Alternative Medicine: Patients and Doctors aren’t Talking

Disclaimer: Results are not guaranteed*** and may vary from person to person***.

No matter what course of medicine one chooses, the most valuable asset to good ongoing health is his/her family doctor. However, new research has revealed a relatively dangerous pattern: According to the National Institutes of Health, 70% of older adults who use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) don’t tell their physicians about it.

The results are based on a survey of adults who are over the age of 50, with the aim of trying to gauge the conversations about CAM use with their doctors. CAM, the primary focus here at Doctors Health Press, is code for all types of natural treatments and therapies, including herbal and vitamin supplements, meditation, acupuncture, homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, and others.

Older adults are increasingly frequent users of CAM, and this was one of the few studies that address the communications gap between a doctor and his/her patient. Within the major news that only seven of every 10 people tell their doctor about CAM they are taking are some demographic variances:

— Just 26% of women discussed using CAM with their doctor — Only 16% of men did so — 70% of women asked their doctors what CAM therapy they should use — Only half of the men did so — Of those who made $75,000 or more a year, 31% discussed CAM frequently — Of those pulling in $25,000 to $50,000, just 25% did so

In any event, the study provides a clear indication that too few individuals are consulting their doctor about CAM use, instead opting to use therapies and treatments at their own discretion. There are immediate problems that spring to mind. The Food and Drug Administration currently does not regulate the supplement industry.

Thus, without talking to your doctor about a pill, you are leaving yourself without a safety net. Many herbs and supplements run the risk of interacting with medications you might be taking, inflaming a condition you might have, or putting you at a greater risk of acquiring a health condition. For example, someone with liver or kidney difficulties needs to be very careful with CAM.

A multivitamin is usually fine to take without consulting your doctor. So is making a trip to the acupuncturist. However, when it comes to herbal remedies and enzymes, and even specific minerals and vitamins, a doctor really should be consulted — if only to let him/her know. If you’re considering CAM, ask about its safety, effectiveness, and risk for interaction. Get in the habit of telling your doctor about all medicine, supplements, and therapies you are taking. When you fill out patient history forms, be sure to list CAM, too.

After all, of the 1,600 people in the survey, nearly 75% take at least one prescription medication and 60% take at least one over-the-counter drug. Who knows how that might interact with CAM.