic may ultimately be driven by the patients themselves. These patients are health conscious and are used to taking their health into their own hands. The accessibility of consumer genetic testing will provide another avenue for these individuals to achieve their goal of optimal health.
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If you would like to learn more about genetic testing, continue reading this related blog post: “Which Genetic Testing Technology Is Better?”.