Alternative Mental Health Medicine.

OVERVIEW OF ALTERNATIVE MENTAL HEALTH MEDICINE. Alternative medicine is the medicine of many different names. The therapies that this medicine encompasses are constantly shifting and dependent on opinion and perspective. Consider the following list: acupuncture; biofeedback training; chiropractic; exercise; energy healing; herbal remedies; homeopathic treatment; hypnosis; imagery or relaxation techniques; massage therapy; nutritional/dietary advice; spiritual healing or prayer; traditional medicine (for example, Chinese or Indian medicine); meditation, vitamin therapy, and yoga. It is difficult to coin one term, which covers this entire list of diverse practices. Some practitioners prefer the term Natural medicine. This term, however, can be somewhat misleading. While many of the products that are used in this type of medicine come from nature, many do not. For example, S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe), a typical CAM remedy, doesn’t grow on a tree but is found circulating in our blood. However, it must be manufactured/synthesized in large quantities in a laboratory before it can be used as a natural medicine therapy. Likewise, how natural is it to supplement with vitamins and minerals, which are also manufactured products? In addition, the term “Natural Medicine” does not capture practices such as acupuncture, massage, light therapy and many other common CAM treatments. Other practitioners prefer the term Complementary medicine. This word suggests a type of medicine, which complements standard medical practice. This term has been combined in recent years with alternative medicine to produce another term: Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). CAM practitioners offer treatments that are either an alternative or a complement to standard medicine. Integrative medicine is latest term used to describe this approach. Many practitioners feel that “integrative” more accurately describes the collaboration between standard and alternative medicine, rather than assuming one (standard) is better than the other. Complementary and alternative medicine is probably the most accurate description of this style of practice, and is the term, which will be used throughout this article. CAM describes an approach that (at times) can stand on its own as an alternative to standard medicine, and at other times is used as an adjunct (add-on) to standard medicine. Many CAM supplements help standard medications work better or reduce their side effects. Read more at

How hormones influence our emotions.

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Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously.

Visitors enjoy a drink in the Blue Lagoon geothermal spa in Grindavik, Iceland, May 25, 2016.

The wellness movement is having a moment. The more luxurious aspects of it were on full display last weekend at the inaugural summitof Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand Goop, from crystal therapy to $66 jade eggs meant to be worn in the vagina. Meanwhile, juice cleanses, “clean eating,” and hand-carved lamps made of pink Himalayan salt have all gone decidedly mainstream. I myself will cop to having participated in a sound bath—basically meditating for 90 minutes in a dark room while listening to gongs and singing bowls. (I felt amazingly weird afterward, in the best possible way.)

It seems that privileged women in the US have created their own alternative health-care system—with few of its treatments having been tested for efficacy, or even basic safety. It’s easy to laugh at the dubious claims of the wellness industrial complex, and reasonable to worry about the health risks involved. But the forces behind the rise of oxygen bars and detox diets are worth taking seriously—because the success of the wellness industry is a direct response to a mainstream medical establishment that frequently dismisses and dehumanizes women.


Women are flocking to wellness because modern medicine still doesn’t take them seriously

Food and You: The mind and body connection.

Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

There’s no doubt about it: what we eat, and how much we eat, has a direct impact on our physical health. But did you know that those same choices also influence mood, mental alertness, memory, and emotional wellbeing? Food can act as medicine, have a neutral effect, or it can be a poison to the body and mind.

Food and You: The Mind Body Connection

Integrated Health: Combining conventional healthcare with alternative medicine

Functional Medicine is an emerging specialty which considers ‘dysfunction’ of cellular physiology and biochemistry as the cause of chronic conditions and aims to restore function. Patients are more frequently turning towards this form of medicine, as they recognize that much orthodox prescribing is based on placating symptoms with little focus on cure or treatment of underlying cause.

When any such therapy is offered by conventionally trained doctors, who may also concurrently prescribe orthodox medicine, the term Integrated (or Integrative) Medicine (IM) is now used.

IM medicine is a mixture of conventional with Complementary and Alternative medicine (CAM).

In 2010 a study by Hunt KJ et al showed data from 7630 respondents in the UK.

  • 12.1% of those asked had seen and consulted a practitioner in the preceding 12 months.
  • 29% had been taking prescription drugs and had used CAM alongside in the previous 12 months.

There are many reasons for the popularity of CAM therapies and it is not just the public who seem to be showing an interest. A Californian study in 2015 has shown 75% of 1,770 USA medical students ‘think it would be beneficial for conventional Western medicine to integrate with complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)’.1

As global health systems feel the pressure of increasing costs, the sensibility of combining some Integrated Medicine into national health care seems logical and has been proven as viable. The budget for the NHS in England for 2016/17 is £120 billion. This is forecast to rise by nearly £35 billion in cash terms – an increase of 35% by 2021. Treating people with chronic diseases may account for 86% of our nation’s health care costs based on USA figures.2Arguably this makes the cost of care, using the current model, economically unsustainable. We need to find ways of changing this slide to affordability.

There are a number of studies suggesting that CAM may reduce medical expenditure and costs3 but others, based on the current paradigm of orthodox medicine, that do not.

In 2008 the UK annual spend on alternative health treatments was £4.5 billion, a market that has grown by nearly 50% in the last decade.4 This increasing expense would be surprising if people were not actually benefiting and may reduce the current increasing expenditure if it keeps patients away from General Practice and hospitals.

Doctors and academics see benefit in better understanding of CAM use by their patients and establishing what is and isn’t working5, yet there continues to be concerted attacks on CAM with authorities not caring to take a balanced view of the evidence and calling it a waste of resources. Unfortunately, lack of finances means a broad defence has yet to be established and studies struggle to be funded.

‘A lack of evidence is not evidence of a lack of efficacy’

Most detractors of IM will argue there is a lack of published evidence to prove the efficacy of CAM and it is generally agreed that too few studies on CAM/IM are initiated and concluded. This is a financial issue as complementary practitioners and centres do not have the necessary funds to publish large studies.

Yet there is an astonishing amount of peer-reviewed, published scientific evidence behind a myriad of naturopathic therapies, but many studies are small and outcomes not repeated frequently due to funding issues. We must not allow a lack of evidence to reflect a lack of efficacy.

It is a sad scenario that despite peer-reviewed and published papers calling for UK curriculum coordinators to improve CAM teaching, there is little movement within medical schools to do so.

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Author(s): Dr Rajendra Sharma