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Believing in Quackery: Alternative Medicine Provides New Options and Hope

Do you believe in complementary medicine, alternative therapies, also know as quackery and hocus-pocus by some? Homeopathy, NAET, Ayurveda, Chiropractic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Acupuncture, Reiki and Naturopathy are just some examples of therapies that many people, if they even know what they are, would laugh at claiming positive results are only the result of the placebo effect, because where’s the science? The proof?

Conventional Medicine & Big Pharma

The reality is most alternative treatments haven’t been thoroughly studied. The focus has always been on conventional medicine instead. Why? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure, but I’ll throw out a big guess. Clinical research is often supported by big pharmaceutical companies, who’s ultimate goal is to shed positive light on their pharmaceutical products, and this is usually done through research studies often designed to clearly favor the drug being tested. I recently read about studies being hushed and gag orders being issued to the lead scientists and physicians when results didn’t always shed a positive light on a pharmaceutical company’s latest drug. But, of course, that’s not always the case. And finding clear proof of this would prove very challenging, I’m sure.

So, we have a very lose theory on why conventional medicine is so often researched – big money by big pharma. That shouldn’t stop complimentary and alternative medicine from it’s share of time in clinical trials. The problem is that they are not being studies as much as they should and it likely all comes back to money. There are no big pharmaceutical companies, no giants (Pfizer, Merck, Glaxo, etc) to fund these studies. From what I understand, most alternative medicine is developed by independent companies, a fraction of the size of our pharmaceutical giants. Every once in a while we see a study on a natural treatment surface, but so often the study wasn’t set up well and therefor the results are not reliable. And to give credit where it is due, we are starting to see more and more research around alternative medicine, so that is promising.

Believing Without Proof

But reliable studies on alternative medicine are still lacking, so why do we still believe in alternative and natural therapies? There is no proof, very little science, and we’re constantly surrounded by those that say it’s quackery?

We believe because we have hope. Hope that we can use an ancient remedy, a tradition that has been passed down for generations, to heal alternative medicineourselves. We have faith that something will finally help our suffering children. We try and try and don’t give up. If conventional medicine fails us, we must have faith that there is another answer. We believe because we’ve heard and seen it work. Many alternative therapies are based on centuries old traditions and some are even based on ancient religions. For as many cases where people claim success from an alternative treatment is only due to the placebo effect, there are just as many or more cases where people see themselves either healed or their condition vastly improved. And no, nothing works for everyone – this goes for conventional and alternative medicine – and pertains to pretty much every health condition in the book. It’s always about finding what’s right for you or your child. And it’s about listening to your intuition, going with your gut.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe very much in modern, conventional medicine. It has saved my child’s life on multiple occasions and I am FOREVER grateful. But, I can still believe in other things and so can you. You don’t have to be 100% attached to conventional medicine and you don’t have to be 100% committed to complementary medicine. And remember, not all alternative medicine is safe for certain individuals, as is also the case with conventional medicine, so make sure you only work with a certified practitioner in whatever treatment field you chose to ensure best results and safety.

Really, it all comes down to having more options – you can try conventional medicine and you can try alternative medicine, the key is to try and don’t stop until you find your way to optimal health. Find your balance and follow your instincts, they will rarely lead you down the wrong path if you truly listen.

21 Comments Post a comment
  1. msdeth #

    Chiropractics saved our sanity and son’s head. After being born he never turned his head to the left and struggled more to nurse on one side. Pediatrician said to put toys in the crib on the left to build muscle and not worry. As his head started looking misshapen I went to a pediatric chiropractor. She immediately diagnosed a cervical issue and held him gently while he wiggled around. The problem vertebrae went right into place. She went to his left side and talked sweetly- he turned his head left and smiled at her. I cried and even she got teary- it was amazing. Our son also has food allergies and was diagnosed with colic about six weeks old. 7pm-3am screaming for 7 days a week. We saw the pediatric chiropractor for advice after the pediatrician said it was just colic and to wait it out. She held his little belly/lower trunk in different ways and he would pass so much gas. We would get 2-3 days of sweet bliss with our baby. It took changing my/his diet to make him truly well but I was so thankful for those little reprieves for him

    Like

    September 27, 2014
    • Wow! What an incredible story! Thank you so much for sharing it. I’m so happy to hear that you found your chiropractor to be so much help. Jennifer

      Like

      September 29, 2014
  2. Am not sure abt other alternative healing methods, but Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Acupuncture have been in existence for thousands of years and the folks in China and some part of Asia have been using them for as long,way before the “modern conventional medicine” is available to them for use. This in itself is already proof of its effectiveness 🙂

    Like

    June 26, 2013
  3. andi #

    And here is my two cents worth when looking at some of the different treatments out there from my own experience. These are with my daughter who has had eczema since she was 9 months old. Rather, that’s when she was diagnosed – she probably had it much earlier.

    Western medicines: Up until Ellie was 5, we did strictly Western medicine: Benedryl, Hydroxazine, Elidel, steroids and even one cortisone shot. When she hit 5, it just continued to worsen in spite of a profuse use of all the above and more. At that point, I chose to take her off everything and was SHOCKED when her skin started clearing within a week. Not fully, but certainly better.

    Homeopathy: I have done two routes with this:
    – Homeopathic practitioner – This was good, but ended up being a little too challenging for E. This will clear out all issues within the body (emotional, mental, physical and spiritual) and for E, this was through the skin. She got significantly worse for a while and it proved to hard to continue. I have seen its efficacy for myself and would recommend it for people old enough to understand the temporary (albeit, possibly long) side effects.
    – OTC Homeopathy – we have seen a lot of relief from the different medicines from the Heel company (Skin, Allergy and Adrisin). They are not a cure, just a palliative and help quite a lot.

    Advanced Allergy Therapeutics (AAT – similar to NAET): Of anything we’ve tried, this is by far the most effective. While we still struggle, I have sent many friends to our practitioner for help and they have seen amazing changes. E was allergic to nuts/eggs/dairy and far more. She is now dealing with something deeper, but is able to freely eat those and more. Her allergy to cotton treatments which caused her to only be able to wear EcoTex clothing is gone. Eggs, which were worst, went from causing her to throw up on one day and 3 days later she ate 4 eggs with no problems. And continues to!

    Reiki: I do a form of reiki called Light Running and will often do energy work on her when she is stressed out. While I don’t believe this will heal her eczema or allergies, it’s main focus is simply to allow her to live and be with it in a more harmonious manner. I have seen her be itching and over the top uncomfortable beforehand and relaxed and at ease with very little itchiness directly afterwards – often shifting while I”m working on her.

    While I don’t rule out Western meds, I have found very little help with them. We are currently slated to try a new treatment in July, but I don’t have enough information about it to share. I will continue my quest in alternative treatments as long as necessary!

    BTW – THANK YOU for this wonderful site! I have really enjoyed reading through all the different types of information!

    PS I am not affiliated with any of the companies/treatments listed above. They are just things we’ve tried. 🙂

    Like

    June 16, 2013
    • Hi Andi – Loved ready all about the various alternative therapies you’ve tried. Thanks so much for sharing. We tried NAET, but didn’t have that much luck with it. I’d be curious to try it again because I’m trying something similar, but an at home version (blog review coming soon) and I’m having pretty great results. But my food issues are more sensitivities and not full blown allergies. Thanks again! Jennifer

      Like

      June 18, 2013
  4. Such an important discussion here and really neat to read through the thoughts. For me, one of the hardest parts is that while some alternative medicine has been shown *not* to work, MOST of it is still a big question mark–that’s why it’s still alternative and not “conventional” yet. And the problem is that to answer that question (“does it work?”) we will need money and resources to do the studies. And that is difficult because most herbs, acupuncture treatments, and supplements are not anything like drugs and cannot be patented or sold by pharmaceutical companies.

    This is not to say that pharmaceutical companies are bad necessarily; it’s just that they are not in the business of testing “alt” medicine… Yet, our current system is set up to require rigorous data for a drug or treatment and that requires significant money and resources… So, we become stuck in this loop: Need more evidence to make it mainstream, but no resources to do this, so no evidence, so not mainstream…

    Furthermore–and I think this applies to drugs too, but to a lesser extent–it’s very difficult to ask the question: “does it work?” I mean, we have to limit that question a LOT in order to do a scientific study as we define it today. Namely: “Does this particularly preparation, dosage, and administration frequency help this specific subset of patients improve these specific parameters during this specific timeframe?” And, while that sounds pretty reasonable for looking at something like: “does ibuprofen help with headaches?” [Yes, for many people and for many types of headaches, but probably not much at all for cluster headaches, and not if you only take 1 pill, and not for everyone…], it gets about 10,000 times more complex when we ask: “Does acupuncture help with eczema?” Because, we can point to some study that shows that it is no better than placebo, but then we have to be darn careful not to conclude that ALL of acupuncture will not help with ANY eczema.

    Because, I fear, if we do, we throw out the baby with the bathwater. What if there is a subtype of eczema that really responds amazingly well to a certain type of acupuncture done three times weekly? What if this happens sometimes in the world–the right patient finds the right treatment–and they are really healed? Something like this might be out there; in fact, I’m pretty sure it is! But, to find it, we can’t keep throwing out babies with bathwater. We have to look more deeply and try to understand the types of people and the subtypes of disease; we have to try to understand the types of alternative treatments and then test them out until we get answers that are more sophisticated than “yes” or “no”.

    I was blown away by this concept of Precision Medicine, beautifully explained by this page at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF): http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/01/13456/what-precision-medicine

    Although they are very “sciency” about it, I think that the idea actually encompasses alternative treatments because it is so holistic.

    A fuller discussion here: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/Newsletters/Quality-Matters/2009/September-October-2009/In-Focus.aspx

    Peter

    Like

    June 13, 2013
    • Hi Peter –

      I love your balanced approach and interest in finding help for those with eczema and other conditions through conventional and alternative methods. Very interesting about precision medicine – I very much look forward to hearing more about that as it’s developed.

      Thanks!
      Jennifer

      Like

      June 13, 2013
  5. You say “Clinical research is often supported by big pharmaceutical companies, who’s ultimate goal is to shed positive light on their pharmaceutical products, and this is usually done through research studies often designed to clearly favor the drug being tested.”

    I work with pharma people and here’s what I see: big pharma are the only ones funding clinical trials because the trials cost so much. It’s anywhere from $100M to $3B to take a drug to market in the US. The ultimate goal of the companies is to find products that work, or at least have a strong enough and nontoxic effect on enough people that the overall process of development turns a profit.

    The pharmas absolutely do not want to take a drug through trials if it does not work. They do not design their studies to show the drug in a favorable light. Big pharma trials are objective because if a product does not work or has a toxic effect, the FDA will not approve it, or if it IS approved and bad news comes out, the FDA will rescind approval and fine the pharma–sometimes billions of dollars.

    Where the shady stuff comes in, in my limited experience, is in post-clinical trial marketing, where the pharmas push their products on doctors and patients–sometimes for off-label use–and price the drugs as high as the market will bear, sometimes to outrageous levels. For those things they may be legitimately criticized. But not for skewing trials.

    Like

    June 12, 2013
    • Hi there –

      It’s interesting to hear your insider take on the post-clinical trial marketing – definitely does sounds shady. Thank you for sharing that. As to my comments about pharmaceutical companies only publishing positive clinical trial results – I don’t have first hand information on this, so I can only share with you some things I’ve found – yes, on the internet. So, we have to take it with a grain of salt…like everything else we find on the internet. How do we know for sure? We probably never will. Anyway, here is what I found and what sparked my stance on this topic. Just a couple of quick links I found….




      I would love to believe the above just isn’t possible, but I’m not sure. What are your thoughts?
      Jennifer

      Like

      June 12, 2013
  6. Jenny – great topic! I am a nurse who works in the ER – I believe in some of modern medicine – not all. I do not believe that people need to take medications for the rest of their lives like blood pressure pills and cholesterol pills. These are some of the highest selling drugs today. Doctors stopped teaching patients how to reverse their high blood pressure, cholesterol, or even diabetes, and instead just bring out the prescription pad. It has gone too far in many areas. With that said, modern medicine has a lot of great advances that are life saving. As for alternative measures- I am a firm believer in a holistic approach to health. Eating healthy, exercise, semi-regular check-ups, homeopathy, energy work (Reiki, NAET, etc), use of herbs, acupuncture, and aromatherapy to name a few, can be used intertwined and for varying problems. When say homeopathy doesn’t work, try herbs, and so on. When the doctors failed me years ago, I started studying alternatives – there are many out there and no one is perfect for all things – just like modern medicine is not good for all things.

    I think it boils down to being accountable for your own health. Research your own issues. Study and then study some more. Do not settle for only one opinion.

    Going through topical steroid withdrawal, I use a mixture of things – homeopathy, herbal salves, modern things like Benadryl, Tylenol, and motrin, an all natural diet, and energy work. Our bodies are very complex, so therefore should be our approach to helping it heal.

    Like

    June 12, 2013
    • Thanks Tracy – and love your comment! It sounds like we completely 100% agree. I too very much believe we must be accountable for our own health and the health of our families. Very well said. Jennifer

      Like

      June 12, 2013
  7. Jenn, I respect you, and your view- but on this one- I disagree. I think “alternative treatments” HAVE been studied- and they fail these tests- if they worked- it would be “Medicine” not “Alternative medicine” and everyone would be using it! I suppose if you are talking about curing your PMS cramps or headaches- it’s fine to try different approaches- but when it comes to anaphylaxis-inducing food allergies- it can be quite literally – deadly! The UK man who was getting alternative treatments for his peanut allergy and died? I put my faith in prove-able science each and every time. The skill of the surgeon and the science of chemotherapy saved my son- not prayer, or meditation, beads, incense or herbs. But that is just my opinion. XO!- J

    Like

    June 11, 2013
    • Hi Jenny – We agree to disagree then and I’m always open to hearing everyone’s opinion. I try to keep an open mind because everyone views things different, and that’s ok. As I mentioned in the post – alternative medicine has been tested (some of it anyway) and yes, there are studies claiming they don’t work. Not all alternative medicine works for everyone – just as not all conventional medicine works for everyone. And don’t forget that big pharma has enough money to keep testing their products until they get good results – they don’t publish the negative results, just the positive results. And I’ve read quite a lot lately about how much of the medicine we trust today doesn’t really work as we’re led to believe – doctors aren’t even aware as the negative results are locked and filed away. Now, I’m not talking about all medicine here – look at epinephrine – my gosh, what would we do without it?! That obviously works wonderfully and has saved many, many lives. And I would NEVER recommend anyone treat their anaphylactic child with any questionable medicine – alternative or conventional. But, on that point – how do you feel about the new treatment for food allergies via food desensitization or immunotherapy? Many parents are allowing conventional and alternative doctors to give their anaphylactic children the very food that could kill them, but in very small doses of course. This certainly could be considered deadly and dangerous too. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet – still trying to formulate an opinion myself. Anyway, just wanted to play devil’s advocate with you 🙂 I appreciate your opinions as I do everyone elses. Without opposing viewpoints, we’d all get pretty bored and wouldn’t be forced to continue our research and education. Right? JEnnifer

      Like

      June 12, 2013
      • Selena Bluntzer #

        I respect both of you! I think the biggest problem with the discussion is lumping ALL “alternative medicine” together in one basket and ALL “modern medicine” in another basket and trying to decide which is the better one. I don’t trust ALL alternative methods and find some of them downright dangerous (as Jenny said, I don’t agree with treating life-threatening allergies with homeopathy), but on the other hand, I would not lump all of Traditional Chinese Medicine in with “alternative medicine”, because FAHF-2 just might prove to be the next food allergy cure, for all we know, though, technically, it is being “medicinized” for standardization and safety purposes. I also believe in the power of simply taking control of your diet (like I accidentally did by dropping dairy and subsequently making other changes). I dropped a list of “modern medicines” that I was taking by merely removing a problematic food group from my diet – I didn’t need any herbal remedies to assist in that healing process.

        Conversely, I do not trust ALL of “modern medicine”, either. I thank our lucky stars for epinephrine, antihistamines, pain reducers, and a long list of life-saving medications, and a medicine that treats my neuromuscular condition that we’re trying to get FDA approval for, but I also do not trust all drugs, implicitly. We’re seen too many recalls, lawsuits, etc., for that.

        I guess my point is that you’re both “right” in the sense that there are helpful treatments under both umbrellas, but both sides are very scared for the other side, given that there are treatments within each category that can be dangerous and potentially deadly.

        Like

        June 16, 2013
      • Thanks Selena! I do hope both sides can find a great middle ground to coordinate the best of both worlds through integrative medicine, an emerging trend that I think is just amazing. So much potential!

        Like

        June 18, 2013
  8. I follow you because I have an itchy allergic family, starting with me. About a year ago, I tried The Allergy Kit, which is an alternative, holistic, at home, drug free treatment. I had spent the better part of the prior year on prednisone from hives that were so bad I have scars from trying to remove my skin it itched so bad. The weight gain alone was horrible, but the scars on my legs and arms was another side effect. In desperation, I found an alternative treatment. IT worked for me. I haven’t taken steroids in 13 months. If you want to know more, I’ve included a link in my signature.

    Like

    June 11, 2013
    • Hi Kim – Funny timing because I’m currently doing the Allergy Kit. They contacted me and I was originally going to try it on my son, but his allergies have now progressed to life threatening, so I’m going to experiment on myself instead as I just have mild, bothersome allergies and sensitivities that are not life threatening. Seeing some results, but need to do it a few more times after speaking with the owner. Fingers crossed! I did see my sugar cravings shoot way down – a big bonus! Jennifer

      Like

      June 11, 2013
      • I think indeed were my allergies life threatening (or my daughter’s) I would not have trusted a holistic approach. I am really curious how it goes for you. I hope you post about it here, or we can find a way to stay in touch offsite. I’ve never talked one on one with anyone else who used the kit.

        Like

        June 11, 2013
      • Hi Kim – I’d love to stay in touch about the Allergy Kit and I do plan to write a post review about it once it’s done. Unfortunately it’s taking a really long time to finish my treatment, so just hang tight for the post. It will come eventually. I’m also going through the Candida Diet right now. Feel free to email me: jennifer@eczemacompany.com Thanks! Jennifer

        Like

        June 12, 2013
  9. I can say that I am an open-minded person and (I feel) that everyone has to do whatever is best for them and their health. I have seen many people use conventional medicine and done well but for our family, it is not the same. Through years of personal research, fact-finding and downright trial and error, we found that a nice mixture is best for what we need. I am not against medicine and I am not against alternative approaches- I firmly believe that each person needs to have choices for them and not be treated as just another patient. I have found that many traditional doctors poo-poo some of the testing that we have done, the way we choose to eat but ultimately, it’s about my family being safe and healthy. To us, the proof is in seeing not just faith. Faith is good but there is nothing that feels better than seeing a positive response when you thought there were no other options left.

    Like

    June 11, 2013
    • Couldn’t have said it better Tracy. My feelings exactly. Thank you for your comment! Jennifer

      Like

      June 11, 2013

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