Examining Root Causes of Diseases

Examining Root Causes of Diseases

Examining Root Causes of Diseases

Examining Root Causes of Diseases

As naturopathic doctors see it, when they are looking for the root causes of diseases and illnesses, it’s like they are “looking under the hood” of a car, instead of just examining and reacting to the symptoms of what’s wrong.

They are delving into the engine, into the mechanics, of what’s happening – in effect, the heart of the matter, involving the body. Naturopathic doctors are trained to find and treat what may be behind an illness.

Naturopathic doctors say that’s an important element in what they do. Often, symptoms are the body’s way of communicating problems, but not the cause of illness. Symptoms would be similar “ to the way a car’s check engine light demonstrates an engine’s unresolved issues, ” according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the Institute for Natural Medicine.

While providing relief from symptoms is important naturopathic doctors say they want to understand the root cause of illness whenever possible.

The root causes of diseases

“Identify and treat the root cause of illness’ is one of the core principles of naturopathic medicine,” said Michelle Simon, PhD, ND, and chair of the INM Board of directors, in a statement. “To address underlying causes, NDs, often spend one hour or more with patients in an initial appointment. They take time to examine the whole person, including diet, lifestyle, genetics, psycho-emotional, spiritual, socioeconomic, environmental issues and more.”

The organizations outline what they mean and the impacts of examining the root causes of disease and how that can affect patients, and differentiate that from symptoms. A symptom is any subjective evidence of disease, while a sign is any objective evidence of disease. For instance, they say, anxiety, pain, and fatigue are all symptoms of disease.  There are other symptoms that impact patients, too, such as trouble sleeping, having strange or hard to treat skin rashes, indigestion or stomach discomfort.


Another example of the issue of symptoms vs. root causes surround people with type 2 diabetes. Their initial symptoms, such as feeling hungry or thirsty, and very tired, may be so mild, that they may go unnoticed. But the underlying cause of the problems involving diabetes or high cholesterol may be a poor diet, or lifestyle such as lack of exercise.  Early treatment and detection of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing complications of diabetes. Diabetes causes can also vary, depending on genetic makeup, ethnicity and other factors.

Changing these lifestyle factors can eliminate the need for one or more prescription medications that would typically be recommended for the rest of that patient’s life.


Naturopathic doctors are trained to uncover the underlying root causes of disease whenever possible. This leads to the most positive and enduring health outcomes for patients, according to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, which released a FAQ  in partnership with the Instituted for Natural Medicine.

By addressing and treating the root causes of diseases rather than the symptoms, the AANP says the need for “repeated, expensive and sometimes ineffective treatment is eliminated.”

Naturopathic doctors are educated and trained in accredited naturopathic medical colleges. They diagnose and treat chronic and acute illness, to establish the person’s “self-healing process.”

Chinese Medicine

In Chinese Medicine, a person may manifest different disease symptoms, including Wu Xing; a trained doctor can identify a pattern of disharmony. The most challenging aspect is to accurately pinpoint patterns of illness because many functioning elements of the body are interconnected.

“Each disease has a cause and treatment, so we are taught in medical school. Identify the disease then prescribe the drug or perform the surgery. Functional medicine analyzes the core systems that allow the body to function properly. This means looking closely at the foundation blocks for good health including hormones, digestive health, immune function, nutrient status and genetics,” wrote Scott Rollins, MD, board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine.



William. C. Shiel, Jr. MD, FACP, FACR. What is the difference between a symptom and a sign? Retrieved from: https://www.medicinenet.com/symptoms_and_signs/symptomchecker.htm#introView

Scott Rollins. Get to the root cause with functional medicine. 2015. The Norwood Post, Telluride Dailey Planet. Retrieved from:https://www.telluridenews.com/opinion/columnists/article_246db556-2114-11e5-b5a2-3f685355005b.html





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