We get calls every day at our Longmont and Denver, Colorado practices from those assessing their health care options trying to decide whether alternative medicine is right for themselves and their families. Perhaps as alternative medicine practitioners we’re a little bias but we’d like to shed some light on the question all the same.
First, let’s dispel a few myths.
Myth #1 – Practitioner education seems to come up a lot. Many Alternative and Functional Medicine providers are Chiropractors. The Doctor of Chiropractic designation is a Doctorate level degree obtained after completing a Bachelor’s degree (much like MD’s.). Many of today’s Chiropractic schools focus heavily on Functional Medicine and Clinical Nutrition, so likely (like in our practice) your chiropractor will have as many or more hours in the classroom as an MD. Many often then go on to focus on specific specialities, therefore additional classroom hours and accreditations are necessary.
Functional Medicine practitioners in particular will spend many hours training in Functional Blood Chemistry before they begin to practice. Having a background in chiropractic techniques only benefits the patient as treatment can be focused not only on treating chronic conditions but structural issues as well. It can be the perfect blend for a holistic approach. Additionally, DC’s are beholden to Continuing Education requirements as part of their licensure. So they never stop learning and are continually introduced to the latest techniques and treatment protocols.
Myth #2 – There’s no such thing as sub-clinical conditions. Not only do they exist, but when successfully treated the patient will begin to feel better because their symptoms are being addressed, and will generally thwart disease progression. A great example of a sub-clinical diagnoses is a patient who has been told they are “pre-diabetic.” By keeping an eye on blood sugar history a practitioner can make certain predictions, such as declaring a patient “pre-diabetic.” They may not fit the criteria of diabetes yet, but they are well on their way. They can be treated and the condition mitigated with the right nutrition and supplement regimen. It’s very similar to many other precursors used to correct issues before they really get started. Many people who seek alternative treatments have been told that they are “normal” or “just fine” when they know they don’t feel well. When their labs are reassessed by a practitioner using functional blood chemistry reference ranges instead there are often very obvious answers, and obvious protocols for individualized treatment .
Myth #3 – Often it is incorrectly assumed that alternative medicine practitioners are fully “anti-pharmaceutical.” That isn’t exactly the case. Using the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs as a terrific, albeit dangerous, example – not every ache, pain, sneeze and tummy grumble needs a pharmaceutical! Sometimes they are altogether out-of-line (antibiotics prescribed for the common cold virus, for example), sometimes they are overkill (hello, opioid epidemic!) and sometimes people are prescribed medications they never really needed in the first place, that eventually depress the body’s ability to produce needed chemicals on its own, creating a vicious cycle of physical dependency.
Patients who share these concerns often seek alternative treatments as a way to avoid these types of health pitfalls. And who can blame them? Watch an evening of TV and commercial after commercial lists drug side-effects that often sound worse than the original condition! Alternative medicine relies heavily on dietary remediation, and nutritional supplementation. Of course not all dietary/nutritional supplements are created equal. Only therapeutic grade supplements and herbal remedies should be trusted and used by any practitioner.
That said, many alternative medicine practitioners would agree there are instances pharmaceuticals are necessary and practical. That doesn’t mean they should be reached for first in every instance. Communicating with all of your healthcare practitioners is vital. Often, when pharmaceuticals are needed, an alternative medicine practitioner will make the correct referral to a traditional practitioner and will help in providing additional support for the patient. Many will go as far as working in conjunction with traditional practitioners. Again, communicate with your practitioner and ask their opinions on integrative healthcare. Medicine should never be about a doctor’s ego – patient health is paramount.
Now let’s take a look at who can benefit from Alternative Medicine?
Sufferers of conditions such as IBS, PCOS, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, adrenal fatigue, hormone irregularities, and those with symptoms commonly associated with underlying food sensitivities such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, gas, bloating and other GI upset often find the answers they’ve been seeking once they find their ideal alternative medicine provider. Also, many people with chronic SIBO and reactivated viral infections, such as Epstein-Barr find relief. Additionally, many types of chemical and mold exposures are glossed over by traditional medical practitioners even though these exposures can wreak havoc on their patients’ health and wellbeing.
Alternative medicine often becomes the healthcare of choice for those seeking whole-body wellness, not just the treatment of a collection of symptoms. We are more than a collection of our symptoms! Many patients feel stuck on the hamster-wheel of doing the same thing over and over again but still not feeling better. They then begin to want to understand the state of their health through specialty diagnostic testing and the evaluation of these labs using Functional Blood Chemistry instead of standard reference ranges. They begin to want to be treated as an individual, with protocols tailored to their unique body chemistry, not what might work for the average individual. Understanding the root cause of conditions and disease is a giant step in mitigating these issues.
Many alternative medicine patients are seeking a natural approach to medicines and nutritional supplementation, instead of pharmaceuticals first and only. The more they learn the more they become acutely aware that all the systems of the body must be working in harmony to feel their best and are just unsure how to make that happen. That’s where the guidance of a well trained alternative medicine practitioner comes in. We encourage you to ask questions, do your research and make informed choices in all your healthcare decisions.