Alternative medicine has never been more popular. Nearly 40 percent of adults report using alternative medicine. Doctors are often combining them with mainstream medical therapies — spawning the new term "integrative medicine." At Healing Alternatives we offer an integrative approach to medicine. Our goal is to make sure we get to the root cause of our patient’s issues, using the best, most individualized approach.
What are some examples of alternative medicine?
Exactly what's considered alternative medicine changes constantly as treatments undergo testing and move into the mainstream. To make sense of the many therapies available, it helps to look at how they're classified by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM http://nccam.nih.gov/), the agency that funds scientific research on complementary and alternative medicine:
- Whole medical systems
- Mind-body medicine
- Biologically based practices
- Manipulative and body-based practices
- Energy medicine
Keep in mind that the distinctions between therapies aren't always clear-cut, and some systems use techniques from more than one category.
Whole medical systems
A system isn't just a single practice or remedy — such as massage — but many practices that center on a philosophy, such as the power of nature or the presence of energy in your body. Examples of whole medical systems include:
- Ancient healing systems. These healing systems arose long before conventional Western medicine and include Ayurveda from India and Traditional Chinese Medicine.
- Homeopathy. This approach uses minute doses of a substance that causes symptoms to stimulate the body's self-healing response.
- Naturopathy. This approach focuses on noninvasive treatments to help your body do its own healing and uses a variety of practices, such as massage, acupuncture, herbal remedies, exercise and lifestyle counseling.
- Functional Medicine. Functional Medicine focuses on the optimal functioning of the body and its organs, usually involving systems of holistic or alternative medicine. Functional medicine addresses the underlying causes of disease, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. It is an evolution in the practice of medicine that better addresses the healthcare needs of the 21st century. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms.
Mind-body techniques strengthen the communication between your mind and your body. Alternative medicine practitioners say these two systems must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body connection techniques include meditation, prayer, breath work, relaxation and art therapies.
Biologically based practices
Examples include dietary supplements and herbal remedies. These treatments use ingredients found in nature. Examples of herbs include ginseng, ginkgo and echinacea, while examples of other dietary supplements include selenium, glucosamine sulfate and SAMe. Herbs and supplements can be taken as teas, oils, syrups, powders, tablets or capsules.
The quality of the supplements and herbal remedies are of the utmost importance. These substances must be “bioavailable.” Bioavailable is a term that indicates that the vitamin, mineral or herb is delivered in a way that body can absorb it. Lower quality versions are often excreted in urine or stool as opposed to being taken into the body by digestive processes. At Healing Alternatives, we offer the highest quality, bioavailable forms of each nutrient the body needs. This allows for a better treatment, and therefore more powerful results.
Body Work – Massage, Structural Integration
These methods use human touch to move or manipulate a specific part of your body. They include massage, structural integration, cranial sacral, sports massage, lymphatic drainage, medical massage and structural energetic therapy.
Many Alternative medicine practitioners believe an invisible energy force flows through your body, and when this energy flow is blocked or unbalanced you can become sick. Different traditions call this energy by different names, such as chi, prana and life force. The goal of these therapies is to unblock or re-balance your energy force. Energy therapies include acupuncture, qi gong, Reconnective Healing™, therapeutic touch, reiki and magnet therapy.
Why are some doctors hesitant about alternative medicine?
Many conventional doctors practicing today didn't receive training in CAM therapies, so they may not feel comfortable making recommendations or addressing questions in this area. However, as the evidence for certain therapies increases, doctors are increasingly open to alternative medicine.