Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Alternative Medicines You Shouldn't Turn Your Nose Up At
Maybe you've got an ailment that traditional medicine just isn't working for, or you might just be curious about healthier alternatives to the stuff big pharma is cramming down your throat. DISCLAIMER: Be aware that the following is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness, and you should always consult your physician before changing current treatments. Like many doctors, most people are under the impression that all alternative medicine is nonsense. It turns out though, with some due diligence, you can separate the actually-beneficial nuggets from the truly inane cult-offered chaff. So let's dive in! Keep in mind that the stuff that's good for you is usually pretty easy to spot, as things that work, often catch on quickly and become commonplace. They also follow a pretty basic foundational rule for the most part: anything that reduces stress and treats the mind and body as a single entity can have a significant impact on the prevention and management of disease. There is growing evidence that our emotions can influence resistance and immunity to infection and even canSer. There are numerous studies documenting the fact that positive outlooks by doctor and patient can have a beneficial course on a variety of disorders.
- Acupuncture: can often control chronic pain. I think it should be available at every hospital.
- Aromatherapy: has been shown to be a side-effect-free way to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, and even help sexual performance.
- Biofeedback: manipulates brain waves to help control such "automatic" functions as muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep regulation, and blood supply to the skin.
- Hypnosis: can be used to control pain, curb obsessive behaviors, and help you cope with painful memories. It's one of my favorites because through self-hypnosis, many of these issues can be managed by yourself, for free.
- Massage Therapy: varies with the therapist, and you should find one who is most effective for you. Massage therapy is a great way to relieve sore muscles and manage spasms.
- Meditation: reduces stress without any exercise, although a routine that incorporates moderate exercise would provide additional mind/body balance, which leads us to...
Yoga, Tai Chi, and other Oriental techniques: improve breathing, muscle function, and posture, all while producing a calming effect on your emotions. I'm surprised that these seem to just finally be making a break into mainstream workouts.
Q and A
If a doctor dismisses alternative therapies, should I still consider them, or just find another one?
It's not advisable to "go it alone," so before abandoning the conventional route, make sure that you have explored all the options. This may involve getting a second, or even third, opinion. Of course, you'll want to make sure you ask if they are just hesitant to suggest alternative therapies from lack of information/training, or if they are downright opposed to them. If they are completely closed-off to the idea or they tell you "There's nothing more I can do for you," then it's time to try another one.
When dealing with alternative medicines, there are all kinds of quacks and quackery... Are there telltale signs to watch out for?
Be wary of anyone who advertises or solicits you by mail with promises to cure what current medical knowledge says is incurable. If they try to sell you something that can make you "perform" at age 90, as you did when you were 20, make sure you walk away. Nothing short of a wig will restore a full head of hair, there are no magical canSer or chronic fatigue cures, and we can relieve the symptoms of arthritis, but not cure it. Anyone telling you differently is a quack, or at the very least, misinformed. Also be aware that quacks love to use the "conspiracy theory" angle - doctors, the government, or simply "they" are holding back treatments to line their pockets. Paranoia will only take your stress levels in the wrong direction, so stay away from anyone who tries to instill it.
No mention of herbal therapies?
Herbs (and supplements in general) can be a slippery slope. There are several, which are safe and effective, but no one should use them without first discussing them with their doctor. Herbs can interact with other medications that you may be taking. If your doctor has no experience with herbs, he should be able to recommend an herbalist. With that being said...
-Echinacea: works to prevent recurrent viral infections and reduces the severity of symptoms.
-Evening Primrose, Borage Seed, and Flaxseed Oils: all have anti-inflammatory properties. They contain gamma-linolenic acid, which is converted by the body to a form of prostaglandin, which reduces inflammation, and is the mechanism by which aspirin works.
-Feverfew: has been shown to prevent migraine headaches. It is a preventive only, not a treatment. It works only in 1/3 of all patients, and is a long, slow process, but may be worth trying.
-Garlic: one or two fresh, raw cloves daily, can lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, help thin blood, stimulate the immune system, and help control infections. It is less effective when cooked, and in my opinion, more effective raw than in odorless pill/capsule form.
-Ginko Biloba: may improve memory in the elderly. Research has shown that it can improve blood flow to the brain, heart, and legs.
-Saw Palmetto: should be considered by anyone who is troubled by symptoms of an enlarged prostate. If you decide to try saw palmetto, look for the words "fatty acid" or "lipophilic extract" on the label.
-St. John's Wort (hypericum): is an effective, mild antidepressant. It has few side effects, if any, and I always recommend it before considering more powerful agents. Definitely heed the drug interaction warning with this one though.
Now get out there and live a happy and healthy life! I mean it!