Many people are turning to alternative medicine to treat various medical conditions or to maintain good health and wellbeing. There are a number of reasons for the shift from using conventional medicine (also referred to as modern medicine) to alternative medicine including dissatisfaction of side effects associated with synthetic drugs and invasive treatment, wanting more control over ones’ own health and medical problems to wanting a more natural approach to health. So what is alternative medicine? Alternative medicine refers to systems of healthcare that are not part of conventional medicine and treatments are often not backed by scientific evidence. However the increasing popularity in the use of alternative medicine has triggered a number of scientific studies to prove the safety and effectiveness of alternative treatments. Alternative medicine can be used together with conventional medicine (in this instance it’s referred to as complementary medicine) but it’s important to inform your doctor and alternative therapist on all the drugs, treatments and remedies being taken to avoid any side effects from remedies interacting with prescribed drugs.
The philosophy behind alternative medicine
Conventional medicine is good at diagnosis and treating the symptom acutely but many view this as being non-holistic as the mind and body are not treated as one. One of the biggest reasons for the popularity of alternative medicine in today’s society is their holistic approach to treatment. Holism is the belief that the mind, body and spirit are all integrated. Thus when one area is debilitated, the disharmony results in disease and illness. If this all sounds a bit ludicrous, there are studies showing that meditation and mindfulness improve the outcomes of many illnesses as well as after surgery. While there are a number of fields under alternative medicine, the majority are based on a few core beliefs:
• Illness is caused by the body being out of balance. Therefore the person should be treated as a whole in order to bring back harmony between the mind, body and spirit.
• The cause of the condition must be addressed and dealt with rather than just alleviating the symptoms thereby resulting in more lasting wellness.
• If given the right conditions, the body can heal itself.
• Natural products or ingredients are better than synthetic drugs.
• It takes time to regain the balance and heal so there are no quick fixes.
• Start off with more gentle therapies or remedies before trying therapies that are harsher.
Homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, Herbal medicine, meditation, and yoga are just a few of the more popular forms of alternative therapies.
The future of medicine
We must not forget that conventional medicine has developed many life-saving treatments and valuable diagnostic tools that help people every day. However many of the health issues we are faced with today are chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and dementia which aren’t treated very effectively by conventional medicine. While drugs are given to manage the symptoms, this does not prevent you from getting sicker over time. Alternative medicine on the other hand manages disease using diet, nutrition, herbal medicines and lifestyle changes focused on the whole person thus providing a better chance at preventing a decline in health. While alternative medicine may provide us with more lasting outcomes in some circumstances, the safety and efficacy of certain methods is still questionable. Therefore combining conventional medicine with alternative medicine may provide better health outcomes. The best medicine is to cherry pick the best of both worlds.