From exercise to organic food to greener products, more and more North Americans are seeking a healthier lifestyle, and that includes natural healthcare options. The good news is that more information and higher quality options are available today than ever before.
If the prevalence of natural health stores and clinics, the increasing availability of products and literature, and the expanded media coverage is any indication, more people than ever before seem to be seeking – and demanding – natural and integrative alternatives to the conventional healthcare model.
Why do people choose complementary and alternative medicine?
People decide to try CAM for many different reasons, including dissatisfaction with conventional medicine, satisfaction with their increasingly health-aware lifestyles, and because they want to supplement conventional approaches.
Now that many major health insurance companies have also responded to this growing demand by covering more and more types of alternative healthcare, more than 80 million Americans now turn to the estimated $30-50 billion industry that is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). A 2007 study of Minnesota community-dwelling older adults, for example, found the usage of CAM among this group to be nearly 63 percent, and even higher in those with specific health problems. As awareness of the benefits of natural medicine grows, industry experts expect consumer demand to continue to increase.
Dissatisfaction with the conventional approach
Many North Americans have become disenchanted with conventional healthcare system due to the over-reliance on invasive procedures and prescription drugs. In the US each year, prescription drug related problems cause over 100,000 deaths, and practitioners perform over seven million unnecessary surgeries and medical procedures.
New York real estate broker Andrew Kaufmann was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in 1989. Three specialists offered aspirin, hormone and steroid therapy. Their plan: monitor his kidney deterioration until he was ready for a transplant.
But Kaufmann rejected that treatment and instead went in search of alternatives. He found a holistic physician team who put him on a course of homeopathic and botanical medicine treatment along with intensive nutritional counseling and lifestyle changes. Kaufmann also incorporated chiropractic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, reflexology, massage therapy and spiritual faith into his regimen.
After eight years of this new lifestyle, he had regained normal, healthy kidney function. Kaufmann was so grateful for the gift of renewed health that he decided to go to medical school to become a Naturopathic Doctor.
Now, Dr. Kaufmann’s patients who successfully avoid diabetes won’t have to take costly prescription medicine that can have potentially negative side effects. Nor will they have to suffer diabetes related complications like kidney, eye and feet problems.
When these conventional treatments don’t end up alleviating pain or disease long-term, many patients lose trust. Not willing to give up hope of regaining health, patients begin looking for alternative healing options. Naturopathic Doctors successfully treat problems like back pain, menopause, menstruation and hormonal issues, allergies, depression, insomnia, thyroid problems, weight and appetite control, type 2 diabetes, cholesterol, migraines and other types of headaches, blood pressure issues, fibromyalgia and many other conditions.
These types of debilitating chronic pain and illnesses have a fairly poor record of being treated successfully by conventional medicine alone, yet Naturopathic Medicine often offers permanent relief for these and more. (See sidebar: Patient turned doctor.) This is because the Naturopathic approach focuses on assisting the body in bringing about its own healing, naturally. While Western medicine often focuses on suppressing symptoms, Naturopathic Medicine seeks to identify the cause of an illness, and then to cure the root of the problem.
From chiropractors to acupuncturists to Naturopathic Doctors (NDs), Americans made 425 million visits to providers of unconventional therapies in 1990. By just 1997, that number had skyrocketed by 47 percent to 625 million visits, exceeding the number visits to all primary care physicians (386 million). And the trend shows no signs of changing anytime soon!
This prevention-focused approach – a hallmark of Naturopathic Medicine – can mean significant healthcare cost savings while contributing to a higher quality of life.
Another way many people come to find natural medicine is through healthy lifestyle changes. As a growing number of people adopt health-aware behaviors like eating healthier, exercising and taking time out for themselves, they become more aware of, and open to, more natural healing options.
“I was attracted to Naturopathic Medicine because it gives me more control over my own health. I truly am a partner with my Naturopathic Physician. She teaches me how to maintain a lifestyle that keeps me healthy and will help prevent some of the things like osteoporosis that could be coming down the pike in the future. ”
- Robin Kirylo Naturopathic patient, Colorado