I believe that true healthcare reform will come about only when integrative and alternative medicine is embraced, not kept on the sidelines where it resides today.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid at Giza still stands as a hallmark of physical triumph and ancient mystery. It is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that is still standing - all the others have disappeared. The Egyptians were excellent at much more than just building big statues, though.
Did you know that the Ancient Egyptians were also very good herbalists? In King Tut’s tomb, for example, large vats of licorice root were discovered along with the tons of gold. Licorice root, an adaptogenic herb that helps boost the immune system, was widely cherished back in King Tut’s time - an example of how the ancient Egyptians knew to connect to nature for healing.
So what does this have to do with our modern medicine and health care? To me, everything. I believe that true healthcare reform will come about only when integrative and alternative medicine is embraced, not kept on the sidelines where it resides today.
1. Healthcare costs rise as we are now treating patients who are sicker and sicker. Many doctors argue this is due to lack of compliance. I agree, but not because patients need to take more medicine, but because patients are very dissatisfied with just medicine. Patients want options and want to be listened to. Providing more and more prescription medicine does not address this issue.
2. Instead of figuring out disease process, doctors tend to reach for the prescription pads first. Patients, on the other hand, would rather we help them figure out what is going on. This can only come about with “outside the box” thinking in terms of the role hormones, vitamins, and nutrients play in the role of health. By adopting a holistic mind frame, doctors can start to better help their patients feel better and learn how to care for themselves better. This will lead to a healthier population as well as decrease overall costs.
3. Three thousand years of history provides plenty of “evidence.” One of the main arguments against natural and alternative medicine is that there are no double-placebo controlled studies to verify if treatments truly work. By relying on excellent “data” that is passed down through time, we, in the natural medicine realm, have a wealth of information and evidence to share with our patients. We empower our patients by providing this information and use it to our advantage. So instead of “just” prescription medicine, we can offer many, many options which truly work and are, for the most part, safe. This is in contrast to the great morbidity and even mortality prescription medicine causes each year. In reality, both realms are needed - natural options as well as prescription medicine.
4. Collaborative care. Conventional medicine, for the most part keeps its fences high when it comes to working with other health providers such as naturopaths, chiropractors, acupuncturists, energy workers, etc. This leads to a division of care and the disapproving attitude by conventional physicians causes patients to feel uncomfortable even sharing all of their health information. I think we can all agree that when patients are not able to provide accurate and authentic histories, our work as physicians becomes much more difficult. Instead of running from other care providers, we would do better for our patients to work in collaboration with other healthcare providers.
This is just a handful of examples of how embracing natural and alternative medicine can help patient care. I by no means expect many physicians to give stock to what I am saying here.
But the reality remains: Conventional medicine is failing our patients just as much as it is failing us. In order to make real change, we need to start thinking outside the box and looking at alternative care models. Taking steps to think and practice with a more holistic and natural approach, in my opinion, is the first and biggest step to getting to that next place with patient care.
Let the image of the Great Pyramid in Egypt be a reminder that ancient medicine, like ancient architecture, can withstand the test of time.
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