I’ve always been skeptical of mainstream health care and pharmaceuticals. Maybe it’s the all-too-common long list of medication side effects, the confusing mess of insurance co-pays and coverage, or the disturbing sums of money being made by Big Pharma companies. Point being, I have always preferred to try and remedy myself before going to the doctor. Now, I understand that this is not always possible and we should not turn a blind eye to hard-working doctors and effective treatments. But now more than ever, we should try exploring what other options might be out there. Alternative and complementary medicine are becoming more and more popular as options for certain ailments, especially for women.
I started getting into alternative forms of medicine just recently, when I discovered energy medicine, and read Energy Medicine for Women, a book by Donna Eden, a pioneer for the practice of energy medicine in Western culture. I will admit, I am not yet fully convinced of the effects of energy medicine and many other forms of complementary or alternative treatments, as they still have a long way to go as far as proven research is concerned. But, there is something appealing about practices with little to no side effects, that can be used at your personal discretion and can help treat a wide variety of issues. There are many different definitions when it comes to these regimens. Holistic treatments refer to those that encompass the entire wellbeing of a person, not just one specific area of health. Alternative medicine is a treatment which replaces “mainstream” health care practices one may use. Complementary medicine is used to describe a practice you may use alongside a more conventional medicine.
One of the most studied and proven forms of an alternative treatment is diet. Following a good diet and taking certain supplements seems to be one of the most effective ways to ward off many different illnesses. It has been shown that adopting a Mediterranean diet or similar can reduce risk for heart disease and breast cancer and lessen a woman’s symptoms for metabolic disease (high blood pressure, waist circumference, bad cholesterol). Along with eating healthily, taking certain dietary supplements can help women in a multitude of ways. For example, taking a cranberry supplement can help prevent UTIs and stomach ulcers, and it is also an antioxidant that provides protection from cell damage. It has also been shown that taking a ginger supplement can reduce symptoms of morning sickness in pregnant women, menstrual pain, and even stimulate the production of breast milk.
Another tried and true category of complementary/alternative medicine is exercise, especially certain types like yoga, tai chi, and qi gong. These forms of exercise can improve memory and cognitive functioning in patients with Alzheimer’s disease as well as reduce stress and increase energy. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Exercise at this rate has obvious benefits like lowering blood pressure, improving cholesterol levels, and boosting the immune system. Regular exercise can also improve bone density in women with osteoporosis caused by menopause. Both diet and exercise have been proven to reverse the effects of certain mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety.
Here are a few other alternative methods of healing worth mentioning:
- Energy medicine: The practice of using a person’s own energy to heal the body, mind and spirit. This can be performed by yourself on yourself with practice, with no side effects and possible healing and energizing results for a multitude of issues.
- Acupuncture: Using small needles placed strategically by experts in order to relieve pain. The ancient Chinese believed these needles will realign the flow of energy in the body. In Western culture, it is believed the needles cause the brain to release a natural painkiller throughout the body.
- Massage: Professionals will manipulate the soft tissue of the body for a number of different benefits. Massage can be used solely for relaxation as well as for treating migraines, chronic pain, or sports injuries.
- Mind-Body techniques: An array of techniques which follow the idea that our attitudes, thoughts and beliefs can have an impact on our physical health. Some of these practices include breathing exercises, prayer or meditation, hypnosis and guided imagery or visualization.
Whether all of these practices heal our ailments or not, they are great options for improving our overall wellbeing—physical, mental, or spiritual. Alternative and complementary medicines work wonders for some and may not show results for others. But women can now feel empowered to explore what’s out there and not have to always rely solely on prescription medication. It is also important to note that most of these regimens work best as preventative methods. Practicing a few of these alternative choices in your daily life, even when you’re not sick, could lead you to see less and less of your doctor in the long run.