This topic will be all over the place. I already expect that. But I feel like I’ve noticed very similar things recently that require my attention.
It started when I saw a post on Facebook with people discussing Michael Phelps and his apparent use of “cupping.” Which I had to look up to find out it’s a Chinese alternative medicine that improves blood circulation and pain. In a culture that is so dependent on pharmaceuticals, alternative medicines and therapies are foreign. We don’t have the clear research and studies showing that these alternatives actually work, so there’s an air of uneasiness surrounding them. We’re so used to discovering athletes using steroids, that when someone is doing a natural therapy, the controversy spreads like wildfire.
Another “pseudoscience” I’ve noticed popping up are ASMR videos on YouTube. When you first click on them, they are very…in a way, disturbing. People whispering and filming themselves doing certain activities purely to produce certain sounds. Upon even more research, this autonomous sensory meridian response is supposed to give some people a sense of comfort and euphoria.
I even think of the time I’ve spent looking into alternative medicines myself, seeing what I can find out about chakras and reiki and crystals and all of that “hippie medicine.” It’s so hard to try and figure out what actually works and what doesn’t when people have such varying opinions about these methods. Some people just denounce them all together and others swear by them. So as someone just casually wanting to see what all the hype is, it can feel a little overwhelming.
I am a big proponent of science. Vaccines work and evolution happened. There’s a reason we are living longer than ever before: we have better, more effective and hygienic resources to heal us. No matter how often I’m shunning the doctor’s because germs make me shudder, as do the outrageous prices of healthcare, I believe it is very valuable. But I also think the human body is much wiser than we sometimes give it credit for. That our minds can sometimes be our greatest sources of healing.
So you can see why methods to not stuff myself with chemicals is appealing. I think it’s so empowering to feel I like I can take care of myself simply through nature. Not having to worry about what my health insurance covers, or what side effects I’ll have. To an extent, it’s some placebo effect at work, but again, that just shows how much effect our mental state has on our overall well-being.
I think we also forget how powerful simply practicing healthy habits is. I believe it was Hippocrates that once said “Let food be thy medicine,” and I couldn’t agree more. (See me casually inserting in veganism where I can?) But let me tell you, focusing on plant-based whole foods is the healthiest thing you can do for yourself. Even just moving your body more often can help fight against some of the most widespread diseases in our society.
Might I also sprinkle in the power of psychotherapy. I don’t care what mental state you’re in, I truly believe everybody can find value in going to talk to a therapist. And this is coming from someone who isn’t great at spoken communication. Someone who habitually bottles up her emotions to the point I’m numb. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had “eureka” moments with myself just spewing out words to a counselor. (Please note, counselors are not all created equal. You’ll probably have to try out a few before finding a good match). Whether I’m struggling or thriving, there’s always a topic my therapist and I can discuss. And this soothing sense of realization and clarity requires no prescription.
I think there’s a place for both medicine and natural alternatives. Personally, for my mental health, I need a wide mix of methods to help me feel sane. I take an antidepressant, but I also love using essential oils and practicing yoga and meditation. Sometimes other methods work better than others, so having a “health toolbox” equipped with several different “medicines” can offer solace. Genetically I realize I’m prone to certain diseases over others, so with that awareness, I can know how to best take care of myself.
So I’m not completely denouncing one method of medicine over another. They each have a place in our individual ways of wellness. We’re all different, and there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution to our health problems. Don’t be afraid to try multiple methods out to see what works best for you (just be responsible, please). You want to try acupuncture? Go for it. Look more into reflexology? Knowledge is power. Listen to your body and listen to professionals (WebMD is not a professional) before doing anything drastic, but it never hurts to explore your options.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I know in the doctor’s office when they say, “Do you have any questions for me?” most of us clam up and just say no so we can skedaddle out, but these people didn’t pay for eight-plus years of education for nothing. They can probably offer a lot more insight than you’d expect.
As we see different people practicing alternative medicine alongside modern medicine, it leaves many of us immediately scoffing it or doubting its effectiveness. I say, keep an open mind. To each his or her own. Get your vaccines and use hand sanitizer. But don’t swear off alternatives completely. Long story short, complementary and integrative medicine is cool in my book. At least some alternatives. I must say, some make no sense at all. Numerology, where numbers somehow determine your health? Hard pass.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie