“Alternative medicine” — attitudes

As of this year I’m about nine years down the track after a cancer diagnosis and I know that alternative therapies helped me through, with no medical interventions other than eventual surgery. After puzzling about the attitudes of most people (friends, family, public, health professionals) to “alternative medicine” I’ve concluded that their reasons for sidelining therapies and lifestyle changes you can make in order to survive, mostly include one or more of the following:

Making a hasty judgment that it’s all “quackery”. A few recorded testimonies of things that went wrong might cause antagonism to the concept of “alternative” — yet things can go wrong in mainstream medicine too, without eroding faith in the system. One friend following standard treatment for a heart attack is now paralysed and losing faculties — yet it’s not diminished that family’s hopes in the medical system. There’s not so much latitude given to perceived shortcomings in alternative medicine.

They simply haven’t seen the wealth of information and positive testimonies out there. Once you go looking, it’s easy to get to sites offering articles, updates, products. One cancer book written by a doctor asked “If there is good alternative medicine out there, why don’t I know about it?” Did he think the readers would assume there must be none? Possibly they would — but only because they’d never googled “natural therapies”. And obviously he hadn’t.

They are used to trusting the established health system, knowing that doctors and nurses are familiar with human anatomy, therefore must also know best what the body needs. The needs of the body can only be determined if Nutrition is addressed, and this is a Holistic issue not sufficiently covered during in medical training. And what doctor has time to upskill in Nutrition?

They’ve had many years of association with their own general practitioners and fear to get offside of these valuable folk by asking about anything else. They see GPs and specialists as “the last word”.

They’ve never discovered the history of medical training colleges and why they are heavily influenced by drug training and technological devices. There are reasons why Holistic medicine is not taught: it’s a case of “Follow the money”.

They’ve never discovered History! The modern Health industry is relatively new, but the human race had stayed alive for centuries without it. Yes, prior to formal training there were some questionable practices as people sought knowledge of the human body. But until then life was undergirded by inherited wisdom and what we now call “old wives tales” — and what was then “mainstream” is what we now call “alternative”, now relegated so often to scorn. It’s been tipped upside down.

Patients paying hard-earned money may feel at a loss without being given definite prescriptions. Why pay to be told to eat greens? How is a patient to know that the variety of colours of fruit and vegetable reflect the variety of nutrients they provide? There’s little concept of “Eat the rainbow”, and why.

They’ve had a hospital or emergency experience and admire the efforts of the well-meaning staff who “threw everything” at the problem. Most accounts I hear of hospitals (and my own) in my country are full of praise. It’s all seen as Science, not to be questioned, and who’d want to offend these hard-worked people by questioning?

They feel intimidated if any questions, or refusals of interventions offered, are met with astonishment or antagonism. Patients need to be able to trust their own impulses, insights, niggles, body knowledge, intellect and convictions.

They’ve never asked “Does my body really NEED this? Is it what it needs MOST?”  In addressing symptoms we are too easily lulled by being made more comfortable — when it’s in our better interests to go to the cause and address that. Apart from the result of accidents and emergencies, finding and dealing with the underlying cause is more likely in Holistic Medicine.

When told “You need to do this…” patients tend not to pause and realise that the stated “need” reflects the services on offer in general practice. There might not be guidance in what you can do to help yourself: supplements, giving up bad habits, finding adequate water/exercise/rest, cleansing your environment of toxins, safe weight loss etc.

They feel trapped by dependence upon drugs.  They see no alternative to continuing to go along with the status quo, unless they have convincing arguments or a mentor with the metaphorical backbone of steel! Actually, you’re not obliged to convince anyone other than yourself: even though family, friends and health workers may look askance.

If a patient happens to look into Complementary Alternative Medicine and realises that it might involve daily, even day-long effort, the challenge might be off-putting… in comparison with swallowing prescriptions, popping in for the occasional appointment and the luxury of having others minister to you (after all, your taxes paid for this…). For me, since my cancer battle involved no attendant pain, it was normal employment and activities as usual, and feeling much fitter because of the lifestyle changes and protocols I’d established for myself.

By the way, did you notice above, the title “Complementary Alternative Medicine?” There are many natural therapies that can assist recovery during mainstream interventions: supplements that avoid hair loss during chemotherapy, for example. And had you ever read that Hippocrates, the father of medicine, said nearly 2,500 years ago “Let  food be thy medicine…”

So this “other stuff” can be complementary (a useful adjunct), and can be life-restoring. Give it a chance!

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