A few more common alternative health myths I come across! (for Part I, click here)

Myth: I do not need to take any supplements, since I am eating good food.

Truth: I come across this very frequently in Pacific Northwest, regarding Vitamin D, and Vit B12 in Vegans.

Recent analysis of nutrient intakes of the U.S. population shows that a large percentage of people fall short of the average requirements of many nutrients. Almost everyone falls short of the average requirements for vitamin D and vitamin E, and more than one-third fall short of the average requirements for calcium, magnesium and vitamin A.

Resource:
Top 15 Foods Rich In Essential Minerals – https://www.healthambition.com/food-rich-minerals/

Myth: Since I am so healthy, I will be fine if I take herbs for my chest pain (…manage my fractures naturally, control a bad infection using natural herbals, not need gall bladder surgery etc….)

Truth: In a single word, NO!

Herbal and complementary medicine and techniques have a major role in preventive and chronic disease management, but in acute or emergency cases like chest pain (probably due to heart attack), severe abdominal pain (gall bladder infection/stone impaction, acute stomach ulcer or pancreatitis) accident, injury or fracture, you should still go to get urgent care from your medical provider rather than try to cure-it-yourself!

On the other hand, we have pushed the limits on prolonging life at all cost, not considering the quality of life as our time on this wonderful planet draws closer to its end.

Myth: I have to choose between either conventional or alternative medicine.

Truth: You can do both!

This is true even for cancer treatment. Integrative approaches research for symptom management in cancer patients and survivors have had promising results.

Cancer treatment centers with integrative health care programs may offer services such as acupuncture and meditation to help manage symptoms and side effects for patients who are receiving conventional cancer treatment. NCCIH-funded research has suggested that:

  1. Cancer patients who receive integrative therapies while in the hospital have less pain and anxiety.
  2. Massage therapy may lead to short-term improvements in pain and mood in patients with advanced cancer.
  3. Yoga may relieve the persistent fatigue that some women experience after breast cancer treatment.

Myth: Natural medicine has nothing in common with conventional medicine

Truth: Nature has been providing medicines to treat our diseases and relieve our suffering for many thousands of years.

Pharmacognosy is the study of medicinal drugs derived from plants or other natural sources. Many of our modern drugs were originally derived from either plant, animals, or fungi.

Examples are morphine from the opium poppy, aspirin from the white willow tree, anticoagulant coumadin from spoiled sweet clover. Periwinkle has yielded vinblastine (successful treatment of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, turning a disease that was once uniformly fatal into one that can now be totally cured in many patients) and vincristine (used for treating acute childhood leukemia).

Ethnobotany, the study of traditional human uses of plants, is recognized as an effective way to discover future medicines. In 2001, researchers identified 122 compounds used in modern medicine which were derived from “ethnomedical” plant sources; 80% of these have had an ethnomedical use identical or related to the current use of the active elements of the plant.

Myth: I can go for my surgery without discussing my herbs/vitamins/supplements with my doctor.

Truth: Certain supplements may increase the risk of bleeding, decrease your blood pressure or heart rate, affect the response to anesthesia, or adversely affect the outcome of your surgery….

It is very important to inform your doctor about the vitamins, herbals, OTC supplements etc you are taking. These might need to be stopped up to 2 weeks ahead of an elective surgery.

Here is a link for you to do a self-check on herbals.

Myth: Yoga can’t help serious diseases/it’s just for fun and flexibility

Truth: A Big YES!

There have been numerous studies proving the benefits of Yoga on several diseases, including cancers.

Myth: Alternative health websites just aren’t trustworthy.

Truth: There are fallible websites out there. But there are some good ones. You simply have to follow some rules so you can identify which are right.

If you’re visiting a health website for the first time, these five quick questions can help you decide whether the site is a helpful resource:

  1. Who? Who runs the Web site? Can you trust them?
    Be skeptical about anecdotal information from persons who have no formal training in nutrition or botanicals, or from personal testimonials (e.g. from store employees, friends, or online chat rooms and message boards) about incredible benefits or results obtained from using a product. Question these people on their training and knowledge in nutrition or medicine.
  2. What? What does the site say? Do the claims for the product seem exaggerated or unrealistic? Do its claims seem too good to be true? (Then probably they are not True!)
  3. When? When was the information posted or reviewed? Is it up to date?
  4. Where? Where did the information come from? Is it based on scientific research? Learn to distinguish hype from evidence-based science. Reputable websites will have real links at the bottom of websites, linking to scientific research. Check for university studies.
  5. Why? Why does the site exist? Is it selling something? Beware of such phrases such as: This is not a hoax or Send this to everyone you know.

Myth: Acupuncture, yoga, meditation, massage, all these have no scientific proof of action, so they must be woo-woo!

Truth: Many more insurance companies are approving the use of alternative therapies like yoga, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, physical therapy etc. for acute or chronic pain, injuries, depression/anxiety and a variety of other mind-body conditions.

Meditation, yoga, and relaxation with imagery are recommended for routine use for common conditions, including anxiety and mood disorders. Stress management, yoga, massage, music therapy, energy conservation, and meditation are recommended for stress reduction, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and quality of life.

Preliminary studies of the effects of a single session of Swedish massage on hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and immune function in normal individuals.

Want to know how you can find truthful information?

To find reliable sources of scientifically sound information about vitamin/mineral supplements:

Look for scientific research findings on the dietary supplements. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), as well as other Federal agencies, have free publications, clearinghouses, and information on their Web sites.

The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements has a series of Vitamin and Mineral Fact Sheets that provide scientifically-based overviews of a number of vitamins and minerals. They can provide a good basis for a discussion with your doctor about whether or not you should take a vitamin/mineral supplement.

MedlinePlus is another good source of information on vitamins and minerals.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a variety of articles and consumer advisories to help consumers inform themselves about dietary supplements, including warnings and safety information, labeling, evaluation information, and FDA’s role in regulating dietary supplements.

For those interested in looking directly at scientific studies, the PubMed Dietary Supplement Subset is a good database to search: here, here, or here.

The Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center is a source for scientifically accurate and peer-reviewed information regarding the roles of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals (plant chemicals that may affect health), and other dietary factors, including some food and beverages, in preventing disease and promoting health. You can look here, here, and here. The subset is designed to limit search results to citations from a broad spectrum of dietary supplement literature including vitamin, mineral, phytochemical, ergogenic, botanical, and herbal supplements in human nutrition and animal models.

Some more helpful tips:
6 Things To Know When Selecting a Complementary Health Practitioner – https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/selecting
Steps in advising patients who are interested in complementary and alternative therapies – http://www.nature.com/nrclinonc/journal/v10/n11/fig_tab/nrclinonc.2013.125_F2.html
Talking about Complementary and Alternative Medicine with Health Care Providers: A Workbook and Tips – http://cam.cancer.gov/attachments/workbook/talking_about_cam_workbook.pdf

Sources:
http://www.crnusa.org/pdfs/CRNFactSheetNutrientShortfalls.pdf
Quantity is not necessarily better than Quality: What should medicine do when it can’t save your life?
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/08/02/letting-go-2
https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/canceralternativetherapies.html
Heart rate variability and treatment outcome in major depression: a pilot study.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24769434
Insular cortex mediates increased pain tolerance in yoga practitioners.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23696275
Effect of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on Anxiety, Depression and Stress in Women With Multiple Sclerosis.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26835467

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