Alternative or Conventional Medicine: Why not both?

April 30th, 2011 | General News, Nutrition and Health

If you’re feeling sick, the best thing you can do is see a doctor. But do you go to the hospital or the naturopath? Recently, many in the medical community agree that getting a mixed dose of conventional (western) and alternative medicine is the best approach to overall health.

Let’s imagine a scenario:

You get sick. You go to the doctor. They investigate your habits, what you’ve been feeling over the last few weeks, etc. They figure out you’ve been stressed and haven’t been eating well. You’re prescribed some antibiotics and your doctor instructs you on better habits, tells you to get more vitamins, drink more water, exercise — everything your body needs to remain healthy.

This scenario is an example of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Rather than only treating the presenting symptoms, this methodology takes a more holistic, integrative approach that supports the body’s healing process to treat the issue at hand and promotes ongoing health to prevent future illness.

For example, if you have a horrible case of strep throat, gargling cayenne pepper may not do the trick. But after visiting a CAM doctor, you’ll be treated with antibiotics and instructed on a few lifestyle changes in order to prevent another case of strep throat from developing.

Now let it be known. I am NOT a doctor. I’m simply here to share my knowledge in order to hopefully help you live the healthiest life you can live.

In America, 98,000 people die every year from “preventable medical errors”. This staggering number has many criticizing conventional medicine and has people calling for a deeper focus on patients and their overall health needs, rather than just their apparent symptoms.

A 2010 Swiss study showed patients of CAM professionals reported better patient-physician communication, higher rates of satisfaction with treatment, and more positive outcome expectations than patients of COM professionals.

By having a more positive outlook, patients also report fewer problems during the recovery process. Dr. David C. Ring, MD, Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Harvard Medical School states, “Individuals who recognize within themselves the ability to ensure that things will be okay consistently report less pain and disability for a given disease or impairment,”

There is no one right way to do anything. Both alternative and conventional approaches to medicine have specific benefits in the treatment process. The key is to understand the necessary balance of the two to achieve optimum health. Good health doesn’t just come from having the best medicine; good health comes from having the best health practices. This includes staying educated, treating symptoms instead of ignoring them, and giving your body what it needs to remain healthy once good health has been achieved.

Next time you get a cold, don’t just gulp down some cough medicine and call it a day — try and figure out why you got sick in the first place and adjust your habits accordingly. Too stressed at work? Not eating breakfast? Not sleeping? Haven’t gone for a walk outside in months? All these things could drastically influence your health and immune system. If you have a cough because your lifestyle continually weakens your immune system, then treating the cough is only part of the solution.

Alternative therapies are becoming more and more popular. A study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1997 reports over 628 million Americans made a visit to an alternative health practitioner — 243 million more visits than to primary-care doctors. Alternative therapies aren’t something to ignore. They are legitimate practices in their own right and do wonders for our overall health. They lead to better health not just today, but tomorrow, the next day and 50 more years down the road.

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