What are the downsides of using alternative medicine?

It is important to use the advice of a competent, licensed provider and be certain that all of your providers know everything you are doing

There are several important caveats for patients, First, not all cam providers are competent. A naturopathic physician licensed in a competent licensing jurisdiction is trained and regulated to physician standards.

Second, when using conventional and cam treatments together, it is important to be certain that there are no interactions. “Cam therapies can reduce side effects and even help some conventional treatments to work better but, when combined incorrectly with conventional treatments, they can interfere with the therapeutic effect, worsen side effects and reduce the chances of a positive outcome.”

As long as it is down responsively, and involves all of the practitioners, and everyone knows what everyone else is doing, then there are few downsides to using integrative medicine.

What treatments are being used outside the United States that are not used here?

Some therapies that are used worldwide are not approved for use in the United States, and may be difficult to find in this country. One is the anti-cancer drug Laetrile, a treatment first used in the 1920s, but not approved by the FDA as a cancer therapy. While a few doctors may offer it in this country, most patients desiring laetrile treatment go south of the border to Mexico, where it is an approved cancer treatment. Hydrazine sulfate, a treatment that has been investigated for the past 30 years, is commercially available in this country. But since it is not FDA approved as a cancer treatment, it must be offered as a food supplement.

Most treatments, though, are widely available here. There are new therapies coming out all the time, from Europe, Asia, South America and so on, but they’re small incremental things rather than a revolutionary advance.

Most of the cam treatments available in Europe are also available here. The FDA has rejected the importation of some treatments for safety, manufacturing and labeling reasons, but they are few compared to those that are available.

What do doctors not tell patients about using alternative therapies?

Until very recently, the majority of medical schools did not include any information about therapies beyond the Western model. As a result, many doctors were left unprepared to deal with the questions their patients were asking about alternative therapies. And because many therapies do not fit the model that doctors have been trained in, and cannot be “scientifically explained,” they often dismiss these treatments as snake oil.

Many conventional providers are wary of cam treatments because of a bad experience or their lack of knowledge about cam therapy effects on their treatments.

Doctors don’t acknowledge that there are a number of things that patients can do to build up their own systems and make themselves feel better. A lot of techniques have been ignored by doctors. It’s not enough just to hand someone statistics and say here are the chemo drugs I’m going to use — you have to look at a person as a whole, and look at how to treat every system in the person’s body and teach them, to some degree, to take charge of their own healing.

However, Dr. Labriola points out the experience at his practice, the Northwest Natural Health Specialty Care Clinic, provides some interesting insight into how conventional doctors view cam providers. “We receive many referrals from conventional medical specialists,” he says.” They tell us that they have confidence in us because they are familiar with our practice, our expertise with interactions and the fact that we are actually published in scientific journals on the subject of interactions and integrative care.”

“It has been our experience that conventional medical physicians are willing to say a whole lot more about cam therapies when they have the confidence that the patient can receive the benefits without being exposed to the risks of incorrect treatment,” he adds.

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