How to Consider Alternative Medicine

Let’s set the stage: We all want to live to be 100, if we are healthy, right?  We would like to believe our doctor has all the answers to help, but with so many stories about medical progress these days maybe we are not so sure.

We figure that what the doctor doesn’t know we can find out in other ways, right? Maybe at the health food store, or in that magazine we received in the mail with all those claims about new ways to manage arthritis pain, failing memory, and incontinence.

Can’t “alternative medicines” make a difference? And why would I need to tell my doctor about it?

As an 11-year leukemia survivor and someone who has hosted hundreds of hours of interviews with medical practitioners of every type, I believe there may well be alternative approaches to consider. Just know it is important to do it with your eyes open and not just your pocket book. Not only should you consider what studies were done, but what were the quality of those studies. Frankly, some alternative “medicines” base their effectiveness on what many experts view as “hogwash.” So how do you, the person who wants to live to a ripe old age, navigate through and around these debates to see what’s right for you?

My advice is to be very open and above board with your regular doctor. Share with them your concerns that there may be other products or approaches used outside their normal practice, that might be helpful to you. Whether your goal is to stop an aching pain, sleep sounder, or to fight cancer, use your primary doctor as an intelligent consultant. Let them help you process the information, even if it’s new to them too.

I think the days are passing when medical doctors turned their noses up to all alternative treatments. These days, many more seem to be open to discussing other options. However, that means you have to push for open communication and invite them to help. Some “natural” medicine and supplements could work against your other medicines, so it is very important you tell your regular doctor everything you are taking. Being secretive about your other prescriptions and/or herbs, for example, helps no one.

Now, what if your regular doctor tries to throw cold water on your interests in alternative therapies? I say get another doctor. I think your medical doctor should support you, and understand it must be you who is in control and not them. If their ego gets in the way, then they are probably not the right doctor for you.

Certainly, it would be helpful to speak with naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and massage therapists in your area, to help you identify an M.D. They can work together, for you, as part of a team.

Complementary medicine is here to stay, and so is the powerful patient. Make the most of your concerns by inviting all your healthcare advisors to respect your interest, and encouraging them to have frank discussions with you. Most importantly, avoid the doctor who clams up and thinks it’s “their way or the highway.” It is your health on the line, and you should do what you feel is most important to support your well-being.