When you hear a funny clank in your car that wasn't there yesterday, you immediately bring your car to the mechanic. When you have a sudden, sharp pain in your chest, you immediately go to the emergency room. Perhaps you have been pretty good about preventative maintenance; but what if the clank was caused because you hadn't had your car's oil changed for a while? What if your sharp pain was caused by the fact that not only haven't you been giving yourself the maintenance you need but you also have indulged in harmful practices? Alternative medicine takes a similar approach - "preventative maintenance" is critical. Natural medicine considers the mind and body and how they interact - positively and negatively. Natural remedies have roots going back thousands of years, especially in China and India (ayurvedic medicine); modern alternative medicine encompasses treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, naturopathic medicine, reiki, massage, chiropractic, dietary supplements, and herbal products. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health, defines complementary medicine as a partner with conventional medicine, such as aromatherapy to help lessen a patient's discomfort following surgery, while alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine, such as stress reduction and herbal treatments for high blood pressure. According to a recently published study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), commonly used alternative medical therapies include natural products (18.9%), deep breathing exercises (11.6%), meditation (7.6%), chiropractic care (7.5%), yoga (5.1%), massage (5%), and diet-based therapies (3.5%). More than 54.9% of these adult used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) because they believed that CAM combined with conventional medical treatments would help, and 26% were recommended to try CAM by a conventional medical doctor. Patients significantly invested in these procedures, beyond what insurance would cover, paying almost $19.6 billion out-of-pocket for the services of professional CAM health care providers such as chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists, also according to the CDC study. You may ask yourself - what makes integrative medicine so unique that more patients turn to seek it?
Integrative Medicine: The Whole Body
Alternative medicine focuses on patients as a whole, ensuring that our systems work together synergistically. This is in contrast to modern medicine, which approaches patient care by focusing on organ-specific problems, such as intestinal issues or heart disease. According to Deepak Chopra, M.D the director or the Sharp Institute for Human Potential and Mind Body Medicine, complementary and alternative medicine "left" fashion as science developed more of a focus on germs and bacteria as disease-causing agents. Although you go to a physician to get a prescription for an antiobiotic when you have strep throat, you may have caught the strep throat because you have a compromised immune response due to stress. Therefore, while the antibiotic addresses one level of causation, the beauty of CAM is that it allows patient and practitioner to address further layers of causation. According to the CDC, 54 percent of heart disease, 37 percent of cancer, 50 percent of cerebrovascular disease, 49 percent artherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) is preventable through lifestyle modification.
Chronic Illness and Alternative Medicine
While prevention is the main focus of CAM, it is also central to managing chronic illness. According to the same CDC study, CAM was most often used to treat back pain or back problems, head or chest colds, neck pain or neck problems, joint pain or stiffness, and anxiety or depression. Even heart disease is generally treated with complementary medicine. Most patients recovering from heart attacks and bypass surgeries go through a naturopathic "regimen" - learning how diet, exercise and stress reduction techniques can enhance their recoveries and help prevent another heart attack or additional surgery.
A Prescription for Natural Cure
Today, we suffer from allergies, headaches, lack of energy, excessive fatigue, digestive and respiratory disorders, depression, mood swings, anxiety - alternative medicine seeks to cure the underlying causes, not just prevent the symptoms. Although we may have a genetic predisposition to a disease, we have a choice about how we manage disease triggers, such as how much sugar and fat we eat and how we handle stress. Natural medical practices are so critical to us because they encompass methods to promote optimal levels of health. Taking active, informed control of our health care is the only way to actualize our potential for optimally healthy lives and consulting with a licensed complementary and alternative medicine professional can help you accomplish that.