Thursday, December 22, 2011

Balance alternative, traditional medicine

(Initially published as a "My Word" column for the Orlando Sentinel Feb, 6th, 2003-my views haven't changed much since then)
     Most people “into” alternative therapies are not aimlessly looking for the fountain of youth. They’re just investigating ways to enhance their health. As a family physician, I try to do the same with traditional medicine.
     However, many people prefer alternative treatments, and it doesn’t surprise me. Many traditional physicians are not the best of role models in terms of lifestyles, health habits or spirituality. Many of us are so disillusioned with our own career that it’s evident in our communication styles. Most of us don’t take the time needed to ensure that patients feel they have had a quality visit. Most people are not satisfied with a 15 minute visit that may have been made months in advance, and that, on the day of the appointment, may be over booked with additional patients.
     I’m glad when patients of mine feel they obtain benefit from alternative treatments for conditions, such as chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, for which traditional medicine has often failed. The alternative treatment community, however, needs to have regulatory guidelines in place that prevent some from making outlandish claims.
     Many physicians look down upon former colleagues who have ventured into alternative therapies. I don’t.
     I haven’t met a person going through chelation therapy who wasn’t intelligent, motivated and committed to a healthy lifestyle.  I often see people on three inhalers for lung disease who still have cigarettes in their top pocket. Gee, I wonder who will do better. Hmm, whom would I rather work with?
     If wearing magnets, drinking Noni juice or getting chiropractic manipulations enhances people’s lives in some way, I’m happy for them. I always ask folks to describe the therapy and to bring in whatever information they have so I can review it.
     For instance, there’s feng shui, the ancient Chinese art of placing things to ensure a harmonious flow. A friend told me about a person who was “cured” of chronic back pain by rearranging her bedroom furniture. Good for her!
     Traditional medicine needs to get its act together and recognize the actual or perceived health enhancing benefits of many alternative health treatments. Some in the alternative health community need to clean up their act and stop acting like snake oil salesmen.
     The two need to stop bad-mouthing each other. There needs to be better balance.
     The new health motto should be “feng shui for everyone.”

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