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Be familiar with the terms

Alternative and complementary medicine has swept through the world as people seek greater control of their health. It is now a popular belief that whatever ails man, the underlying cause is within himself, thus the word dis-ease.

Alternative medicine refers to practices not used by conventional medicine. Seeking alternative medicine means a referral to a homeopath or a naturopath instead of your regular doctor. The alternative practitioner do not intend for their clients stop receiving conventional care. They strive to develop a way to work alongside the family doctor with the best interest of the client in mind.

Alternative medicine is a part of complementary medicine, which means alternative practice is used with conventional medicine in treatment of a disease or illness.

Practitioners of alternative medicine use some basic and common principles, which may be similar to what conventional medicine offers.

Basic principles or alternative medicine:

LEARNING AND HEALING

Alternative practitioners believe that they can guide a patient to find ways to heal themselves. They act as mentors.

HOLISTIC CARE

Holistic care involves treating the whole person, not just the present ailment. Alternative medicine focus on treating the whole person, it recognizes that the physical, mental, spiritual and relationships are interconnected and these play a major role in staying healthy or cause of being sick. You cannot take these factors singly and treat these separately.

PREVENTION

This is an important factor in staying healthy, also prescribed by conventional medicine. Stay healthy, eat healthy, take good care of your health.

BODY 'S ABILITY TO HEAL ITSELF

Alternative practitioners consider themselves as facilitators. It is within us to heal ourselves. Alternative therapy encourages the natural healing process.

LIFESTYLE

Our world today is too hurried, we seek too much instant gratification. A 24-hour day sometimes is not enough. This fast-paced lifestyle puts too much emphasis on the material world. It does not leave much time to look after the whole person, that is mind, body and spirit.

THERAPIES IN ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

It is not a very clear system, some therapies may interlap with another. Some techniques may apply to other therapies.

HEALING SYSTEMS

These are sets of theories or practices or remedies. The focus of these therapies is on the power of nature or the energy field of the human body. Take massage- it is not a single practice or remedy. Many of these healing systems have been used before conventional medicine came to existence. Think of the medicine man of the North American Indians and other cultures. The Chinese have practised acupuncture, there is the Ayurvedic from India, and others.

CATEGORIES OF ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE

Ayurveda

This has been practised in India for thousands of years. The emphasis is a unique cure based on individual circumstances. Treatment may include yoga, meditation, diet, massage and herbs.

Homeopathy.

Minute doses of a substance is administered to stimulate the self-healing process of the body.

Naturopathy.

This is a non-invasive treatment to encourage the body to do its own healing. Naturopaths combine different forms of alternative and complementary medicine to stimulate healing. It may include massage, acupuncture, life-style counseling, exercise, diet and use of herbs and its derivatives.

Ancient medicines.

There is wisdom to be learned from the past practitioners of alternative and complementary medicine- although these were not labelled as such then. These include American Indians, Chinese, Pacific Islanders, Mayan Indians, Tibetan practitioners and others.

Mind-body connections

Mind-body techniques strengthen the communication between your mind and your body. Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners say these two systems must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body connection techniques include:

* Meditation

* Yoga

* Biofeedback

* Prayer

* Hypnosis

* Relaxation and art therapies, such as poetry, music and dance

Dietary supplements and herbal remedies

Herbs are so popular these days. Almost every household have a bottle or two.These medicines use ingredients found in Nature, they have been used long before conventional medicine was implemented and subscribed to. Examples are echinecea, ginseng, gingko, supplements like glucosamine, essiac, selenium Omega-3 are just a few on the long list. Herbs and supplements can be taken as tea, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules.

CAUTION

It is advisable to consult with your family doctor, advise him of the natural supplements you are taking. Be aware of drug interaction especially if you are pregnant, nursing a baby, have chronic illness, elderly or having surgery or possible adverse interaction with regular prescribed medications.

Always, always, let your doctor know what herbal supplements you are taking. Remember that these supplements give no guarantee that they are always safe.

Manipulation and touch

These methods use human touch to move or manipulate a specific part of your body. They include:

* Chiropractic and spinal manipulation

* Massage

* Other types of manipulation and touch therapies, such as osteopathy, craniosacral therapy and accupressure

Energy therapies

Many believe that there is an invisible energy force that flows through the body. You've heard the words: I have no energy to do this, or I am energized today.

A blockage or imbalance in this energy flow can cause illness. This energy Is called CHI, PRANA or LIFE FORCE, depends on what tradition you believe in. Energy therapy works on balancing or unblocking the flow of energy to bring about healing. In acupuncture, the insertion of needles into points along the energy pathways in the body restores natural energy.

Other energy therapies include:

* Therapeutic touch

* Reiki

* Magnet therapy

* Polarity therapy

* Light therapy

Do doctors believe in alternative and complementary medicine?

While they may not be opposed, they are not comfortable with alternative medicine. However, as more people seek out CAM ( Complementary, Alternative Medicine), doctors are opening up to some of the therapies offered by CAM. Patients have to be more open and willing to discuss this issue with their doctors. It is a way to encourage them to learn more about CAM.

SKEPTICISM

As with any profession, there are always those who muddy the waters. Some practitioners of CAM, make exaggerated claims about treating disease and even go as far as recommending to forgo conventional treatment as prescribe by the family doctor.

Realistically, some forms of may be hurtful. There is a lack of solid research of the products and practices of CAM. Controlled research and studies are expensive .

Conventional medicine rely on methods and products backed by sound and solid research. These studies, including trials receive funding directly or indirectly by government funds. The dangers and benefits of CAM treatments remain unproved.

Don't forgo conventional treatment

reference: Mayo Clinic

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Why homeopathic medicine?

I've often heard variations of this question, "Why should I choose a natural doctor over my traditional MD?" Part of the answer lies in another question, "What is natural medicine?"

Natural medicine is a discipline that emphasizes the body's ability to heal itself and maintain itself at optimum health. Naturopathic doctors use herbs and foods to stimulate the body's healing processes rather than simply using drugs to treat the symptom of a disease. Simplistically, natural medicine can be thought of as wellness management rather than disease management.

So, by choosing natural medicine, a person is choosing to adopt a preventative, proactive approach to health rather than a reactive approach - waiting until a health issue arises and then seeking treatment. He or she has also made the choice to address the root cause of health issues rather than just treat the symptoms. That's not to say that natural medicine doesn't treat symptoms; it does. For example, a person committed to natural medicine may take St. Johns Wort instead of a synthetic pharmaceutical drug to combat symptoms of depression.

That's also not to say that a person choosing natural medicine has to reject traditional medicine. This isn't an either/or situation. Natural medicine and traditional allopathic medicine can and should exist side by side, but in balance.

Naturopathic practitioners believe in the body's ability to heal itself. By focusing on strengthening and balancing the body's systems - immune, nervous, hormone, and detoxification - healing occurs and optimal health is restored. Since naturopaths approach each patient holistically, they look at uncovering and treating underlying imbalances, such as nutrition, rather than simply treating the presenting health symptom. Treating the symptom may be a quick fix band aid, but addressing the underlying causes will help the body return to its natural state of optimal health.

Natural medicine isn't a silver bullet, magical fix approach. A pharmaceutical may provide quick relief from a symptom, but does it provide a cure? Maybe, maybe not. However, great results through natural medicine can come from positive behavior changes and the persistence it requires to maintain these changes long enough for the body to respond.

If you believe in the concept of ideal health, developing optimum wellness, and disease prevention, perhaps you should consider natural medicine before your next visit to the doctor.

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So, natural therapies or conventional medicine?

A discussion on alternative medicine always has people being on the extremes- they are either staunch supporters or aggressive naysayers. The only thing that's common between those who agree and those who don't is the fact that almost everyone has misunderstood it. This article attempts to explain the differences between alternative and conventional medicine.

The concept of alternative medicine as an 'alternative' is native only to those western minds that have not been introduced to any other field of medicine, except the one's taught in medical schools. For more than 80% of the world's population, this is not an alternative medicine, but a basic part of their health system. The term encompasses a wide array of systems that ranges from Ayurveda to Accupuncture and even Bee Sting Therapy.

But if you're looking for some instant action, these systems aren't the right choice. For trauma and emergency care, allopathic medicine is the right choice. If you're looking to first get rid of the symptoms that occur due the illness, then it's best that you choose from conventional therapy, because alternative medicines take time to heal. But the relief is long lasting; in fact permanent in some cases. The focus is to prevent the problem from occurring again.

When practitioners of alternative medicine prescribe a treatment, they do so by evaluating the patients' needs and choose a treatment plan that 'they' think is correct as opposed to the strict 'symptom-treatment' rule of conventional physicians.

Also, don't be surprised if you were to go for a headache and the practitioner were to examine your feet. This may come as a surprise for many who are accustomed to the conventional practitioner's 'organ specific' treatment approach. The ancient Indian system of Ayurveda for instance believes in the balance of Pitha (represented by fire and water), Kapha(water and earth) and Vatta (air and ether). An imbalance in these three doshas causes problems in the body, the symptoms of which can be varied.

Alternative or conventional, at the end of the day what matters is the effectiveness of the treatment to help you cure your illness and prevent its recurrence. So long as it works without causing other side effects, nothing is alternative. The problem however arises when people try and sell voodoo and other mumbo jumbo as alternative medicine. There are some that try and sell concepts that are beyond the purview of their practice. A massage therapist claiming to cure back aches is one thing; his claim of curing polio is completely different.

Before you choose on a treatment plan, make sure you understand what you are using and decide if it will work for you.

 
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