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Introduction to Complementary therapies


What is Complementary Medicine?

The field of complementary and alternative medicine encompasses a vast number of practices and systems of health care that, for a variety of cultural, social, economic, or scientific reasons, have not been adopted by conventional medicine.

Conventional medicine is sometimes referred to as allopathic medicine. The term allopathy is derived from the Greek allo, meaning opposite, and pathos, meaning suffering. In general, conventional medicine tends to focus on the disease and employs techniques to oppose it. For example, conventional medicine manages high blood pressure with medications ("antihypertensives") that lower blood pressure; it treats bacterial infections with drugs ("antibiotics") that kill the invading organisms; and for lupus, it employs steroids and other drugs to try to control the disease.

A number of alternative and complementary therapies operate via this allopathic framework, including many of the biologic and pharmacologic approaches to treating lupus and other disorders. Other methods derive from distinctly different origins and reflect concepts of health and disease that vary greatly from those of Western medicine. Among such practices are Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbalism, homeopathy, and naturopathy. Of those practices that have evolved from other, non-Western cultural traditions, there is often no correspondence with Western concepts of disease. For example, the notions of cancer and infectious disease have no parallels in Traditional Chinese Medicine, although the system can be used to treat such conditions.

Many complementary and alternative treatments involve difficult changes in lifestyle or outlook. Some involve bad-tasting herbs or even animal-based remedies. Conventional medicine is probably better than most complementary and alternative treatments at achieving quick fixes. However, complementary and alternative medicine is worth exploring as a source of both new treatments and new perspectives on health and disease, and for approaches to reinforcing the individual's "life force", balance, and harmony with the environment.

As complementary medicine gains popularity, chronic pain may drive many lupus sufferers to experiment with therapies, practices and products that may be harmful, helpful or simply ineffective.

Keep the following points in mind before using alternative medicine

Your Doctor Still Knows Best

Form a partnership with your physician. Discuss both the risks and benefits of therapies, as well as possible interactions with your current medications. Never drop any part of your existing treatment regime without discussing it first with your doctor.

Natural Isn't Necessarily Safer

Natural substances can contain powerful, potentially toxic chemicals. Just because a product is labelled "natural" or is from a plant source, it is not guaranteed to be safe. For people taking multiple medications, the risks can be even greater. Mixing some herb-based products with active ingredients may cause a host of unexpected interactions and side effects. (see herb page for more info.)

Herbal Supplements Are Virtually Unregulated

Unlike prescription and over-the-counter drugs, which must pass rigorous, multi-phase testing to receive approval, herbal supplements are not regulated. Manufacturers are not required to divulge the full list of ingredients in these products. Therefore, people are not fully aware of how much or even what substances they are consuming. Some Chinese herbal preparations have been found to contain potent steroids.

Some Alternative Practitioners Are Licensed; Others Are Not

Some professional organisations certify and license their members. Others are much less stringent. Licensed practitioners should be willing to discuss their training and provide contact information for any professional licensing organisation.

The More Pain You're In, the More You Want to Believe

Desperation can be a powerful motivator when it comes to trying alternatives. Chronic pain can cloud judgement, putting people desperate for relief at higher risk of trying questionable, even dangerous, alternatives. Before taking or trying something, people with chronic diseases should ask themselves if they would give the same thing to their newborn child.

Some Points for Lupus Patients to Remember

There are no magic cures for lupus, despite what some adverts might say, do not be conned into spending money on a product that claims to be a 'cure-all'. If in doubt consult your doctor.

Drug interactions

Some herbs are contraindicated when taking certain medications. To take these herbal remedies whilst taking these medications can be very dangerous. For more information see the herb page.


REMEMBER - always consult your physician before using any non-prescription remedies, and never stop taking prescription drugs without talking to your physician.




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