Natural Health Versus Western Medicine:
I LOVE the natural health industry but I do have one criticism: we are way too hard on the medical system and unfortunately, sometimes those involved in the natural health industry can be overly critical of people who use Western Medicine. Obviously, this goes both ways because there are many strictly science-oriented people who have strong criticisms of natural health also. Recently there has been controversy surrounding a case that was covered heavily by the media, and I get nervous that because of the misuse of natural health products, and the underutilization of our medical system that there may be more deaths, or, that natural health products will meet their demise in our country. One of my strongest goals with remaining in the natural health industry is finding a way to educate the public about the appropriate ways to utilize natural health, while encouraging people to incorporate Western medicine where necessary. I’d also like to gently encourage strictly science-minded people to dabble in our natural health hippy-stuff a little bit but maybe that’s for another time.
Natural health and western medicine CAN and in fact should co-exist but what's frightening is the radical opposition between the two, both from higher level professionals and the public.For example, there are people who refuse to take antibiotics for severe ailments, and people who take antibiotics (often incorrectly) for absolutely everything when there are natural products that could work just as well with, might I add, some science to support its use. And unfortunately, we as consumers are so misguided and ill-informed when it comes to the intentions behind natural health products that we think of products as either ineffective, or as miracle products. We've also been so sorely misled when it comes to prescription medications and medical care that many of us avoid the doctors simply out of spite. And let’s face it, when we’ve got people sleeping in hallways of the hospitals it’s easy to want to take matters into our own hands. So I'd like to share with you some principles of natural medicine so that we can use these products safely, and hopefully keep Health Canada from taking these products away from us.
1) Find a doctor who will be an advocate for you and someone who you feel comfortable with. It is incredibly important that you disclose all supplements whether it be vitamins, minerals, herbs and Homeopathics to your doctor. You're right, they might not know what they are, but a great doctor at the very least will let you know if they are concerned about any contraindications with medications or their desired course of treatment. Natural is not a synonym for “always safe”. A pharmacist is also a valuable resource that can help you sort through potential contraindications. If you are not on any medications, and you do not have any diagnosed medical conditions, generally speaking you are safe to try supplements.
2) Natural health is intended to encompass body, mind and soul. It does not mean you can pick up a bottle of Hawthorn and think you'll never have high blood pressure. You need to exercise, you need to eat well and you need to manage stress. Natural health products are not targeted therapies, they are meant to be a ‘supplement’ to a relatively healthy lifestyle, and to fill in a few gaps here and there. While there are certainly products that work effectively as a stand-alone, most of them are no match for a terrible diet and inactive lifestyle.
3) Natural health products are not intended to be a last resort: prevention is the best medicine. Go to your doctor for your annual check ups, and be proactive about your health. And, if you do end up with a diagnosed medical condition you need to see a doctor! This may sound opposite to what you expect from a person who works in a health food store, but a diagnosed medical condition does not mean it's time start experimenting with a cocktail of natural health remedies, unless your doctor okays it. And, many doctors are open-minded enough to respect your wishes, and will give you a time frame. For example if you want to try the natural route and get to the root cause of your condition, than you can take three or six months before you require medication. If your doctor is not cooperative and you still want to seek a natural alternatives,than it is wise to do so under the guidance of a licensed naturopath who will give you better and more qualified advice than the Internet. The health food associates can offer some great advice too, which will get you started but please be reminded that we aren't formally trained like a naturopath would be!
4) Though natural health is best preventatively, there are lots of natural health products that do work on symptoms. As an example, if I am at the onset of a migraine I can often take some ginger and magnesium and either avoid it completely or bring it down to a tolerable level. But, there's no need to be a hero. For heaven's sake if you absolutely need a Tylenol with caffeine in it for a migraine, go ahead. But, if you find yourself continually needing something for a headache it's time to identify the root cause, and that's where natural health really, really shines!
5) Finally, my last point is perhaps a little self-serving but I am going to say it anyways. There is money involved in natural health supplements, and that means that there is bound to be some deceptive marketing and questionable companies producing products for the sake of profit, not truly for your health. So, shop at a reputable health food store, where the person in charge of ordering has likely done their research on the products and the company manufacturing the products, and where the staff are predominantly concerned that you go home with the right product-even if that means none at all. Health foods store associates are not selling TV’s; we are selling products for your health and you should feel comfortable with your associate, and ultimately with your purchase. It’s for your health, not something to stare at in your living room. If you happen to need a recommendation for a health food store to shop at, I happen to know two:)