Why Alternative Health Care?

Alternative Health

Welcome to a new column about alternative health care — not all forms of alternative health care, but the ones that I'm interested in. We'll talk about therapies that work, and sometimes we'll expose the ones that don't.

You can be certain we'll take issue with traditional drug-based medical care, which is ineffective for chronic conditions, has dangerous side effects and only suppresses symptoms, never getting to the cause of your health problems. There are alternatives to your traditional medical care, and each month we'll take at look a topic you will find informative and from a perspective you have never heard.

What is alternative/holistic care, who is using it and why are you so interested in it? Why are hospitals, physicians and anyone remotely related to health care racing to get on this bandwagon?

Alternative and holistic health care is an umbrella term for any therapy, modality or discipline not considered a traditional medical treatment or procedure. You're interested in it because you're frustrated and would prefer your physician stop giving you drugs that don't work. An approach taking into consideration the body as a whole makes more sense. Or if you're healthy, you want to talk about prevention.

Try getting any of that from a traditional health care provider.

Women are driving this paradigm shift and showing up in numbers that exceed visits to traditional medical practitioners. They are paying for it out-of-pocket. Studies show there's more spent on alternative practitioners than traditional. These numbers scare the heck out of physicians and hospitals. Now you know why hospitals developed "holistic centers" in the mid-1990s.

The majority of effective alternative/holistic care revolves around Functional Medicine, encompassing diet and nutrition, natural therapeutic formulas, vitamin and mineral supplements, herbs and homeopathy. People are interested in cures, not symptom suppression.

Common sense suggests you don't have a headache because you have a lack of Tylenol floating around in your bloodstream. There must be a cause! Drugs suppress symptoms by interfering with or ceasing normal cellular communication. Pain relievers bind with receptors at sites on cells that would normally pick up pain messenger molecules. It fools you into thinking you have no pain. If you are on any medication, ask yourself what normal cellular process this drug is affecting that creates its effect (symptom suppression) and fools you into feeling better.

But what are the consequences of interfering with normal cellular communication? They're called side effects, and all drugs have them. You might feel these side effects, or you may not. But they're there. The Physician's Desk Reference lists all side effects, but when was the last time you read that or bothered with the insert that came with your medication?

Let's get one thing straight. I'm not anti-drug. I'm against the unnecessary and indiscriminate use of drugs. If you need them to make life comfortable, to function or to live, then they are necessary. But are you aware of the alternatives?

The most common complaint from women about doctors is they don't listen. Studies in 1998 show that a patient will be interrupted within 24 seconds if she doesn't get to the point. That's actually an improvement over the 18 seconds studies found in 1984. Actual time with the physician is usually just a few minutes, and then you are handed a prescription. You were hoping to discuss the cause of your problem and get an explanation why this is happening and what you can do. If you consistently visit the physician without improvement, your physician writes a prescription that says to you, "You're obviously emotional, so here's your Prozac. Now go home and feel better about feeling so bad." It's the ultimate insult.

The most common conditions women present in a physician's office are irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes, menstrual or menopausal symptoms, headaches, depression, insomnia and the need for weight loss. All of these are conquered through alternatives I will cover during the next few months.

I'm amazed at the number of women fed up with traditional care. Some women break into tears in my office because they are so frustrated by the lack of answers. They know I'm going to listen and I have answers they've not heard before. I've had patients who had to take pain relievers just to get out of bed to make it to my office. Some can't work and are on disability. Some have seen their quality of life fall to such a level that they want to give up.

The traditional system is failing patients with chronic conditions. Health will occur when you allow the body to heal itself. Assist the innate intelligence of the body; don't interfere with it.

Next month: The Cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

David Dahlman is a chiropractic physician with a degree in nutrition. His column appears monthly.

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