Blended Medicine: The Best Choices in Healing

Blended Medicine: The Best Choices in Healing

by Michael Castleman

The Future of Healing IS IN YOUR HANDS

Most doctors still practice conventional Western medicine-- end of story. But a growing number of physicians are embracing the future of healing: blended medicine.

This revolutionary approach to healing combines the best options in mainstream medicine with gentle, natural, yet efffective alternative therapies,

…  See more details below


The Future of Healing IS IN YOUR HANDS

Most doctors still practice conventional Western medicine-- end of story. But a growing number of physicians are embracing the future of healing: blended medicine.

This revolutionary approach to healing combines the best options in mainstream medicine with gentle, natural, yet efffective alternative therapies, including Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, yoga and massage, and exercise and nutrition.

Blended Medicine shows you how you can wisely combine alternative medicine with all that conventional medicine has to offer--and afford yourself the best opportunity for good health and safe, effective treatment.

* Blended-medicine "menus" for more than 100 diseases and health conditions
* The best choices for each condition; recommended by experts in both conventional and alternative medicine
* Which therapies you can use at home, and which require professional practitioners
* Simple relaxation therapies that help short-circuit the stress component of many chronic conditions, from colds to cancer
* Guidelines for safe use of vitamins, minerals, and herbs, including possible interactions

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Castleman, a medical journalist and the author of nine previous books, here offers an integrative approach to healing. He describes over 20 therapeutic traditions and then outlines the most effective Western and alternative treatments for over 100 common health conditions. Although he is careful to encourage consultation with professionals, his emphasis throughout is on self-cure. Yet many of the therapies described demand extensive training and practice, if not precision. For example, he often recommends acupressure, but his description of pressure points is cursory, with no accompanying illustrations. Castleman also allots major diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and hepatitis little more space and coverage than minor conditions such as heartburn and jet lag. Overall, he is striving to do too much in one book, and although the concept of integrating traditional and alternative therapies is an important one, the complexity of such a task--at least for the layperson--is far beyond the scope of one self-help manual. Not recommended.--Andy Wickens, Univ. of Washington Health Sciences Lib., Seattle Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Rodale Press, Inc.
Publication date:
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4.82(w) x 11.04(h) x 1.50(d)

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Chapter One

The Best of All

Julie Brand awoke in the middle of the night with severe pain shooting down her right leg The 30-year-old software developer thought she had strained a muscle during a weekend hike. She took aspirin, but it didn't help. So after a few days, she went to see her doctor, Leslie Vensel, M.D., at the Spence Center for Women's Health, a primary-care clinic near her home in Boston.

    Dr. Vensel diagnosed sciatica—a pinched or compressed sciatic nerve, which causes lower-back and leg pain. She prescribed stronger pain relievers and a week of bed rest. They didn't help either. So Dr. Vensel referred Brand to Tammy Martin, M.D., the Spence Center's staff orthopedist. A magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) ordered by Dr. Martin showed a herniated disk, which was putting pressure on the sciatic nerve. Dr. Martin prescribed additional anti-inflammatory and pain medication plus physical therapy.

    "The treatments helped somewhat. I became more mobile," Brand recalls. "But after 5 months, I was still hurting. I hated it. One day I was a healthy person, and the next I was looking at a lifetime of chronic pain and disability. It was very depressing."

    Then Brand's cousin, a nurse, suggested that she try acupuncture. "I was never into alternative medicine, but some of my friends had gotten good results from acupuncture," Brand says. "So I figured, why not? I had nothing to lose."

    But how could she find someone qualified to administer theancient Chinese needle therapy? She decided to consult Dr. Vensel. "When I told her about my interest in acupuncture, she said, `Funny, I was just about to suggest it to you,'" Brand says. "Then she blew my mind by referring me to the Spence Center's own staff acupuncturist—Yao Zhang, D.O.M., a doctor of oriental medicine from China. I couldn't believe they had an acupuncturist right there."

    In the Spence Center's acupuncture treatment room, Brand lay on her left side as Dr. Zhang inserted a dozen slim, sterile needles into her feet, thighs, buttocks, and back. "It was like getting a vaccination," Brand says. "The needles smarted, but only for a second." And any momentary discomfort was far outweighed by the results: She felt less pain the morning after her first treatment.

    Brand received acupuncture treatments twice a week for a month. Her pain subsided, and she cut back on her medication. After the sciatica seemed gone for good, she continued getting treatments once a week for a few months to prevent a recurrence. After that, she went in for an acupuncture "tune-up" once every few months. Today, she sees Dr. Zhang only on those rare occasions when twinges of pain resurface.

    What first attracted Brand to the Spence Center was its convenient location and its inclusion on her HMO's list of approved providers. But until her referral to Dr. Zhang, she had no idea that the clinic offered alternative therapies—acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition counseling, massage therapy, and Chinese herbal medicine—in addition to a broad range of mainstream.therapies.

    Now Brand is sold on acupuncture for sciatic pain—and on the Spence Center's blending of mainstream and alternative medicine. "All of the practitioners work closely together. They talk to each other all the time. That means better-coordinated care," she says. "And all of my records are right there. Everything is under one roof. I think everyone should have access to this kind of medical care."

    Spence Center founder Rina Spence would likely agree. The former president and chief executive officer of Emerson Hospital in Concord, Massachusetts, Spence says she opened her clinic because she believes that the best medical care comes from blending mainstream medicine and alternative therapies.

A Glimpse at the Future of Health Care

    Blended medicine is still the exception, not the rule. But over the past few years, it has quietly found a niche in American health care.

    According to a widely publicized Harvard Medical School survey, 42 percent of Americans used alternative therapies in 1997, spending more than $21 billion. But even before this survey made headlines, other, largely unpublicized studies revealed a changing attitude toward alternative medicine within the mainstream medical community itself. A growing number of mainstream physicians were open to alternative therapies, and many would consider referring their own patients to alternative practitioners.

    Mainstream medicine's growing acceptance of alternative therapies raises a curious question: If alternative therapies go mainstream, are they still alternative?

    "Increasingly, they are not—and I'm quite pleased about it," says Alan E Brauer, M.D. "When people get mainstream therapies in one office, chiropractic in another, and nutrition counseling, biofeedback, and Chinese medicine elsewhere, their care is fragmented. Each practitioner sees only a small portion of the overall therapeutic picture. Having everyone under one roof improves communication and continuity of care."

    For years, Dr. Brauer was a medical iconoclast who experienced professional ostracism because he included alternative therapies in his practice. "Initially, I got a lot of criticism from other doctors in my area," he recalls. "But physicians are much more accepting today, now that so many unconventional therapies are being shown to have a sound basis in science."

    "Mainstream medicine doesn't have all the answers," says Anne Simons, M.D. "Good research shows that for many conditions, alternative therapies can help. When I have a cold, I often take echinacea because several studies show that it's an antiviral immune stimulant. I think doctors should prescribe whatever works best. If what works best is a safe alternative treatment, it's fine with me."

From "Alternative" to "Complementary"

    Of course, many mainstream physicians are still leery of alternative therapies—and some still call them worthless. But many more have come to realize that their brand of medicine doesn't have a monopoly on healing and that alternative approaches often are quite valuable. Today's medical rallying cry is "Whatever works best," and many of those promoting blended medicine have dropped the term alternative in favor of the term complementary. "Complementary says that these therapies do not replace mainstream medicine," Dr. Brauer explains. "Rather, they complete it, expanding it to include areas it has undervalued or overlooked—diet, exercise, traditional healing arts, and mind-body therapies."

    "If I'm involved in a serious auto accident, I want the ambulance to take me to the nearest high-tech trauma center. Mainstream medicine is definitely the way to go for serious injuries," says Andrew T. Well, M.D., director of the program in integrative medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson. "But let's say I developed chronic pain as a result of the accident. Beyond narcotics, mainstream medicine doesn't have much to offer. But several complementary therapies can help. I might try chiropractic, acupuncture, yoga, massage, or visualization therapy."

    "I'm not opposed to medical technology," adds Deepak Chopra, M.D., creative director and cofounder of the Chopra Center for Well-Being in La Jolla, California. "Technological medicine is unsurpassed in diagnosing disease and in treating serious injuries and infections. But it does not treat chronic illness—for example, arthritis and heart disease—very effectively, and it undervalues the connection between the mind and body That's where the complementary therapies excel."

    Meanwhile, as mainstream medicine has softened its once-steadfast opposition to anything unorthodox, alternative practitioners have tempered their criticism of many mainstream approaches. "I'm not totally opposed to pharmaceutical drugs or technological medicine," says Joseph Pizzorno Jr., N.D., president of Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, which is the nation's only accredited medical school that focuses on alternative therapies. "When the body's self-healing systems have been overwhelmed by injury or infection, conventional approaches save lives. But in my opinion, pharmaceuticals are over-prescribed. Their power is impressive in life-or-death situations. For everyday ailments, I prefer nonpharmaceutical therapies that support the body's self-healing mechanisms. These therapies are gentler. They often work just as well. And they don't breed resistance like antibiotics do."

    The term alternative medicine is unlikely to disappear in the near future, but complementary medicine is clearly the coming concept. In late 1996, the National Institutes of Health's Office of Alternative Medicine changed its name to the Office of Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Who Pays for Alternative Therapies?

The clear trend in health care is away from fee-for-service medicine and toward lower-cost managed care. But the transition has been rocky. People complain that in order to cut costs, managed-care companies often cut corners on quality. Much of this criticism is true.

Ironically, the rise of managed care has also given a major boost to the blending of mainstream and alternative medicine. If the rallying cry of blended medicine is "whatever works best," the emerging mantra of the managed-care industry—and the health insurers intimately involved with it—is "whatever works best most cost-effectively." For many conditions, the treatment that fills this bill is an alternative one.

"For years, studies have shown that garlic can help control blood pressure and cholesterol. But few mainstream M.D.'s recommended it, even though it is cheaper than the pharmaceuticals and causes fewer side effects," says Alan P. Brauer, M.D. "Then an HMO we belong to sent me new guidelines for treating mildly elevated blood pressure. The guidelines require doctors to try garlic before prescribing drugs. When I read that, I did an honest-to-God double take."

The vast majority of health insurers still don't cover alternative therapies, but a growing number do. To locate an insurer that offers such coverage, ask agents or contact companies directly. Both are listed in the Yellow Pages under "Insurance."

People Like It, People Want It

    One reason why more and more mainstream M.D.'s are open to blended medicine is that for the first time, mainstream medical journals are publishing studies showing that alternative therapies have real value. (Until recently, most journals published only dire warnings about the dangers of these therapies.) Another reason is high-profile advocates with mainstream medical backgrounds, such as Dr. Well and Dr. Chopra.

    But the people really driving the blending of mainstream and alternative approaches don't have any initials after their names. They're consumers like you. "People like alternative therapies," says Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of the American Botanical Council, an herbal education and research organization based in Austin, Texas. "No one is being forced to use them. A big—possibly the biggest—reason for their popularity is good word-of-mouth support. People tell their friends that their doctors couldn't relieve their menstrual cramps or shoulder tendinitis, but that an acupuncturist or homeopath or hypnotherapist or herbalist did."

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