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Functional Vs. Naturopathic Medicine: What’s The Difference?

Updated: Mar 17, 2023

Are you exploring healthcare options outside of mainstream medicine? If so, you may have come across two of the most popular choices for those searching for something different in their healthcare experience: functional medicine and naturopathic medicine.


These two terms are tossed out all the time, so they may be interchangeable in your mind.


While functional and naturopathic medicine are rooted in similar approaches, there are in fact variations between the two.


Functional Vs. Naturopathic Medicine: Guiding Principles

The best introductory overview of the differences and similarities between functional and naturopathic medicine is by looking at their guiding principles.


It’s crucial to note that naturopathic doctors might incorporate functional medicine into their treatment plans, while not all functional medicine doctors integrate naturopathic medicine into theirs.

Guiding Principles of Naturopathic Medicine


  1. Do no harm. This is a guiding principle for all doctors, and naturopathic doctors are no exception.

  2. The healing power of nature. This is where naturopathic medicine stands out. Naturopathic Doctors (ND), help their patients create a healthy environment inside and out while helping the patient heal through natural means as much as possible. Not only do they believe in the healing power of nature, but they believe in the healing power of the body and work with the patient to harness that capability.

  3. Identify and treat the causes. This is a principle for both functional and naturopathic medicine. While allopathic medicine treats symptoms, often leaving patients in a vicious cycle of pharmaceutical dependency and side effects, an ND searches for the root cause of disease at the biochemical, psychospiritual, physiological, and biological levels.

  4. Doctor as teacher. Working with an ND ensures you’ll receive an education on fundamental health principles and how to take your health into your own hands. It’s an empowering experience that enriches you for the rest of your life.

  5. Treat the whole person. An ND understands that your health issues are influenced by everything in your life. Emotional, spiritual, and physical health will all be considered with naturopathic treatment.

  6. Prevention. While allopathic medicine is primarily reactive, naturopathic doctors work with their patients to prevent the onset of disease and health problems. Like they say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.


Top Similarities When It Comes To Naturopathic Vs. Functional Medicine

  1. Both aim to treat health issues at the root cause instead of just treating symptoms.

  2. Both incorporate modern medicine and ancient health wisdom.

  3. Both modalities look at the patient as a whole: mind, body, and spirit.

  4. Both modalities provide highly-personalized healthcare—no two patients are the same, and neither are treatment plans.


While both have fundamental principles, every doctor will bring something unique to the table. Patients should work with a medical professional who they feel confident can deliver what they need for their health concerns.


Top 5 Differences When It Comes To Naturopathic Vs. Functional Medicine

  1. Functional medicine practitioners are more likely to borrow from allopathic medical treatments than naturopathic doctors.

  2. NDs are highly trained in the healing power of nature and the body’s ability to heal itself.

  3. NDs are more likely to teach their patients the foundations of health so they can become less dependent on the healthcare system and gain more freedom.

  4. While functional medicine doctors pull from allopathic and ancient wisdom, NDs might be quicker to incorporate hydrotherapy and other safe and effective healing techniques and treatments.

  5. Unfortunately, only some states license NDs. However, people are waking up to the need for a health system paradigm shift, and there is growing momentum to license NDs nationwide.


Functional Vs. Naturopathic Medicine: Which One Is Right For You?

The answer to this question depends on your needs and goals.


For example, you would be an excellent candidate for Resilience Health & Wellness in Bellingham, WA, if any of the following pertain to you:


  • You’ve tried everything to treat a chronic condition but feel like you’ve hit endless dead-ends with mainstream doctors.

  • The conventional healthcare system is no longer serving you, and you want to partner with healthcare professionals you can trust.

  • You crave a healthy, vibrant life while minimizing your internal toxicity and living within life’s natural balance and rhythms.

  • You want guidance that’s proactive and gives you the puzzle pieces to construct a lifestyle that allows you to enjoy better quality of life for years to come.


When deciding between functional vs. naturopathic medicine, getting to know the doctor and the team is crucial. A consultation should be available for all prospective clients. Going into the consultation with your questions increases the chances that you’ll be clear on whether that particular office is the right one for you.


At Resilience Health & Wellness, we offer free masterclasses to the public to encourage freedom from chronic disease and taking a proactive approach to health.


Getting Started With Resilience Health & Wellness in Bellingham, WA

If you would like to schedule a consultation with our team of naturopathic health professionals and explore if we’re the right fit to address your healthcare concerns, contact us here or call us at (360) 922-8692.


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