Alternative Medicine

North American medicine is a relatively youthful field predated by old-fashioned theories and herbal remedies. Some were useful; many lacked modern understanding and interpretative tools: overall, though, what your grandmother said about good health was often right. Much of what Westerners refer to as “alternative medicine” was once considered the domain of “folk remedies.” Consumers and patients in the 21st Century regard these practices with more respect than they did in the 20th Century.

Why is Alternative Medicine Popular?

The health of North Americans is a cause of constant consternation among health care practitioners; even one of embarrassment. Head to an Asian country and you see far less obesity: it’s rare, in fact. Sit on a park bench in any American city for one hour and your tally of men, women, and children who would be regarded as clinically obese will be staggering and troubling. Then there are the diseases: cancer, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, eczema, asthma, MS, Dementia, addiction, fibromyalgia, and more. Where do they all come from? They aren’t unknown in other countries, but lifestyle and environment-related diseases are rampant in North America. Is modern medicine failing the people?

In some cases, medicine is thought to be making people sick. Some drugs are addictive. Others cause organ damage. Chemotherapy leaves a person looking and feeling sick even though its purpose is to kill cancer cells. People who try to live naturally are always looking for clean ways to heal the body or to stimulate its natural mechanisms and are suspicious of analgesics, x-rays, and radiation treatment.

Attitudes

Maybe the medicine isn’t to blame; it’s attitudes. Consumers regard medicine as their safety net and use pharmaceuticals as a band-aid to cover the consequences of poor lifestyle choices. A pill will help them get better when what they really need is a change. Practitioners of Alternative Medicine believe they can make a significant difference, both in changing attitudes and in improving lives. Studies have shown some unexpected connections between illness and cure.

Alternative Ideas

Individuals suffering from weight problems require counseling. Consumers with Type 2 Diabetes need in-depth nutritional guidance. The air quality of homes and offices should be freshened up: windows opened and people encouraged to walk during their break. Dietary counseling could bring about the end of many diseases related to additives purposely added or accidentally transferred to food through packaging processes. A naturopath might start with these simple ideas before weighing in with supplements.

As for cancer: food, smoking, drinking, and environment are all contributing factors. While genetics also affect a person’s likelihood of suffering from this awful disease, many families could prevent the onset of cancer in their own bodies and those of their family members by eating better, getting more regular exercise, and measuring air quality for toxins which could be stimulating the growth of cancer cells.

Rampant depression is partly a consequence of isolation and also connected to poor nutrition. A supplement rich in B-vitamins and Vitamin D as well as more iron and more natural light could improve a depressed mood and overall fatigue. A holistic practitioner might recommend that a patient purchase one of these special lights and sit under it while working at his desk during grey days at home and also decrease consumption of refined foods which leave a person feeling tired and mentally unfocused.

Naturopaths usually combine natural remedies and therapies with Western medicine. Some of their patients are best served by a mixture of medication, counseling, and lifestyle changes. Trained and ethical practitioners always refer a patient to their doctor if a serious condition is suspected. Surgery or chemotherapy might be the best answer.

Types of Alternative Medicine

I mentioned Naturopaths: they blend various approaches to treatment in a holistic approach which patients find reassuring. It’s not completely different from what patients already know about health care yet embraces ancient ideas and ideals. What are some other alternative therapies?

Homeopathy

Homeopathic practitioners propose that the body can heal itself. Cells need a small dose of something that causes similar symptoms to what they already experience. When the immune system encounters these irritants, it is prompted to respond and destroy everything that’s hurting the body including initial trouble makers. Homeopathic tablets and drops are sold in health food stores and groceries with their own natural health departments. Consumers appreciate the affordability and simplicity of this approach.

Massage Therapist

Visit a massage therapist if you are in serious muscular pain. Taking painkillers is probably a good idea as a complement to this sort of therapy and therapists dig deep; patients rarely fall asleep under their care. The next day you are likely to feel sore. Many consumers alternate chiropractic with massage therapy or even book back-to-back sessions if they can afford it.

Chiropractic

These two therapies go neatly together. A chiropractic doctor tries to restore skeletal balance by adjusting vertebra and other bones which have been compressed and dislocated by injury, illness, or poor posture. Many conditions are related to pinched nerves caused by compression in the spine. Chiropractors discuss diet and exercise with their patients and might recommend supplements for better bone health.

Chinese Herbalist

The ancient art of Chinese herbalism isn’t for everyone. Customers undergo a thorough assessment before being prescribed assorted herbs and plants to chew or drink. Consumers often describe the treatment as disgusting but effective.

Ayurvedic Medicine

Considered the oldest form of medicine, this Indian approach to whole-body treatment seeks to realign a body’s natural balance with the use of oils, emetics, and dietary changes. Intensity levels vary but some treatments are gentle and others leave a person feeling tired and empty before wellness is restored.

Acupuncture

Skinny needles are inserted along pressure points across the body: along the spine, legs, arms, head, or neck. An acupuncturist chooses the area which corresponds with symptoms. Even though you might feel pain or discomfort in one part of the body, needles might be inserted somewhere seemingly unrelated due to nerve connections.

Choose Carefully

A few of these approaches are unregulated in a given state so ask for recommendations. Check credentials before submitting to care.

Alternative Medicine
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Jana Evans

Janet Evans is our resident Health Nut and aspiring chef. She can shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s with her eyes closed.