There is a deliberately provocative quote in a recent story on alternative medicine, which the article reveals 38% of us use in one way or another:
"In addition to the fact that these things are unproven and potentially dangerous, they also feed the mentality that you can forgo proven treatments in favor of these magic potions."
That is from Dr. Seth Asser, who works with a group called Children's Healthcare is a Legal Duty. Asser is politically controversial, an atheist who opposes religious practices of cures on kids, so you may see his view as extreme.
Unfortunately the NIH survey defines alternative medicine very broadly, including dietary supplements, chiropractic, and simple meditation, even yoga, all of which I've tried and found valuable.
According to the chart above, the "alternative medicine" practices with the most growth this decade are deep breathing, meditation, massage and yoga.
They got a problem with that? I don't.
Of course, there's a difference between a wellness practice and a believed-in cure. I've seen this in encounters with chiropractors. One actually prayed over me. My current one gives lectures tieing chiropractic to other holistic practices.
Such attitudes may be a reaction to the rigid attitudes held by doctors like Dr. Asser. My own physician wants me to get niacin through a $30/month (co-pay) medicine rather than a $3/month tablet from the health food store. It's the same stuff.
Wellness is not just the absence of disease. I agree that substituting supplements, massage or even chiropractic for care of serious medical conditions is stupid.
But it is common. I have a friend who got a breast cancer diagnosis some months ago, and insists on fighting it with diet and supplements. She will leave behind two very young children. I can't force her into care.
So I pray for her.
Even if we solved all the problems of health care, even if everyone had insurance and regular check-ups and no fear of costs, millions of Americans would still seek alternative therapies, for wellness and piece of mind.
Instead of condemning and attacking patients, doctors need to listen to us. Their attitudes make them very difficult to like, even though we do sympathize and hear what they are saying.
Meanwhile, I'm off to the chiropractor. How about you?