What is Natural Medicine? Well, this is a very non specific term meaning many things to many people. If you are seeking alternatives, it’s useful to recognize some basic categories of Healthcare.
DIY ‘natural’ healthcare is exploding in popularity with the availability of information available on the Internet, published media, and individuals promoting self help programs or techniques. This is available to everyone and for many of my patients, this was their introduction to Natural Medicine.
There are also many ‘lay people’ providing healthcare advice and selling products ranging from healthstore personnel to multilevel marketers to people who had success themselves and wish to share your writing a book or creating a blog. Many lay providers access training programs focused on their healthcare niche.
Because of the popularity of ‘Natural Medicine’, many providers not specifically trained in a Natural Medicine discipline are adopting ‘Natual Practices’ and making recommendations about natural products or practices.
And lastly there are providers trained in specific natural disciplines such as Massage, Yoga, Aromatherapy, Accupuncture, Chiropractic, Naturopathic Medicine and others.
I have my biases because of my own training, but the bottom line is that no one person or ‘system’ holds THE Answer. In truth we are all very different, respond to different things, and need an approach that works for us. The biggest challenge I see is the lack of awareness consumers have about the effectiveness and limitations of the ‘healers’ or ‘healthcare practices’ they access. This is in part because of the dizzying amount of contradictory information available, and in part because consumers are simply not trained or encouraged to really shop around for healthcare.
While it is beyond my scope and expertise to evaluate different systems of healing, here are some general guidelines to consider when considering ‘natural options’ or even conventional practices.
1. Match the severity of your health issues with an appropriate level of care. For example treating your seasonal allergens by asking a healthfood clerk is probably a low risk solution. However treating a chronic illness or dealing with endocrine issues probably should be directed to someone with a more training expertise and options. This is a function of the risk to benefit ratio. While mistreating allergies can probably create some complications – especially with symptom suppression or missing allergies as a clue of more systemic issues; in general you either get better or you don’t – the risk of harm is low and possibility of benefit high.
On the other hand I have seen many woman who used self help or untrained providers for menopause or other endocrine issues that caused significant long term harm. ( Remember that the ones who were successfully treated in this way would NOT come to my office, so I see a higher percentage of people whose endocrine situations were more serious and required more skill or perhaps tools like lab testing than they had previously recognized.)
2. Shop around! I have often said that people shop more carefully for a new vacuum than they do for the person they trust with their health. Many people are intimidated to ask providers about their practices, success and limitations. And many providers are unaccustomed to patients wanting to take an active role and participate in their own care, or simply have a set up that does not allow the time necessary for in depth discussion or questions.
Word of mouth is a great way to find good providers! Social media allows for feed back from others and also a platform for providers to highlight their specialties. ‘Interviewing’ a practitioner not only provides great information, but also insight into how a Provider may respond to difficult or direct questions.
3. Educate yourself so you know what you want. Be clear about your healthcare goals and the priority of your issues. Trust your intuition and don’t be afraid to try a few options before making a decision.
4. Once you have made a choice, give whatever you choose a fair chance. Many people desperate for help hop around from one thing to another without taking the time to let things work. While symptom suppression is designed to be quick, genuine healing takes time.
Reprinted from a blog post on 7/13/2016