Seeking an alternative cure

While doctors are reluctant to give credence to cures that seem unexplained, some practitioners in alternative health techniques are happier to leave open this soft-focus door.
Symptoms of even serious conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis can vary from week to week and tumours can very occasionally, head into spontaneous remission. There are documented cases of all the symptoms of cancer disappearing, at least temporarily, when no treatment is being administered.

There is also something called the placebo (a substance containing no medication and prescribed or given to reinforce a patient’s expectation to get well) effect. Many doctors say that people often credit an alternative treatment with producing a miraculous improvement when what is happening is, in fact, simply temporary relief resulting from the psychological effect of the treatment. That leaves swaths of alternative medicine open to the charge that they offer only unproven therapies. Some could suggest that this may mean that quacks of all sorts could be let loose on the public. More importantly, we need proper systems to control therapists. With the exception of chiropractic and osteopathy, which are regulated by law, alarmingly anyone can set up shop as an alternative practitioner and attempt to perform all manner of intimate activities on people, regardless of their skill!

However, writing off the placebo as no more than a trick of the mind may be a mistake. More and more research into complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) suggests that the placebo can produce powerful effects. In terms of making people feel better, one explanation is that the pleasant experience, and the expectation of cure, makes the body release pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins. Another suggested explanation is that immune system suddenly starts to work – possibly because of an improved psychological state in the patient. ‘It’s about the power of belief,’ says Professor David Peters, the editor of the book Understanding the Placebo Response in Complementary Medicine. ‘The more we know about the way the body and mind work together, the clearer it is that the mind affects every cell in the body.’

I believe that our bodies are so complex that different treatments work for different types people. Sometimes a combined treatment can work or type maybe suitable.

I certainly do not rule out the power of faith as there always a need to have faith and see this as a different point. An optimistic outlook helps but this is easy to say and difficult to accept if one is actually suffering.

There appears to be a missed opportunity here. For example, the need for a rigorous / solid study that seriously engages with researchers to develop new scientific ways to verify the possible or subtle effects of complementary care. Dialogue between clinical research and those that have a rich heritage of traditional cures or knowledge is essential.

There is much that we do not know about the power of cure’s that is within nature itself.

Categories: 2005

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