Western (or allopathic) medicine is characterised by doctors, medicine and treating symptoms. Natural medicine is all about healers, with a focus on finding the cause, and helping the body to heal itself, the way nature intended. The more medicines we take, the more side effects we get. The more medicines we need, to treat all the side effects. To me, that sounds like a broken system. Take ADHD for example. It is a chemical imbalance and we are surrounded by chemicals in our food and environment, many of them toxic. Is adding more with medications, and not looking at the cause, really going to improve the patient’s quality of life, long-term?
What Western medicine does well
Don’t get me wrong, allopathic medicine is excellent at acute care – having a heart attack? Been in a car accident? Natural medicine is of little help at the time of the incident, and Western medicine shines. Have a life-threatening infection or stepped on a rusty nail? Sometimes, those antibiotics and injections are sorely needed and we are all grateful for them. And what about difficult labour, that I and many others have experienced? I am eternally grateful we now have safe options for delivering many healthy babies and mums. I love Western medicine for what it is – a brilliant treatment for acute conditions.
And what it doesn’t!
What it doesn’t treat well, is chronic illness. The basic premise of Western medicine is to evaluate symptoms, make a diagnosis and prescribe a drug to alleviate that one troubling complaint. Chronic health conditions encompass every part of us, affect our lives and emotions and those around us. A pill is a bit like a band-aid, its only ever going to cover up what is really going on.
How natural medicine differs
Natural medicine is so different, in that the primary objective is to seek out the cause. Many different modalities in traditional medicine will look at the whole body (all the systems and how they are working together, and emotional and mental factors as well). For an overview of some of the natural therapies I use, check out my healing from cancer blog here.
The goal is to make patients well again, not to mask symptoms and keep them continually coming back. Natural medicine teaches people how to live well, know their own bodies and what to do when they feel they are struggling again. Prevention is key.
There are so many diseases and diagnoses that have an unknown cause. Or more accurately, many causes, including lifestyle, diet, genetics, environment, other conditions – but no single thing. Western medicine can tell you what you have, but not how you got it. If you want to work out the why, or prevent symptoms from flaring up, it’s natural medicine that can help.
Lifestyle diseases have a cause!
Things like heart disease and type 2 diabetes are called ‘lifestyle diseases’ – yet, research shows over 50% of those affected will not stick to changes in diet or lifestyle post diagnosis*^. (This figure relates to heart attack patients, but likely is consistent across many other health crises too.) We do actually know the cause of these conditions – it isn’t one thing, though. It’s many, many lifestyle, diet and environmental factors, that together, can cause us to be unwell.
Genes are just a small piece of the puzzle
Even so-called hereditary cancers, are not just caused by bad genes. In fact, only around 50% of those with the BRCA gene mutation will present with breast or ovarian cancer. This means another 50% have the gene but never get cancer^. Even more telling, of all the thousands who develop breast cancer, only 1 – 7% have the BRCA gene mutation*. The answer is lifestyle. It’s diet, environment and what we’re doing – not simply what’s in our genes. (Not that it’s our fault! Just that there are ways to prevent illness and even turn them around once we have them. And the whole body must be treated to do so – body, mind and soul.)
Auto-immune is best treated naturally
Auto-immune conditions are even trickier, as we really don’t understand the cause. Why are so many more people developing conditions where their body is attacking itself? One theory is all the toxins in our world, including in our food and personal care products. Another is that there’s a micro-organism or undiagnosed virus that the body is fighting. Either way, there are many natural ways to help prevent flare ups, which can work together with prescribed creams and pills. None of it is a cure, but can go a long way to improve quality of life and prevent pain. (Learning ways to cope is also a very positive steps for those with chronic illness. I would highly recommend Quest for Life as a great place to do that. )
ADHD is a chemical imbalance – and chemicals are all around us
Another group of illnesses for which we don’t know the cause are some mental health conditions, such as ADHD. We know it’s a chemical imbalance in as many as 13% of boys, 5% of girls and 5% of adults**. Chemicals in our body are also everywhere around us – in our food, water, personal products, stationery, homes – everywhere. So, isn’t it entirely feasible that conditions based on chemical imbalance, are at least compounded by environment (if not an actual cause)? That would help to explain the dramatic increase we have seen in ADHD over the past 50 years, as processed foods and harmful chemicals in everyday products have become the norm.
ADDitude magazine states, everyday toxins found in foods, carpets, flooring and products for cleaning, lawns and personal-care, like toothpaste, contribute significantly towards mental health conditions such as ADD and autism^^. While Western medicine can treat symptoms with drugs, occupational therapy and psychology; natural medicine can help to eliminate toxins, improve the body’s detoxification channels and pinpoint foods and products that cause reactions. That can considerably improve the symptom picture and quality of life of many suffering from mental health conditions.
Environment pulls the trigger
Finally, remember the adage… genetics is the gun, environment pulls the trigger. No matter what we are given genetically, we can switch genes on or off. This can be done through a combination of diet, exercise, lifestyle, and management of stress, emotions and mindset. Improving these areas of our life through natural medicine, can help us to lead much happier, healthier lives. And help us take less medicines too. Now that sounds like a positive way to live!