Who uses Complimentary/Alternative Healthcare?
By Dr. Michael Wald
People ask me all the time, “Do you think that one day more doctors and the public will accept what you do?” Honestly, I stand there is disbelieve because, from my perspective (and apparently the statistics agree with me), the use of Complimentary-Alternative Medicine (CAM) by you (the public) are here to stay and growing rapidly!
I am concerned with the public’s general lack of ability to determine what is good and what is “not so good” CAM Care. It is not a matter of intelligence on the part of the public, it is simply a matter of not knowing enough about a particular part of CAM care that is the problem. For example, as a practitioner of clinical nutrition there are big differences between a practitioner who is a naturopath, a clinical nutritionist, a nutritional practitioner with a master’s degree in the subject, a dietician, a certified nutritionist, a practitioner who obtains their degree over the internet, etc. At the end of the day, it is often a trial and effort process for the health care consumer (that’s you!) in your journey to determine who can best help you. Much of the choosing is purely emotional based in my opinion; people saying things like, “he or she is a great doctor because of personality, or because of nothing tangible at all. A good practitioner can tell in less than 10 seconds if a practitioner is worth his/her mustard based on the recommendations given to a person with a particular health problem.
Here are a few quick examples of how I know instantly if a practitioner if a patient was working with (they are now sought out my knowledge and skills in this area) is qualified to provide nutritional care for each of the below conditions. Keep in mind that the comments I have give are proven out based on what is known as Evidenced Based criteria; a level of scientific study that makes each statement reasonable. It is important that you know that these short statements are not merely my opinion. I have also given some examples of things that SHOULD NOT be recommended.
- Breast Cancer – the patient must have been placed on melatonin among other suggestions and they must have been told that no amount of alcohol is considered safe for those who currently have breast cancer.
- Multiple Sclerosis – the patient’s testing (and yes there must have been testing) should have included Epstein bar virus and uric acid levels; Epstein bar may be a trigger of MS and high normal uric acid levels are associated with a better outcome for this disease. The form of B12 given (and it does not matter if the blood level of B12 is high) should be methylcobalamine (and not cyano or hydroxycobalamine).
- Hormonal Imbalance – the women who has been placed on bioidentical hormones must never have a history of breast or other hormone related (particularly estrogen) related cancers. If DHEA was given (and adrenal hormone) to a women with a personal history of breast cancer run the other way! Nutrition should include flaxseeds (not oil), omega 3 fatty acids, DIM and or indole3-carbinol and others to help the body metabolize the hormones.
- Gastrointestinal Problems – the person with an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or crohn’s disease must be on saccromyces cervesea probiotic (along with at least 7 other probiotics). If the patient is not on the saccromyces then I know immediately that the practitioner that this patient was formerly seeing did not understand the mechanisms of these diseases.
- Hepatitis C – this patient should have been offered intravenous glycine, n-acetylcysteine and glycerretic acid; a combination of three natural compounds studied extensively by the Japanese (the discovers of hepatitis C). There studies should a high rate of cure or remission.
- Fatigue – the testing should have included a variety of causes of fatigue including the testing of ferritin (a long term storage form of iron and protein); vitamin B12 and folic acid for B vitamin anemia along with homocysteine (a test of “use” not absorption of B6, B12 and folic acid); albumin (for protein anemia); vitamin C levels (does not matter how much you take daily) and many more forms of anemia. Causes of anemia are many and might include: immune disease, heavy menstruation, hemorrhoids, polyps, colon cancer, aspirin or other anticoagulant use, etc. Hormonal causes include autoimmune thyroid disease (not usually checked by regular docs); low thyroid hormones, low estrogen levels or imbalances of progesterone, DHEA, testosterone, etc.
- Many more example: I could go on all day siting the many mistakes practitioners make with lack of thoroughness. Read the short tips below as they might help you distinguish if your choice of CAM provider is up to snuff!
How can you tell who’s good? Here are a few tips:
- Schedule an appointment with the practitioner and meet with them to see how you feel about their bedside manner
- If they are not willing to meet with you at no cost for a short time you have your answer. Go somewhere else.
- It is not enough that you have a recommendation. Your friend or person who recommended a particular health care provider may have a condition that you do not and therefore the practitioner may be more or less able to help you.
- Know you subject to some extent and “test” the health care provider about the condition. Ask them questions that should match up to your research. Please understand that you research may be wrong or otherwise incomplete, but at least it is something. The practitioner may certainly know more than you, but you must make some attempt to educate yourself.
Use of CAM in the United States
“In December 2008, the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Center for Health Sciences (part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) released new findings on Americans’ use of complimentary and alternative medicine (CAM). The findings are from the 2007 National Health interview survey (NHIS); an annual in-person survey of American’s regarding their health – and illness-related experiences. The CAM section gathered information on 22,393 adults age 18 years and older and others. A similar CAM section was included in the 2002 NHIS providing the opportunity to examine transient CAM use, too.
In short, “In the United States, approximately 30% of adults (about 4 in 10) and approximately 12% of children (about 1 in 9) are using some form of CAM,… including
Chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation
Deep breathing exercises
Energy healing therapies such as Reiki
Use of natural products
“The most popular natural products are fish oil/omega-3, glucosamine, echinacea and flaxseed”.