One of the hottest hot button topics out there is alternative medicine. And most of us aren’t exactly wishy-washy about our opinions—we either believe in it or classify it as voodoo medicine.
Heck, the very idea that nutrition can heal our bodies and minds has led to heated conversations and strong resistance from people I’ve crossed paths with. In case you’re unfamiliar, nutrition involves the foods we eat and the vitamins, minerals, fats, etc., etc. that it provides to our entire being. Since we humans have been eating food—and getting nutrients from food—since the beginning of time, it doesn’t really seem like an alternative to me. Yet I’ve still encountered ridicule from some people when discussing food and nutrition.
What is alternative medicine anyway? Much like the vaguely defined labels used for natural and organic foods, it’s been classified in so many confusing ways that it can make your head spin. Understanding the terms used in the world of alternative health care will help you find the type of care you’re looking for.
The U.S. News and World Report recently published an illuminating article titled “What Is Alternative Medicine?” that does much to clear up terms such as “integrative healthcare” and “complementary healthcare.” Understanding these distinctions will guide you as you figure out your alternatives.
Alternative medicine: As defined by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, alternative medicine includes “any non-conventional interventions that are used instead of conventional treatments, not in conjunction with them.” They also state that these treatments are rare.
Complementary healthcare: This type of care is defined as alternative treatments alongside mainstream treatment—to complement each other. An example of complementary healthcare would include using acupuncture and your arthritis prescription to cope with the different aspects of the condition.
Integrative healthcare: This is an approach healthcare providers take with their patients. Melinda Ring, clinical associate professor of medicine at Northwestern Medicine’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, explains this approach as looking holistically at her patients and considering all aspects of their lives, including lifestyle, community, and environment as well physical and emotional factors.
Do yourself a favor and read through the full article. It provides details on other modalities such as naturopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, and acupuncture.
No matter which school of thought you fall into, a comprehensive self-health education includes exploring different philosophies and making personal decisions based on the best options for yourself and your loved ones. Ya’ know what? I’d venture to say that most of us who are committed to learning about all aspects of health and well being will eventually try one or more of these methods. Knowing your alternatives is bound to set you on the path to optimal health that much faster.
Image from iStock/Wavebreakmedia.