Alternative medicine aids in well-being

For many, a visit to the doctor tends to conclude with some sort of prescription pharmaceutical that has been tested in hundreds of labs to ensure functionality and effectiveness. But some doctors nowadays not only prescribe us medication, but also guide us through meditation, yoga, acupuncture and many other techniques complementary to the generic treatment.

This integration is known as CAM, or complementary and alternative medicine, and a decent number of doctors have incorporated these methods into their practices. But there should be more yoga posing, deep breathing physicians out there.

To understand why integration is not nearly as prevalent as the conservative view, one needs to understand what alternative medicine is. Alternative medicine is considered any form of medicine that is said to have healing capabilities but has not been scientifically tested, such as homeopathy, chiropractic and acupuncture.

Alternative medicine as a whole focuses more on the mind-body entity and on the idea that thoughts do influence well-being and health. It emphasizes the development of healthy long-term habits as opposed to long-term prescription use. When this approach is integrated with the conventional, state-of-the-art treatments, it becomes integrative medicine.

Many strict conventionalists are against this combination due to the lack of empirical evidence supporting alternative medicine. They see it as a pseudo-science, one that is out to drain bank accounts and turn people into present-day hippies (which is not too bad if you ask me).

Although it is true that alternative medicine is expensive and difficult to quantify, one cannot disregard the fact that the umbrella of alternative medicine is vast, ancient and holistic. It has been around for centuries in the Indian and Chinese civilizations, to name a few, and has brought to the forefront the concept of preventive medicine.

Patients in integrative settings are encouraged to stop the problem before it arises through nutrition, exercise and mental well-being. This would not only aid in swifter rehabilitation, as was shown when cancer patients underwent integrative treatment, but would also bring about a realm of preventive habits that would dampen the chances of future health issues. Integrative medicine makes the patient aware of the entire body as a connected functioning unit, which leads to more conscious decision-making about health-related choices.

In this age of technology and progress, we tend to forget our past in the quest to build a more advanced future. But by completely disregarding what our ancestors created, we lose the valuable history that constructs the backbone of our present.

This concept most profoundly influences modern-day medicine. By throwing away centuries of experience, even if it is not research-based, about the beneficial effects of integrating alternative medicine into our conventional mental construct, we are discarding a vast basin of knowledge that can transform the face of treatment today.

That transformation can lead to a healthier, preventive and more comprehensive approach to today’s healthcare.

Faizah Shareef is a freshman majoring in biochemistry and nutrition.