If you're examining Western versus alternative medicine, you'll find the similarities and differences to be fascinating. While all doctors want to promote optimal health and correct medical conditions as best possible, how they go about doing so can vary greatly.
Western medicine, also called allopathic medicine, is primary focused on addressing and trying to prevent disease. Optimal health, as defined by Western doctors, is the absence of disease. Western doctors focus on promoting optimal health primarily through diet, exercise, prescription drugs and surgical procedures. Disease is believed to be caused primarily by viruses, bacteria and nutrition imbalance-in other words, outside influences. If evidence of disease is not present, Western doctors assume the patient can continue as previously, with a baseline emphasis on preventative healthcare.
Alternative treatments vary in views of disease and health, sometimes offering a different paradigm of what it means to be healthy. For example, those who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture will focus on the flow of energy, known as chi, through the meridians of the body, since they believe the unhindered flow of energy is the force behind optimal health. Efforts are made to keep the energy flow constant and to unblock energy if signs of disease are present. Those who practice Ayurvedic medicine believe balance of the humors, described as doshas, is essential to optimal health. The three constitutions are labeled as such-vata, pitta and kapha-and every patient is encouraged to modify his or her lifestyle and diet to promote a balance between the three doshas. Disease is believed to be related to an imbalance in the doshas.
Many alternative medical practices focus on a more holistic-or all-encompassing-view of medicine, involving everything from diet, lifestyle choices, spiritual pursuits, and emotional health-as optimal health is pursued. Some focus on a specific practice, such as chiropractic health, which focuses primarily on the proper alignment of the skeletal system. Naturopaths and herbal doctors focus on natural remedies, asserting the idea that everything the body needs for optimal health is available naturally.
Many Western doctors encourage their patients to combine Western and alternative medical practices, labeling this approach complementary alternative medicine. Those who support complementary alternative medicine believe some aspects of alternative medicine can be useful in supplementing a Western health care plan. If you decide to make use of both Western and alternative remedies, be sure to communicate with both your Western and your alternative health care professionals about all remedies used.
The healing benefits of alternative medicine are not only celebrated by patients. Even Western doctors are starting to recommend a blend of traditional and alternative methods.
Some types of complementary medicine have proven so effective that even Western doctors are beginning to recommend their use in combination with traditional medical care.