"The trends of modern research and practice in our great colleges and endowed research institutes are almost entirely along combative lines, while the individual, progressive physician learns to work along preventive lines."
Theories and methodologies used in healthcare research were primarily developed and created to support the theories and practice of conventional medicine. The challenge is that conventional medicine and naturopathic medicine are two distinct systems of healthcare. There is overlap, especially with respect to basic physiology and pathology, but the theories, principles and philosophies are different. The purpose of comparing naturopathic medicine to conventional medicine is not to judge one as correct or superior to the other, but to acknowledge that there are differences. The 'gold standard' for research in conventional medicine is not necessarily the 'gold standard' for all applications and practices of naturopathic medicine. Appreciation of the differences in philosophy and theory is important to understanding which research methodology is the most appropriate and what outcomes and variables the different methods of research are actually testing.
The differences in research philosophies include understanding:
- Causality: Causality looks at the relationship between the cause and the effect and is viewed either as linear or mutual.
- Number of Research Variables: There are a number of variables that affect health, contribute to disease, and influence healing. The validity of research findings, especially in the long-term, to real-life is questionable when it restricts the number of variables being tested. Research that narrows the criteria to the impact of a single drug or constituent on the body without accounting for other variables has limited applicability.
- Duration of Research: There are always ongoing concerns as to whether research trials are long enough, whether they adequately reflect the safety and health benefits of treatments or whether the safety of chemicals and substances used in our food supply, personal care products and environment are properly assessed. The question is whether or not research that is conducted over a couple of years provides a true reflection of the long-term exposure of drugs, chemicals, and heavy metals. Empirical data and traditional research in many situations are a better indicator of the long-term impact of different treatments, lifestyle and environmental factors.