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How to Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine
(Natural Therapies)

You should always discuss any complementary or alternative (CAM) treatment with your primary health care provider. This is for your safety, and also to ensure your health care provider can develop a comprehensive treatment plan that is best for you.

Diagnosis
Always obtain a diagnosis from a medical doctor before undergoing any alternative treatment to make sure you don’t have a condition which requires urgent attention. Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners do not have the same diagnostic skills as conventional doctors, unless they have had substantial medical training. If you have received a diagnosis of disease from a doctor and have had little or no success using conventional medicine, you may want to ask your doctor whether a particular alternative treatment might help.

Combining CAM Therapies With Conventional Medicine
Complementary and alternative (natural) therapies are often best used together with conventional medicine. Both have their strengths and weaknesses.

What Conventional Medicine is Best For
Conventional doctors are best used for diagnosis, and for treatment of any sudden or acute problems, such as heart attack, stroke, severe infections or respiratory problems.

What CAM Therapies are Best For
One of the strengths of complementary and alternative therapies lies in the prevention of illness, through the use of diet, supplements and lifestyle changes. CAM therapies are also good for the treatment of chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes and fibromyalgia. They are also helpful for treating chronic pain, strains and sprains, minor infections, digestive problems, allergies, skin conditions and minor psychological and emotional problems. In any situation where prescription drugs can cause side-effects with prolonged use, natural therapies can be a much better option.

Ideally, both conventional and CAM practitioners will work together to provide the best approach to your healthcare.

Combining Different CAM Therapies
Consider using more than one type of therapy for some ailments. For example, problems relating to stress can benefit from massage therapy to ease tension in the body, counselling to address emotional issues, and herbal or homoeopathic remedies to promote calm and balance.

Medication and Supplements
Never stop taking any medication you are on without consulting your doctor. Some medications require a weaning period. Many alternative treatments should be considered as complementary to medication rather than a substitute. Discuss all your health conditions, including pregnancy with your natural health practitioner, and tell them of any medications you are taking, including contraceptives and any herbal or nutritional supplements. Be aware that some herbs and other supplements can interfere with prescription medication - ask your doctor and natural health practitioner about this.

Monitor Your Progress
Keep a record of your progress and responses to treatment, and tell your doctor and natural health practitioner about any changes. Don’t expect miracles to happen, or to be cured overnight. Natural healing, which focuses on the cause of illness rather than treating symptoms, can be a slow process. Before beginning treatment, ask your therapist how long it is likely to be before any improvement is shown. If possible, talk to others who have had the same treatment and ask about their experiences. If you have no response at all after six to eight weeks of treatment with one type of therapy, it may not be working for you. You may want to try a different practitioner in the same field (who might be more skilled), or try a different type of therapy.

Take Control of Your Health
Remember that your health is your responsibility. Don’t rely solely on others to make you (or keep you) well. Inform yourself about all the choices open to you, and use those choices wisely. Actively participate in your healing process. Make the decision to commit to lifestyle changes that will promote good health and wellbeing. Become attuned to your own body, listen to what it is telling you. And remember that wellness is not just a physical attribute; it involves emotional, mental and spiritual aspects as well. Make sure you attend to all of those aspects on your journey to good health and wellbeing.


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