The benefits of alternative therapies are often attacked by mainstream media and the industrial medical complex. There are pros and cons – but definitely a place – for both.
- Traditional healthcare is commonly referred to as “Western medicine” due to its use in the United States and Western Europe. The treatments used are based on the use of drugs and surgery to treat symptoms (signs of illness).
The practitioners of traditional medicine are deeply involved (right or wrong) with the pharmaceutical industry and clearly believe there is a perfect drug for every symptom.
- Alternative medicine is also referred to as complimentary alternative medicine (CAM). Practitioners emphasize treatment of the whole person (rather than the symptoms) through the use of education, prevention of disease, and holistic modalities.
Some of the most well-known alternative treatments include nutritional guidance, acupuncture, aromatherapy, chiropractic care, herbal medicine, massage, meditation, therapeutic touch, and yoga. There are many others.
Traditional Healthcare: Benefits and Drawbacks
Scientific evidence-based medicine uses the application of the scientific process to distinguish outcomes due to chance from outcomes that are reproducible and reliable. Western medicine has been heavily researched over the past century and is ultimately considered steadfast for this reason.
Those who are trained in medicine (myself included once upon a time) follow a strict set of protocols that are not intended to be “interpreted.” Medical students are discouraged from thinking outside the box or questioning the medical knowledge being taught to them – no matter how nonsensical it may be.
Traditional medicine treats a specific body part or symptom of a disease, which earns it criticism for neglecting the big picture of total body care. Doctors prescribe medicine to control symptoms while they search for the root cause but one prescription leads to another.
For a patient with chronic illness, the root cause may be masked by pharmaceuticals so they never get better – they simply feel better.
This is a false positive since the human body adapts to drugs and therapies quickly. The moment the patient’s body adapts, they no longer feel better and the cycle is doomed to be repeated as their physician works his or her way through a catalog of pharmaceutical options.
The development of better diagnostic tools, safer surgical procedures, and post-operative care have minimized many of the most terrifying aspects of traditional healthcare.
However, modern day reliance on laboratory tests and machines has caused many patients to sicken or even die as blatant issues were overlooked that didn’t present in lab work.
Alternative Therapies: Benefits and Drawbacks
Alternative medicine has been (rightly) criticized for lacking scientific-based evidence. Modern practitioners of alternative medicine are finally transitioning to a more evidence-based approach but the damage to the credibility of the field will take years to recover.
The major benefit of alternative therapies is the whole body approach. Symptoms have a cause, a root source that needs to be discovered and resolved if possible. That is the only thing that truly “cures” a patient of anything – finding out why they’re sick in the first place and stopping that malfunction.
There is also heavy emphasis on preventing disease in the first place. Within the framework of alternative/complementary medicine, patients are encouraged – even expected – to participate and take responsibility for their health. Results are often dependent upon a patient’s willingness to change lifestyle habits that negatively affect their health.
Common sense protocols – diet, exercise, sleep, not smoking, not abusing drugs or alcohol, and so forth – are critical to physiological well-being as well as mental and emotional wellness.
Blending Two Systems for Better Health
The benefits of alternative therapies are on the opposite end of the spectrum of traditional medicine modalities. They too often run counter to one another while both receive criticism for what they’re lacking.
Modern healthcare is slowly evolving and many of these changes are for the good.
A new form of patient care known as integrative medicine blends the best of alternative and traditional treatments. This system focuses on the ability of the body to heal itself but also places value on the patient/physician relationship.
Integrative medicine uses a combination of conventional and complimentary techniques in order to facilitate healing in the best possible way. Integrative practices are taught at most medical schools and several peer-reviewed studies have been done on the topic as well.
Integrative medicine combines the best of both health worlds for safe, efficient, and effective healthcare. This is putting the patient first and accepting that drugs are not a “cure-all.”
Regardless of treatment, overall health is not a one-step process. Your health – no matter which system you lean toward – depends heavily on your lifestyle choices. Good habits and changes to your everyday behaviors can prevent disease, reduce the severity of a condition you already have, and can even place some chronic illnesses in remission.
A healthy lifestyle drastically reduces your risk of disease. It is your greatest defense against disease. The future of modern medicine relies on educating patients – and teaching children – that healthy choices each and every day lead to a longer and stronger life.
The benefits of alternative therapies treating the whole body combined with the scientific evidence and technology of traditional medicine – truly the best both have to offer.
Integrative medicine is facilitating traditional medicine’s shift to the prevention of disease rather than the treatment of disease. Focusing on natural healthy living while using the best aspects of traditional and alternative therapy benefits creates a sustainable healthcare plan.