Complementary & Alternative Health Systems: A Call to Action


Complementary & Alternative Health Systems: A Call to Action

by Adrian Martinez (Co-Host/Producer/Photographer Biolitics)


The health care system is one of vast and diverse methods for treating a patient. Typically, in Western society, and notably in the United States, healthcare providers treat primarily within the realm of allopathic medicine. This format is considered the conventional means of treatment in the U.S. but is relatively new compared to Complementary and Alternative Medicine methods, procedures that practitioners have used for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine, for instance, has had its origins rooted in over 2500 years of history. TCM is one chapter in an extensive novel of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. CAM medical systems are founded on the idea of complete complex systems of health care practices that incorporate natural products, spiritual elements, diet, and other treatment modalities. Systems such as homeopathic medicine and naturopathic medicine have evolved in the Western world and have lately fallen under heavy scrutiny by the medical and scientific communities, whereas systems such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine have developed in non-Western cultures (Swartz, pg 861, 2014). A combination of these medicine formats also gives rise to the field of Integrative medicine, which uses evidence based practices to efficaciously administer care. CAM has started to gain significant momentum due to the purported health benefits from its millions of practitioners. However, it has experienced it’s fair share of opposition and we here at Biolitics have made it a priority to touch on this hot button topic. (To hear 2 great podcasts on alternative/complementary medicine click here or here).

The continued challenge of the doctor-patient relationship in conventional western medicine has led many patients to seek CAM treatment outside the clinic (Mira et al., 2013). Often western practitioners lack adequate knowledge and insight into the cultures and beliefs of those who practice and receive CAM treatment. This concludes me to believe it is of vital importance that I, as well as my fellow western peers, take the steps necessary to educate ourselves in multiple disciplines of medicine and healthcare delivery. Should we not, it may prove to be detrimental to our future patients. One example of this would be the pharmacological interaction between drugs and herbal remedies. Some herbals may contain strong doses of powerful chemical such as polyphenols that may have drug interaction within the human body (Haslam et al., 1989). A practitioner with a knowledgeable background in CAM may be able to combat adverse medicinal effects in the clinic.

The United States has a fast growing and diverse population and with that comes a CAM marketplace currently valued at more than $24 billion per year coupled with a growth rate close to 15% per year. That data is quite hard to ignore when the out of pockets expenditures in the U.S. sits at $12.8 billion for hospitalizations. (Swartz, pg 860, 2014) This is a market that is vibrant and vastly important to a growing number of clientele. If we discard CAM we discard a large number of those potential long-term patients. It’s important to remember when treating a patient, we are caring for an entire individual, not simply a case or disease, the principle mindset for holistic care. We must think about treating the entire organism rather than one part. There seems to be much we can continue to learn from CAM and apply to conventional allopathic medicine to better restore the mind and body to optimal health.











Mira, J. J., Orozco-Beltrán, D., Pérez-Jover, V., Martínez-Jimeno, L., Gil-Guillén, V. F., Carratala-Munuera, C., . . . Asencio-Aznar, A. (2013). Physician patient communication failure facilitates medication errors in older polymedicated patients with multiple comorbidities. Family Practice, 30(1), 56-63. doi:10.1093/fampra/cms046

Swartz, Mark H. Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination. 7th ed: Saunders, 2014. Print.

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