Sunday, February 18, 2018
Opinion

Knowledge is best complement to alternative medicine

More people are going beyond the borders of scientific medicine, searching for a cure to their ailments or simply seeking to improve and rejuvenate their health.

One of my patients, suffering from chronic pain from arthritis despite conventional medicines, told me she is much better after acupuncture.

An older gentleman who had coronary bypass surgery twice and still experienced frequent angina decided to go for chelation therapy. He returned after a few weeks in a much worse situation. One woman on blood thinners had excessive bleeding that turned out to be from concomitant usage of a Chinese herb for improved memory.

Some of the commonly asked questions by patients are: Can I take herbal medicines? They are natural, right? Does garlic actually reduce cholesterol? I just don't like these drugs; can I try Chinese remedies? Are they harmless?

A lot of people resort to alternative therapies. It has now grown into a $35 billion industry. These nostrums include naturopathy, homeopathy, acupuncture, Ayurvedic medicine, herbal therapy, yoga and meditation, tai chi, mega doses of vitamins and dietary supplements and many more.

All these are grouped under the term complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), defined as medical approaches traditionally not addressed in allopathic or western medicine.

It is not that people are disenchanted with conventional medicine, but they feel some of these therapies would be complementary to their current regime and might enhance their health and well being. Also, the number of non-conventional healers advertising their products with wild claims of health benefits has steadily increased, which entices more people to try them.

The National Institute of Health established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 1998 to research alternative medicine and disseminate authoritative information to the public and professionals alike.

Two years ago, the center and AARP partnered on a telephone survey and found:

◘• 38 percent of U.S. adults (53 percent of people 50 and older) reported using alternative medicine at some point in their lives.

• Herbal products or dietary supplements were used most commonly.

• 22 percent used massage therapy, chiropractic manipulation, and other bodywork, but few used mind/body practices like meditation.

◘• More women than men used alternative medicine, especially herbal products or dietary supplements.

Taking all these into consideration, there is an ongoing effort to integrate alternatives into conventional medical practice. There are now many centers for such integrative medicine and most American medical schools offer courses in it.

Many of these alternative modalities have been used for thousands of years in other countries. Ayurvedic medicine in India uses various herbal concoctions, vegetarian diet, exercise, body massages with medicinal oil, meditation and prayers. Chinese Medicine uses bioenergy manipulation, acupuncture, special herbs, etc. Homeopathy, osteopathy (manipulation of the bones and joints) and chelation therapy originated in the Western world. Native American Indians practice Shamanism and spiritualism. There are many more therapies like vitamin therapies, touch and talk therapy, etc.

While it is true that there is an exponential increase in the enthusiasm of these therapies among the public, it is important for all of us to know how effective and safe these treatments are.

Humans are always vulnerable. Looking for magical cures for illnesses, they often fall for appealing terms like holistic health practice, wellness revolution, nutritional supplements to boost immunity, natural therapy and so on. Some advertise "Bio identical hormone therapy designed to restore balance in women" so they can feel rejuvenated. I don't know if their claims can be properly validated. Some of these may help your body, many have placebo effect, but there are a few that can actually do harm to the body.

Medicine is both an art and a science, and science does have limitations.

In the ultimate analysis, every physician wants to relieve the sufferings of patients and make them better. If that would mean integrating alternate therapies to conventional medicine, then it is welcome. Although many physicians are skeptical, there is growing acceptance of alternatives within the medical community

Be well-informed about alternate therapies, especially herbal supplements, and make wise health decisions. And always let your treating physicians know if you are using alternatives. For information, see nccam.nih.gov on the web.

Dr. M.P. Ravindra Nathan, of Brooksville, is a retired cardiologist.

Comments
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18
Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

Editorial: Promising Tampa stadium site for Rays

While it came as little surprise, the Tampa Bay Raysí selection of an Ybor City site near Tampaís Channel District as the best spot for a new stadium is an important milestone in the effort to keep Major League Baseball. Now comes the hard work of de...
Published: 02/09/18
Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

Editorial: Senate should reject Houseís attack on public schools

After pummeling public education so soundly last year, itís little surprise Republican state legislators are mounting another attack on public schools, teachers and local districts. The mammoth education bill passed by the House last week is loaded w...
Published: 02/08/18
Updated: 02/13/18