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Americans Almost Never Talk About Alternative Medicine With Their Doctor, Survey Finds

A survey by the AARP and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that Americans older than 50 are not telling their doctors about alternative medicines that they are using.

According to health experts, doctors should be informed of anything a patient puts in their body to prevent any unwanted complications of combining conventional and complimentary & alternative medicines (CAM).

The report said discussing everything with a doctor “allows patients and physicians the opportunity to identify CAM practices that might be beneficial and also minimizes risks to a patient from potential therapy interactions.”

The survey included 1,559 people age 50 and older, 63 percent of which have used a CAM.

69 percent of that group did not tell their doctors about their use of CAMs. Massage therapy or chiropractic manipulation, and herbal or dietary supplements were some of the most popular CAMs used among those surveyed.

When asked why they don’t disclose this information to their doctors, the common response was because doctors never ask. 30 percent of people said they weren’t aware that they should tell their doctor. Of that 30 percent, 17 percent felt their doctor wouldn’t be knowledgeable about the subject and 12 percent felt that the doctor may try to deter them from using CAMs.

These answers are actually pretty spot on. It is awkward for a doctor to ask about alternative therapy because in their world, it doesn’t exist. All they know is conventional medicine so the thought of using something natural to treat or prevent an ailment is out of their scope of reality. And yes, it is true that most medical doctors aren’t very knowledgeable about CAMs. What do you expect? Not one single course on nutrition is taught to them in medical school. Instead, they learn treatments using chemicals that in reality can be prescribed for anything as long as they are approved by the FDA. And yes, in most cases a doctor will try to discourage use of CAMs for two reasons. First, they are uneducated about them. And second, natural alternatives take money from Big Pharma.

Simply put, for profit businesses like pharmaceutical companies make money off of your sickness, using CAMs takes money out of their pockets.

Here’s my advice. If you feel you need to see a doctor, try a Naturopath. If you insist on seeing a medical doctor, always disclose in full which CAMs you are using but let no one try to discourage you from using them.

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Comment from Loy
Time February 15, 2007 at 11:48 pm

This is a finding of great concern! While it is true that people should tell their doctors what alternative medicines they are using, it is sad that many of the doctors who do not understand alternative medicine will most probably discourage their patients from using these medicines.
This now brings confusion on the side of the patients; they wonder whom to follow now!

The situation is made worse in poor countries where having a doctor’s attention is so expensive that most people will choose to do what they think is best for them, since they will have no opportunity to discuss such issues with doctors.

My humble appeal the conventional doctors is that they should also try to learn about alternative medicine, because this may help them to understand patients who use such medicine better.

Thank you.


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