Healthy Tips from Pharmasave: Integrative Medicine and Your Doctor

Are you keeping your use of complementary health options from your doctor, for fear of disapproval? While you might believe that your doctor may not wish to discuss complementary or integrative medicine, you shouldn’t really make any assumptions. Some doctors are open to complementary care, and may even refer you to a practitioner. But do be prepared for some skepticism, because not all treatments are proven, and some may require you to suspend your conventional treatment, or may even cause harm. Talk to your doctor about the options you are considering. He or she can help you to make an informed decision and can give you information about any risks you may not be aware of.

As the public interest in complementary medicine grows, medical schools are being asked to consider making changes to curricula that incorporate non-traditional approaches to medicine. One proposal by the Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine (of which the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary is a member) laid out a plan for a program focusing on integrative medicine to be developed and taught in schools of conventional medicine. While this proposal is not yet in practice, it reflects a possible new direction to conventional medicine.

If you do pursue a complementary health therapy, it is in your best interest to keep your doctor informed about all medicinal products you are taking. A survey conducted by Health Canada in 2010 showed that 73% of Canadians regularly take “natural health products.” (Under this term, Health Canada includes vitamins, minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional medicines such as traditional Chinese medicines, probiotics, and products such as amino acids and essential fatty acids). Be aware that natural health products can have side effects too, and many prescription and over-the-counter medications can interact with “natural” health products, and vice versa. Simply because a product is called “natural” does not mean it will be safe. Also, certain people (such as children, seniors, pregnant or breast-feeding women, or people who are chronically ill) may also be more vulnerable than others to adverse reactions.

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