A new study published in the Health Services Research journal shows that physicians and nurses are more likely to turn to alternative and complementary medicine than the general public, when treating themselves. This is strangely at odds with the fact that few doctors will prescribe or recommend natural health products to their patients. We look at the reasons why.
What are “Natural Alternatives” in Medicine?
Complementary medicine, also termed natural alternative medicine, incorporates all manner of techniques and natural supplements. It covers acupuncture, massage, Pilates, chiropractic techniques, meditation and the use of herbs and minerals among other things. Many of these practices have been used for thousands of years, yet fail to be acknowledged by mainstream medicine.
In the study mentioned above, it found that 63% of the general working population use some form of natural healing while 76% of those working in the healthcare sector use complementary medicine. Breaking down the statistics further, the study found that doctors and nurses were twice as likely to seek treatment from a massage therapist, acupuncturist or chiropractor than other healthcare workers. They were also three times more likely to be tapping into natural treatments such as yoga and herbal supplements than those with a lower standard of education.
This report comes just weeks after the Archives of Internal Medicine called on doctors to use preventative medicine rather than drugs and surgery to keep patients healthy.
The Rules Binding Doctors from Recommending Natural Alternatives
Doctors are generally aware of what complementary medicine has to offer; in fact, they are better educated than most people about both orthodox and alternative medicine options. However, they are unable to suggest any natural health therapies to patients due to their employment contract. Regulations by health insurance companies prohibit doctors from suggesting natural non-drug treatments as a condition of their employment, backed up by Medical Board Regulations.
The medical industry is hugely profitable and naturally, the powers-that-be jealously guard their “cash-cow”. Most money is made by patents on cancer-fighting drugs and other new treatments. If doctors start to prescribe or recommend natural supplements instead, the medical giants do not have the patents to profit from them.
Another reason why doctors ignore safe and sensible natural treatments in favor of prescription drugs is that the system teaches them only to advise and prescribe drugs. It is human nature to take the safe option and prescribe what is familiar, widely taught, and in line with what every other doctor is doing. The risks of bucking the system are simply too great. Those who bow to their own convictions will generally leave mainstream medical practice and set up on their own as natural health practitioners, leaving even fewer doctors to recommend sensible natural therapies.
Supplement not Substitute
The best way to take advantage of the wonders of modern medicine and get the benefit of ages-old wisdom is generally to supplement medical treatments with natural products. However, you should check with your physician that there would be no contra-indications or bad reactions.
For those who are recovering from major surgery or radical treatment, it makes good sense to help boost the immune system with natural products and formulas for a speedy recovery. Although doctors may not yet be able to embrace natural alternatives in medicine, widely read and knowledgeable people can easily learn how to get the best from both natural and medical treatments.