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Comparing the Medical and Natural Therapy Systems?

Article by Dieter Luske - Editor for useNature

Comparing the Medical and Natural Therapy Systems is like comparing Apples and Oranges.

Whoever compares those 2 systems, or is rubbishing one or the other, fails to see the possible benefits of those systems working together for the good health of all.

The Natural Therapy System is blamed and criticized for 3 main alleged problems:

  1. Treatment systems and therapeutic agents have no scientific backup, no double blind testing and not enough evidence.

  2. Fraudulent Treatment for monetary gains.

  3. Specific Products have no valid evidence or are fraudulent.

Point 2 and 3, are totally up for discussion, improved monitoring and regulations are essential.
Accredited Natural Therapists
are as much appalled by fraud as anyone.

However, one cannot condemn all Natural Therapies by concentrating on some fraudulent practices.

Unfortunately fraud is everywhere, including in the fields of medicine, politics, churches, police, nothing seems to be capable of escaping fraudulent influences.

Therefore the fraud charges against Natural Therapist and Natural Products should not be confused with honest practitioners dedicated to support health.

That leaves the main important point; is there enough evidence that Natural Therapies and Natural type of Medicines are effective?

To discuss this in a logical and scientific manner, it can’t be a discussion of comparing Apples and Oranges.

Most of the critic comes from the medical and scientific community, trying to enforce their medical system as the basis of evaluating Natural Therapies.

This clearly is comparing Apples and Oranges........

To explain and apply evidence to the Natural System, one has to adopt unbiased science to validate the “goals” of Natural Therapy, not the goals of the Medical System.

For this discussion, I will only use the modality of Naturopathy, or I may use sometimes the term “Complementary Therapy”, which makes sense in the way it is "complementing" the medical system.

A Naturopath often is described as a Natural Therapist "GP", with other words; a Naturopath is not a "specialist" for a specific body system.

Both systems are dedicated to Health, but each system comes from a different direction, with a different perspective, with different underlying philosophies.

Practical differences and therapeutic goals:

  • The modern Medical System 'fights' diseases and the symptoms with drugs, or surgical intervention. The patients are usually passive, not involved in their own treatment. It also can be stated, that most drugs, even so they may be absolutely necessary, may have side effects and are predominantly "maintenance" treatments.

  • Complementary Therapies aim to 'support" health' and the individual person, they take a holistic approach, and aim at "Active Prevention", rather than "fighting" a disease, and patients are educated and activated to take charge of their own wellbeing.

More specific differences:

A Naturopath is not diagnosing a disease state!
A Naturopath understands disease symptoms as a guidance of how a perosn can be suppprted to achieve better health.

There is scientific data that a painkiller works to stop pain. - The evidence of that can be easily tested in a double blind study.

Lets use pain as an example, or more specifically, a frequent headache pain.

If a GP has ruled out any serious cause of the frequent headache, a painkiller may be suggested, which will help to stop the pain, but not what the pain is caused by.
(Disclaimer; I am not suggesting that I know what a specific GP would do, I simply use it as a general example to clarify the difference between the systems. )

A Naturopath will work with the patient’s symptoms in order to find a way to stop the recurrence of the headache. If there is no serious condition causing the headache, the Naturopath will look into various body systems that may cause the symptoms.

As most people carry a lot of stress, a few therapeutic massages combined with some recommendation and demonstration of specific exercise may be all what is needed to stop the frequent headaches.

Other possible causes are digestive and diet issues. A simple solution may be just the elimination of certain junk foods and drinks; more complex issues may combine new diet outlines and elimination of possible food intolerance.

Important question for the medical science community:

How would it be possible to “double blind test” above type of Naturopathic treatment?
Each patient is different, even if it would be possible to find 100 people with frequent non-medical-serious headaches, how could a Naturopath do a double blind test? Each of those 100 headaches sufferers may have different combination of causative factors producing their headaches.

Why do people visit a Naturopath?

80% of patients who visit a Naturopath come for 2 reasons:

  1. They have consulted their GP’s before, usually had tests done, a serious disease has been ruled out, but they received no satisfactorily treatment or suggestions for their remaining symptoms, or how to improve their health.

  2. They like to know how they can improve their general health.

This highlights a specific problem within our present health system.

A large part of the community seeks answers from Naturopaths, because their visit to a GP has not resulted in relieving their health problems.

One major factor within a Naturopathic consultation is active prevention.

Not only preventing to get sick in the first place, but also preventing in getting more sick or diseased.

Active Prevention in the natural therapy sense is to recommend lifestyle changes, the patient is activated to do something or change their lifestyle or address un-dissolved symptoms to make sure those symptoms will not develop into a more serious disease.

It has to be acknowledge, that a General Medical Practitioner may not practice this type of active prevention. The medical system seems to wait for a problem to become treatable, rather than preventing it.

Lets come back to “not” comparing Apples and Oranges.

Naturopaths do have plenty of evidence that their health supporting treatments do work.

However, by being “holistic” and supporting a person’s health and healing abilities, specific evidence is only possible by comparing a specific patient before and a few month after the natural treatment advice.

There is however direct evidence for specific therapy applications.

Effects of therapeutic massages can be verified, lymphatic drainage by example can be even visible verified, and the obvious change of swollen ankles before and after drainage massage can’t be disputed.

Naturopaths work with nutrition, diets and possible food item elimination. Just 30 years ago, the medical system was still skeptical that diet had anything to do with diseases. These days, it is a well-researched fact, and scientific evidence is plentiful.

Most complementary therapies are based on anatomy and physiology and modern medicine has included some holistic approaches to healthcare and has adopted therapies from complementary medicine.

A survey conducted in 2008 revealed that 65 per cent of Australians use complementary medicines.

Most Natural and complementary medicines can be bought without prescription; however, they may still have side effects or interact with other drugs, that’s why it is important “not to self-prescribe”, you need to visit a accredited complementary practitioner, or a holistic GP.

Naturopaths never claim to be able to cure or sell products that cure.

Everything, the treatments, supplements, and herbs are always seen as supporting a system and someone's Health, and not a “cure” .

By the way, the comparing of the system is the main stumbling blog, why people entrenched into the medical system, can't go past their own belief system to see the viability of a different structured natural system.

Therefore, complementary medicine may be the appropriate term to complement modern medicine rather than competing with it.

Article by dieter.htm. - Editor

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