Combining alternative therapies safely

Susan found herself angry and frustrated leaving the doctors office today. This was the sixth doctor she has seen for her migraine headaches. The new medication he offered her does seem to relieve her headache, but she finds it difficult to deal with the side effects of the drug. She wanted to ask him about alternative therapies, but the minute the subject came up he brushed it away. She feels discouraged, but decides she's going to take matters into her own hands.

Before heading home, she heads to the health food store determined once again to find a natural therapy that will relieve the pain without taking drugs. After purchasing a couple of reference books and several herbal supplements, she feels empowered that she can stop using drugs. That is until the pain of the headache comes roaring back and reminds her why she puts up with a drug hangover.

After she recovers, she once again begins her search in earnest. But since several of her doctors have warned her against mixing unknown alternative therapies with high powered medications, she fails to employ one of her most valuable resources, her doctor, and may be risking more than continued headache pain.

A 1998 national survey published in JAMA (Journal of The American Medical Assoc.) reported that some 60 percent of all patients failed to report their use of alternative therapies. My clients site various reasons for keeping silent, mainly fear of what their physician might think or say. I do remind my clients that a healthy doctor-patient relationship is one of equal respect. If you can't discuss your health concerns with your doctor, get another doctor! The clerk at the health food store does not have the expertise you need when it come to mixing therapies.

Of course, many physicians are not versed in blended/ integrative therapies and feel uncomfortable advising or suggesting other modalities -- including nutrition therapy -- another severely overlooked tool in the fight against illness and pain. Even given that much, they should at least be open to hearing you out and respect the fact that you have begun to take some responsibility for your state of ill health.

Blended therapies can and do work; you do need professional help. Unfortunately, just as with other professions, there are individuals out there who will take your money and promise you a cure. If you have been dealing with a chronically stubborn illness for months, possibly years and suddenly someone is promising you a quick fix, that should be your cue to run the other direction as quickly as you can.

Do your homework; consider all the angles. What will this therapy cost? Are they licensed? Do you know someone who has been helped by this therapy? What does your physician think of this person or would he recommend their services to you?

My understanding of these kinds of situations comes from deep and painful personal experience. But when desperation is the driving force to make change without reasoning, knowledge and the utilization of professional help you may be in for a rather unpleasant surprise. Blended therapies may require more work, more money and a greater number of visits to various professionals to achieve the desired results. The pay-off, you're increasing your chances of finding that healthy balance you're looking for.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online April 18, 2000

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