Complementary & Alternative medicines

Definitions:

According to the website of the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative health,  in the USA more than 30 percent of adults and about 12 percent of children—use health care approaches developed outside of mainstream Western, or conventional, medicine. When describing these approaches, people often use “alternative” and “complementary” interchangeably, but the two terms refer to different concepts:

  • If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”
  • If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”

True alternative medicine is uncommon. Most people who use non-mainstream approaches use them along with conventional treatments.
Integrative  health care involves bringing conventional and complementary approaches together in a coordinated way.
This is the approach which we are recommending in the drgeraldlewis website.

This page will give our opinions on many of today's complementary and alternative therapies, we must stress it is our opinion, we do not have experience with all of them, but hopefully our assessment is fair.   We will include  links to the topics to enable the readers to make their own assessment.   The topics will be in alphabetical order:

Acupuncture

Along with many other complimentary therapies, acupuncture and appears to work with the streams of energy within and around the body, which we in the medical profession neither understand nor appear to have an interest in. This link reviews the science behind acupuncture.   If anybody wants confirmation that it works, watch the beginning of this video which shows a young girl having open heart surgery (you can see her beating heart) under acupuncture with her eyes wide open. I am no expert on acupuncture but have absolutely no doubt that it has a major role to play in preventing and treating diseases and especially in relieving symptoms.
I have seen too many people helped by this, to ignore it. I believe anyone with persisting or annoying symptoms should consider trying it if other therapies  have failed. There are other many forms of acupuncture, including the use of needles, heat etc, but others find that acupressure may be equally effective. A mat covered with many small pressure points has been recently introduced (Shakti mat) enabling people to give acupressure treatment to themselves.
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Aroma Therapy

 I have little experience with aromatherapy, I can certainly understand various emotions being triggered by memories associated with the senses particularly smell and how these might possibly affect one’s response to symptoms or diseases. Some people find aromatherapy is soothing and helpful, mostly positive , by their effect claimed to come from reflexes within the brain releasing hormones (usually endorphins) . As with nearly every other complimentary therapy, aromatherapy obeys Hippocrates first law “First do no harm!”.
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Ayurvedic Medicine

Ayurvedic medicine is probably the oldest medical system in the world, originating in India more than 3000 years ago and is still one of India's traditional healthcare systems. Its main focus is on maintaining good health by creating a balance between mind, body and spirit. It is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a delicate balance between the mind, body, and spirit. If these are in harmony it leads to good health, but if not then this may cause a disease. Its main goal is to promote good health, not fight disease. But treatments may be geared toward specific health problems.   Ayurvedic practitioners believe that the human body has 3 life forces or energies called doshas which control how the body works - Vatta dosha (the mind, breathing, blood flow, eliminating waste), Pitta Dosha ( digestion, metabolism and hormones) and Kapha Dosha (muscles, body strength, immune system) .
Every individual has a different combination of these, and the Ayurvedic practitioner creates a personal treatment plan to balance these correctly.  Dipak Chopra gives a nice review of this medical practice (click here).
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In addition to maintaining good health, Ayurvedic treatment endeavours to balance primary life forces, cleanse the body of toxins and undigested food, and to restore harmony and balance. This is usually achieved through massage, medical oils, blood purification, herbs, enemas or laxatives.
Does it work? One of the difficulties with assessing therapies such as this is the extremely powerful "placebo" effect and the power of the mind, reduction of stress etc. There certainly have been small papers showing it is beneficial in lowering stress and anxiety, lowering blood pressure, helping with weight loss, lowering inflammation and improving hormonal balance.
Assessment of this is further complicated by the use of a number of herbs such as tumeric, Boswellia (frankincense) both of which are known to have significant anti-inflammatory actions.
The major concern with Ayurvedic medicine is that some of the preparations contain unacceptably high levels of mercury, lead and arsenic.As with many mind-body and similar therapies, some patients do receive major benefits from Ayurvedic medicine, and the fact that it continues to be used in India after 3000 years speaks of its efficacy in those who come to the treatment with an open mind. For this reason some people might wish to try this therapy, my only comment is that if herbs and unusual supplements are being suggested, you to check the contents with your health practitioner.
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Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy consists of the intravenous infusion of EDTA in combination with a number of other compounds (usually vitamin C , calcium and magnesium).  The EDTA attaches itself to some heavy metals inside the body, releases them from the tissues and enables the body to excrete them. It is used in  conventional medicine to treat lead poisoning, but most chelation clinics are offering it as a way to reduce coronary artery disease, by removing calcium from the artery wall. There has been great debate on whether or not this is effective, and it certainly has not been taken up by mainstream cardiology medicine. The only worthwhile trial that has been done to look at chelation therapy was the recently released (2012) TACT trial which showed quite conclusively that chelation therapy does reduce the incidence of cardiac events, operations and death in patients with known coronary artery disease who have diabetes. It was not effective in patients without diabetes! The reason for this difference is debated, and they are further discussed in the attached video. My current philosophy is to offer chelation therapy to people with known coronary artery disease who are diabetics – but not to others.   The treatment is expensive, not covered by health insurance in most countries, and although safe, the benefits in non diabetic patients as so small is any, to suggest that people should use this therapy.
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EECP Therapy - Enhanced External counter Pulsation

 This  is a very simple non-invasive way of creating new blood vessels (collateral vessels) to the heart. During EECP, the patient lies on a couch and large cuffs (similar to blood pressure cuffs) are placed around the legs,thighs and pelvis. These inflate between heartbeats, increasing the blood supply in the coronary arteries and at the same time reducing the amount of work the heart has to do. In my experience it is very effective in treating patients with angina, it is approved by the FDA for this and also the treatment of heart failure, and hypertension although the latter does have less concrete long-term results. It also is possibly beneficial in patients with strokes, other neurological conditions and peripheral vascular disease.
The treatment lasts for one hour and usually up to 31 treatments are required to achieve the maximum benefit (opening up new arteries). It is also probably a good idea to have a couple of treatments on an annual basis to keep the arteries open should they be required. In mostcountries unfortunately this has not been accepted as a form of treatment compensated either by insurance or thehealth system.
If I had angina (not unstable or with severe 3 vessel disease) - EECP is probably the first therapy I would use.   The reason for this is I have seen patients with angina whose symptoms have improved dramatically with EECP.  The conventional medical approach with angina patients is to offer angioplasty and stenting as a first choice, and coronary artery bypass if this is not possible.   Apart from patients with left main coronary artery narrowing, triple vessel disease or high left anterior descending coronary artery narrowing (which have a better long-term prognosis with bypass surgery), for all other coronary artery anatomies, there is no evidence that these operations or stentings improve the long-term outlook.   Therefore if EECP can relieve symptoms, so long as the patient continues to take the best of conventional medicines as well, it is as good as CABG surgery and angioplasty/stenting.
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Energy Therapies 

 Healing touch, Reiki, Qigong, laying on of hands....These all use the energy fields of the body (discussed in acupuncture above) which we in the medical profession neither understand nor use. However these fields do exist, in fact, are appreciated by all of us. eg–if you are sitting still in a chair with your eyes closed, you can often feel the presence of somebody who has quietly entered the room; if somebody enters your own personal space you feel it–this is energy! This video discusses energy, what it is and how some energy therapies work.
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Homeopathy 

 For most of us, dilution of a product down to an almost infinitesimal amount and then expecting it to have some effect on the body is inexplicable. However many people genuinely believe homoeopathy works and is effective. Personally, I have little experience either positive or negative.The attached video discusses homoeopathy and suggests that it works by making micro bubble hydrate clathrates which generate electromagnetic signals.There are other theories as well, but this is a taster to see that perhaps what seems implausible could possible work.  While conventional medicine and a number of trials and reports suggest that it is no better than a placebo (dummy) treatment, many people do seem to benefit from homeopathic treatment.
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Naturopathy

 Naturopathic practitioners, many of whom are doctors believe correctly that rather than treating the illness, they should be treating the patient as a whole. This video describes the process. (In actual fact it is hard to understand why this is not part of conventional medicine, it certainly used to be.) I suspect that time and money are major
impediments to this practice being lost in most doctor's surgeries.
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Nutritional Therapy - supplements

Optimal nutrition seems almost too obvious to even mention, and yet when one looks at the meals provided to patients in hospitals or the recommendations of the medical profession to their patients on nutrition, it is almost completely ignored.   Our dietary intake of or many essential nutrients is severely lacking.  This is due to a combination of  poor dietary choices, the depletion of nutrients in our soil and the plants that grow in them, early picking, processing and cooking.  The word vitamin comes from vita (life) and amine (a nitrogen based compound).  Even the early scientists realised these were essential for life and health.  Similarly for minerals which are needed for chemical reactions within the body cells.   The authorities created the RDA (Recommended daily allowance) in World War II, to define the 'issues which might affect national defence'  the minimal amount to retain health - not the optimal.  The RDA was revised in 1968 but not since.  Most recommendations for diet and the contents of supplements looks to the RDA as the 'gold standard' despite the absence of good evidence for the amounts recommended, and the realisation that for optimal health, surely the body required optimal nutrition - not just the bare minimum.   Compare plants grown in poor soil - they grow but are stunted and are sensitive to diseases, to those grown in good fertilised soil.   In health we need the best nutrition, in sickness we need more.  In this video, Dr Saul discusses the value of nutrition.  This video looks at the pros and cons of supplements
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Prayer

Prayer can involve any particular spiritual group, and certainly not simply Christianity. Many people appreciate (feel) the power of others thinking positively towards themselves, not only close but also at a distance. There has been some research suggesting that positive energy (vibrations) from a group of people can sometimes be detected on the other side of the world. Prayer fits very well with the energy philosophy of many of the other complimentary therapies, and I’m quite certain that it is both effective and beneficial.  This short video discussed the healing value of prayer.
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Visualisation

I still remember many years ago when Dr Dean Ornish(cardiologist) suggested that cardiac patients should visualise their coronary arteries, and imagine them opening up. This was a very brave suggestion to what at that stage was virtually a society of plumbers. However, he has turned out to be quite correct and many people feel that visualisation plays a huge role in the treatment of many diseases including coronary artery disease; but especially cancer. These two videos (and click here) discuss visualisation and I hope they help.
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Yoga

This is a therapy to which I have absolutely no experience, and do not feel I’m in a position to comment. Realising this lack of knowledge is mine, not that of the millions of other people around the world who practises healing art. I therefore present this video without comment