Friday, May 17, 2013

The Myth of Alternative Medicines

The world seems to be divided on medicines... There are the medicines your doctor recommends, and 'alternative' medicines.  Doctors typically recommend 'patent' medicines (although they might not use that name). Some doctors promote 'natural medicines', others prefer 'Chinese medicines', others like 'traditional' medicines. It seems there are many different types of medicine.


What are Alternative medicines?



Even the FDA is roped into this argument, trying to define alternative medicines, in a 'draft guidance' on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Products and their Regulation by the Food and Drug Administration

The draft was crated in 2006. But it is still a draft 7 years later.  Why?  I believe it's still a draft, because there is no legitimate way for the FDA to discriminate between what they call conventional and what they call alternative medicines.  It's even more of a problem for them when some medicines jump back and forth across the gap. Vitamin C, for example, is a conventional medicine when a doctor prescribes it for scurvy, but when he recommends it to prevent colds, it's an alternative medicine.

Just what are 'alternative' medicines anyway? Alternative medicines and alternative treatments, are often discussed on television on the radio, on the internet. Many people claim that alternative medicines don't work, in fact a few people make a living arguing that alternative medicines don't work.  But the truth is simpler, and more complicated.  First, the simple fact. 


Alternative medicines do not exist. 

There is no clear classification called "alternative" medicine.  

There is no way for the FDA to honestly distinguish between conventional and alternative medicines, because that's the wrong question.  No patient cares if the medicine is conventional or alternative - we care if it works.  No honest doctor cares if it is conventional or alternative - if it is the best medicine for their patient. 

For illnesses where we know the correct treatment, there are no alternatives, because we know the correct treatment.  The correct treatment is to directly address the cause. If you are deficient in Vitamin C.  Take Vitamin C as your medicine. If you are toxic with alcohol - reduce or stop your intake of alcohol. Both of those medical treatments directly address the cause of the illness - no other treatment does.  Taking painkillers because you are deficient in Vitamin C might make you feel better, but it won't address the illness. Drinking coffee might only help you to drink enough alcohol to kill yourself. 

For illnesses where we don't know the correct treatment, all treatments are are 'alternatives'. For chronic illnesses, like heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and obesity, we usually don't know the correct treatment.  No treatment works in every case. No treatment works 'best'. We need to choose from the alternatives. 
Alternatives exist when you need to make a choice.  Alternatives exist when your doctor, and the medical establishments are NOT able to agree on and recommend the correct treatment. Or when no correct treatment exists.  In some cases, no correct treatment can exist. 
You might think that our doctor 'always recommends the best treatment'.  Not. In many cases, your doctor has no idea what is the 'best treatment'. Chronic illness has no clearly known 'best treatment' and no 'correct treatment', by definition. If there was a known correct treatment, it would no longer be a chronic illness. 
When the correct treatment is not known, all treatments are "alternatives", whether they are patent medicines, conventional medicines, traditional medicines, herbal medicines, natural medicines, acupuncture  physiotherapy, even placebos, HUGS and Kisses, or any other type of medicine - even 'wait and see' is sometimes an important medical alternative.  
The Alternative Medicine Myth, that 'There are official medicines, and alternative medicines' is a myth.

The phrase "alternative medicine" is not about the medicine, it is about the illness.  
When do we know the correct treatment for an illness?  When are there is no need for 'alternatives', no need for a decision, no need for freedom to choose? 
When we can clearly identify the cause of the illness, we can address the cause.  All illness is caused by one or more deficiencies or excesses.  All illness is the result of imbalance.  The word HEALTH actually means wholeness and balance.  We can clearly identify the correct treatment for a medical condition when we understand:
1. All illness is the result of deficiency or excess.
2. The deficiency or excess for the specific illness is clearly understood and agreed upon
3. The illness has not progressed beyond the symptoms of the deficiency or excess.  eg. No further damage has resulted from the deficiency or excess, something that might suggest or require an additional medication.
In these cases, the "correct medicine" can be clearly known.  Simply address the cause.
If the illness is caused by a deficiency, provide or increase the deficient factor.
If the illness is caused by an excess - cut back on, or eliminate the excessive factor. 
When do we NOT KNOW the correct treatment?  It's a difficult question.  There are some common situations where we don't know the correct treatment:
       1. When we don't know the cause(s) of an illness
       2. When addressing the cause(s) does not heal the illness
       3. When the diagnosis is wrong

We don't know the causes of 'chronic illnesses'. We don't know the cause(s) of specific instances of heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes.  In many cases, we can find the cause(s), with due diligence.  But our medical systems (and patients) often ignore due diligence preferring 'solutions'. We don't know the exact cause of some diseases where we 'think we know' the cause.  The cause of obesity, for example, seems clear, until you look more carefully at individual cases. There are many causes in theory, but we can't cure the illness, because our suggested 'cause' is not correct.  

Many illnesses, many specific cases of individual illness, are caused by multiple deficiencies and excesses.  But our medical systems prefer 'single' cures - and as a result, prefer to identify 'single causes.' I cannot think of a single illness that is clearly a result of TWO causes., much less an illness with 5 causes.  Can you? But it is possible, even common, for many people to be deficient in many known nutrients, and excessive in others. 
When we don't understand the cause, we still need to choose a treatment.  We choose one or more 'alternatives'. For each of the chronic illnesses, we can find many alternatives, hundreds.  There are many 'prescription alternatives' and many more natural, homeopathic, Chinese, traditional and other alternatives - for each illness. All treatments that do not address a known cause are 'alternative medicines'.

Choosing a treatment without a clear understanding of the cause, often leads to nonsense.  In many cases, it leads to suppression of symptoms of the illness - while the chronic illness actually progresses.  The top selling patent medicines do exactly that, as previously noted in The Medicines Myth. They don't cure, they treat symptoms, not illness.

Often we 'try different treatments' to see if they work.  This is a useful problem solving technique for identifying the cause.  "I think that I'm sleepy every morning because of a coffee deficiency.  I think I'll try some coffee. Yep, that worked. I guess it really was a coffee deficiency." It sounds fake, but there is some truth to be found. But trying different treatments falls prey to the 'symptoms have disappeared', but the illness is still progressing' mirage.

And gets more complicated. Some treatments work by addressing secondary causes. If you drink a lot of coffee one day, the next day you will suffer coffee withdrawal symptoms.  There are two alternative treatments.  You can drink more coffee, to address the withdrawal symptoms. It works.  Or you can wait - or drink water, green tea, or have some ice cream, a massage or acupuncture, and eventually the symptoms will go away. Many treatment alternatives work perfectly well. One (water) is less expensive, in theory - another (coffee) gives more enjoyment, in theory.

Placebos, are treatments that do not, in theory, address the illness...  But whose theory? Someone who 'thinks' they understand the illness.  If the placebo works - and they can't explain it - they didn't understand the illness. HUGS help healing. Get over it. Placebos are simply things that our doctors claim to understand, but clearly don't understand.

And so it goes for many so called 'alternative treatments'.  Many people claim they don't work, that they can't work, that they will never work.  So called experts.  For example: 

When you see, or hear the common quote from a medical authority "there is no evidence that...", beware.  "There is no evidence that ..." is not about the evidence.  It is about the speaker, who is speaking. You can easily test this theory.  Search for evidence - it's often easy to find.  Present it to the 'no evidence exists' authority with the evidence, and see if they change their position.  The claim that there is "no evidence" is easily disproved by a single example, no matter how poor the quality.  Even poor evidence is evidence. 

"There is no evidence that" claims of "no evidence" have any medical value. 

There is no evidence that "Alternative Medicines" exist separate from 'real medicines'.  All medicines are alternatives - unless they are clearly understood to be the 'correct' medicine.

The myth of Alternative Medicines is actively maintained by conventional doctors and drug producers to sell their products, and by so called 'alternative' doctors and 'alternative' medicine producers to sell their products.  

Neither side is interested truth, they prefer increased sales. 

As a result, the truth, about which medicine is best, is ignored. In fact it gets worse over time, not better. Looking for truth about which medicine is best, in the long list of medicines available for each chronic illness, is like looking for truth in a court of law. Lawyers, and their clients, are not interested in truth - they are interested in winning.  People marketing 'their medicine' are not looking for truth either.

There are some people out there trying to sell the truth. In all probability, some of them are right, some are wrong.  But there is so much noise from the arguments about 'alternative' medicines, that the signal is totally lost, and no-one, patient, doctor, or the FDA can find the truth unless they are making an individual decision.  Theory comes from clinical studies.  Every truth is anecdotal. 

If we can't find the 'correct medicine' in a specific case - is it possible to find the 'best' medicine?  An interesting question.  I believe we may be able to find the 'best medicine we know so far', or perhaps 'the best medicine for me, with my specific lifestyle, illness, etc.' But until we progress beyond that stage, to truly understand the cause of the illness - we cannot take the leap from the 'best medicine' to the 'correct medicine'.  It's a leap from alternatives, to certainty.

We can make progress on an important distinction that is largely ignored today.  Is this medicine "health based" or illness based.  We need to develop a preference for Health Based Medicines

When you have an illness where no clear solution is the 'correct medicine', it's up to you.  You need to decide what treatments are best for you.  You need to choose.  Your doctor(s) can recommend, but ultimately, it's up to you.  Unfortunately, the FDA, and the marketing departments of arguing medical establishments don't want you to choose certain medicines - and sometimes use severe force to restrain your rights. You need the freedom to choose your treatment.  It's your right, and your responsibility.  Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of healthiness.  Your best exercise is to exercise those rights.

to your health, tracy
Founder: Healthicine.org 

This post has been republished by Waking Times
This post has also been translated into Spanish by http://editorial-streicher.blogspot.com/  and the translated version can be seen here: El Mito de las Medicinas Alternativas