Wishing to embrace a more holistic approach to their health care, some people are turning to their Doctors and Physicians for advice concerning the use of supplements and alternative treatments. Western medicine has made substantial advancements toward recognizing the benefits of alternative treatments in the past decade; however, there remain concerns on both the part of the patient and the professional medical community. The purpose of this article is to help you recognize your specific concerns and express your desire to incorporate the use of alternative treatments to your traditional treatment regimen, and address this issue with your primary care Physician.
If you have specific symptoms that suggest the presence of illness or disease, consult your Doctor. Self-diagnosis and treatment is never recommended. In some cases, symptoms mimicking those of disease and illness may in fact be the side effect of a treatment your Doctor is currently administering to you. For example, some patients experience frequent heartburn when taking calcium channel blockers and theophyllines. Calcium channel blockers are commonly used for high blood pressure and angina. Theophyllines are commonly used for asthma and breathing difficulty. These types of medications weaken the lower esophageal sphincter, making it easier for stomach acid to reflux into the esophagus. The resulting symptoms of frequent heartburn can easily be mistakenly self-diagnosed as acid reflux disease. Another common mistake in self-diagnosis and treatment is adverse reactions.
A common misconception with herbs, vitamins, and minerals is that they are “natural”, therefore harmless. This isn’t always the case, as in the use of bee pollen. Some individuals have very serious adverse reactions to bee pollen including hives, itchy throat, skin flushing, wheezing and headache. People with asthma or with known allergies to bee stings should be very careful when using bee pollen and avoid the use of royal jelly entirely. In some situations, the use of supplements can interfere with the effectiveness of the prescription drugs you may be taking. One such supplement is 5-HTP, derived from the seeds of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia) and commonly sold in health food stores in either 50mg or 100mg pill form. If you’re currently taking an antidepressant, the addition of 5-HTP may intensify the possible adverse reactions to some antidepressants. These adverse reactions can include anxiety, confusion, rapid heartbeat, sweating and diarrhea.
Because of the ever present risk of side effect mimicking illness or disease, and the ever present risk of possible supplement adverse reaction, it is always recommended that you report all of your symptoms to your Doctor as well as any supplement you may be taking, or considering taking. Even if your Doctor isn’t receptive or supportive of nutritional supplements and herbal remedies, you should still make a point of discussing your views. The brunt of the responsibility for the proper management of your health care falls on you. No Doctor can make the proper diagnosis or suggest the proper treatments for you if he is unaware of your symptoms and the things you may be doing as treatment. In the event your Doctor is unreceptive to your ideas and interest in alternative treatment methods, ask that you be given a referral to someone within the medical profession that does embrace these methods.
It is never recommended that you stop your conventional medical treatments! Although the use of supplements may in fact reduce the need of traditional medications entirely, this determination needs to be made by your Doctor. You should never decrease or discontinue the use of a prescription medication without first consulting your Doctor. This dangerous decision could cause potential serious and even fatal consequences.
In situations where Western and traditional medications excel in prevention, treatment and cure of disease and illness, it is somewhat foolish to seek alternative treatments. This would of course include medical and surgical emergencies, physical injuries, acute infections, sexually transmitted diseases, kidney infections, reconstructive surgery, and serious illness such as polio and diphtheria, which can be prevented with immunizations.
In these intense situations, serious and expedient traditional medical treatment is always advised.