Alterna-treatments: Moving Towards “Integrative” Rather than “Alternative” Care

Beyond western biomedicine there is the world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Alternative therapies are commonly discussed in communities as a way to ease pain and deal with the stress of managing symptoms, side effects, and stress.  But alternative therapies come with a lot of caveats.  TiffanyAndLupus We rip them open & debate & realize many are quacks! #hachat.  There are a lot of people out there pushing this new extract, or the recently discovered cancer-curing properties of the soursop tree.   Like any aspect of managing your health, trying alternative therapies is all about doing your research and talking to your doctor.

Consult your community


Your online community is a great place to seek advice about CAM.  Symptoms, side effects, and the day-to-day physical challenges of managing health are common topics of conversation in most online health communities.  People go online looking to see if their symptoms or side effects are normal, discover triggers for symptoms and to find out how other people are dealing with them.  While your online community has a wealth of information on therapies you should consider, Health Activists are very careful about recommending treatments.   Health Activists want to share their experiences, but they also want people to know that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else.  Health Activists are very careful with their recommendations, always making sure to include a disclaimer about consulting your doctor.

mixoparthenos, I recommend books before anything else so people can gather their own knowledge and insights #HAchat
tmana T3. A lot is personal (anecdotal) reference: “This is what works for me.” Or, “I hear reports that X works for some.

Ask your HCP?” #hachat
TiffanyAndLupus T3. I share what works for ME & what I’ve heard from others & always tell patients asking for advice to speak to their Drs 1st! #hachat
tmana T2. Responders use disclaimers but will often suggest alternate delivery methods for the same medication, ways of monitoring and adjusting dosage… #hachat

In addition to consulting your community, it’s important to do your own research.  kimmieCollas T2: alt treatments MUST be carefully researched and discussed with a knowledgeable advisor, either your md or do #HAChat.  When you’re sorting through all the information out there though, you have to be careful about what to believe.   Where is this information coming from? Who wrote this article?  Is it cited?  Remember: kimmieCollas “natural doesn’t mean SAFE” #HAchat.

ElinSilveous Another credible resource in addition to @NCCAM is Dr. Kenneth R. Pelletier – The

Best Alternative Medicine #HAChat.
TiffanyAndLupus Also a popular site we use is quackwatck dot com ~> Which helps to dispel the snake oil we find online. #hachat
tmana MedPage usually has interesting “in progress” articles, as does Ivanhoe. Neither is reporting stuff that’s already available yet #hachat

PainCHAS T4 Look for cited information – What studies, physicians, research backs up the health claim? If uncertain, discuss with your doc! #HAChat
TiffanyAndLupus T4: Be cautious of sites that boast of: Cures, holistic healing, all natural, “sketchy reviews”, & all for the low price of…$$$. #hachat
ElinSilveous I advise folks to not believe everything they hear, read or see. #HAchat

Though I’m sure many people wouldn’t expect to find scientific information about the effectiveness of alternative therapies, there are reputable sources where you can find research and information about CAM, such as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).

While you’re sorting through all of this information, it’s important to manage your expectations.  When you hear about a new therapy to try, and specifically when you hear about how well it has worked for someone in a similar situation, it’s easy to get swept away by images of feeling/looking/being better.  Knowing that what works for someone else won’t necessarily work for you is always important to keep in mind when trying a new treatment, be it traditional or alternative.  Also, like starting any treatment, CAM takes time.  Big changes don’t happen in a day: kimmieCollas Diet changes, etc may take up to 6 months to have noticeable effects #HAchat

Don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor

One thing that is surprising is that alternative treatments don’t seem to get discussed with the healthcare team.

pamressler: Even though 1 in 4 adults use #CAM therapies less than a third of these folks tell their MD, this is a problem #HAchat

Is there a reason that patients do not discuss all aspects of their care with their healthcare team?  Fear of judgment? That your doctor will tell you to stop this new therapy you think is helping?  Practitioners of western medicine are becoming more and more receptive to alternative therapies, and being open with your doctor about pursuing other treatments will help him/her to better manage your care.  It’s important to remember that just because your doctor may not want you to pursue a specific therapy doesn’t mean he/she is dismissing all alternative therapies.  Many doctors are starting to recognize that western biomedicine doesn’t have all the answers, and in order to speed up this revelation, patients need to be more honest about how they’re managing their health outside of what their doctor prescribes.  And, who knows, opening up this dialogue may even lead to options that you hadn’t considered or come across yet.

Finally, pamressler suggests yet another way that HCPs can contribute to the social media space: Nurses, physicians on SocialMedia can play role in pointing folks 2 reputable education w/o advising specific Rx #HAchat.  Health Activists can also play this role, by bringing new studies or therapies to the attention of their doctors.  We already know how busy HCPs are; helping to empower HCPs is part of the Health Activist mission.

healthyjack I believe Health Activists just finding their pivotal role in Comp. & Alt. Medicine: help others find what’s real #hachat


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