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Can Using Holistic Medicine Make Disease Worse?

A patient with Irritable Bowel Syndrome who had gained weight and was tired all the time came to me in the Emergency Room the other day and was surprised when she discovered I practice holistic medicine. She asked: “You’re an alternative medicine doctor?…Isn’t that risky?”

I’ve had these questions before this from patients who are used to conventional medicine, but haven’t gotten the results they’re looking for so want to explore alternatives. They need to know what they’re doing is solid and founded in real medicine. They need to know they’re not taking chances on their health.

What is alternative medicine?

For decades, our medical system has been largely pharmacologic and surgical. Doctors are primarily trained to administer drugs or perform surgical procedures to address what ails you. That isn’t because these are the only tools available or because they’re the best. It’s because these are the tools conventional doctors have been trained to use. We’re constantly being given information about the latest drug treatments, and the studies that back them up. Most of the studies in prestigious medical journals are funded, conducted, and written directly by drug companies.

Meanwhile, decades of research has been done by non-pharmaceutical institutions looking at other modalities. There is ample research showing the utility and effectiveness for these treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic, herbals, osteopathic, homeopathic, functional medicine, and others…they’re just not what conventional doctors are educated about. In fact, often doctors (I experienced this during residency) are taught to be wary of these alternatives and told that they’re not safe, a concern that has proved to be untrue in innumerable clinical studies.

Why the conventional medicine can make disease worse

Since most doctors are trained to see the body as separate systems comprising the body and do not learn much about the ways these systems communicate and impact each other, they tend to evaluate symptoms as the problem, and not as a sign of an underlying problem. That means they use medications to make symptoms go away….then call it a day. Meanwhile, the body can often get worse.

What I do (and what thousands of doctors are now waking up to) is evaluate the body as a whole, instead of as separate parts that do not connect or influence each other. It is irrational to treat the bowel without considering the fact that 90% of the body’s serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is generated in the gut lining. That means our mood and thoughts directly impact what’s happening in our gut, and vice versa. It is also irrational to continue to treat a patient with medications for her gut, when the primary problem is wheat gluten, and removing it would eliminate the whole problem.

In fact it will soon be malpractice to not consider these links and treat patients accordingly. This particular patient had been to several doctors and tried multiple medications….all without any changes in her symptoms. She was bloated, overweight, achy and tired, and now frustrated because had no idea what was going on in her body.

After a thorough evaluation it was clear she was stressed out and working in a situation where she felt stifled and unhappy. She did not know how to deal with her overbearing boss, and decided to just suck it up and deal with it…but her body felt differently about it. We discussed ways she could empower herself to let these emotions out, communicate, and make choices that honored what was right for her, instead of succumbing to others expectations (a pattern she recognized had been in her life for years.)

Is your body communicating with you through your symptoms? Have you taken the time to listen?

Stay tuned for more including Holistic Medicine, Integrative Medicine and MindBody Tools to directly communicate and effect change in your health!

Be well!

-Dr. Kim

P.S. I would love to offer support and hear your story. Have you had symptoms that have not responded to conventional treatment? What has been your experience?

Share here and I will respond.

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