NY Times has carried interesting letters from Dr. James Gordon, Jennifer Roman, Sari Broner, Ed Erwin and others, all highlighting the need to educate people on self-care or self-treatments for many ailments. This is particularly relevant in the light of ever rising health care costs. The surgical and pharmacological interventions are expensive, inappropriate, burdened by side effects and, often, ineffective. We may support these holistic views coming from psychiatrist, dermatologist, philosopher, or those connected with health care programs.
People can look for inexpensive self-care strategies - often termed as "alternative therapies" - to deal with many biological and psychological imbalances that can gradually lead to chronic conditions. Right nutrition, exercise and "mind-body" techniques like meditation, guided mental imagery and biofeedback are some of the choices inexpensively available to every one.
Research studies are now available to highlight that mind-body techniques reduce stress and improve immunity and create cheerfulness. They decrease blood pressure in hypertensives, blood sugar in diabetics and pain. Dietary modification can play a major role in preventing breast, prostate and colon cancer, as well as in diabetes and heart disease. And exercise, which can help prevent all of these, can also alleviate depression. Jennifer, who suffers from chronic back pain, is trying to heal herself holistically through diet, movement and stress management.
Alternative therapies shouldn’t be alternative anymore, but should be thought of as mainstream by now. Taking personal responsibility for one’s health through self-care techniques would be a paradigm shift for most people, but could have a great positive effect on their lives and eventually our national medical economy.
Admittedly, it’s a lot harder to work on yourself than to outsource the work to a doctor, and of course many conditions require intense medical intervention. But for the conditions that Dr. Gordon mentions, there are simple ways that we can help ourselves, such as calming ourselves down during a panic attack, lifting ourselves out of depression without drugs in many (though of course not all) cases, or lowering blood pressure naturally.
Elizabeth Rosenthal, physician for 47 years, has seen these methods (alternative therapies) working effectively. Unfortunately, there is no financial remuneration for spending time with patients to advise their use. And patients are convinced that newer medications, technologies and procedures are best.
We badly need to change in the direction suggested by Dr. Gordon, which would improve outcomes and lower costs.
As further studies are undertaken to support these approaches, one would be able to tap into body's own capacity for healing. There has been scientific evidence to support many of the outcomes of alternative therapies - often it is a myth perpetuated by the mainstream media that interventions such as diet, exercise and mind-body techniques have not been scientifically validated. As Dr. Gordon writes, what was considered unexamined and "alternative" is now well researched.