Alternative health is on the rise

The Good Life Letter

Friday 20thJanuary 2012

  • Doom as complementary healthcare courses are HALVED 
  • Alternative health advances
  • Health bullies are making our lives a misery

Alternative health is on the rise thanks to the overwhelming amount of choices available to us in this modern life.

Shiny new machines which would cook my food in minutes rather than hours, telephones which were just like the ones on Star Trek and computers which you could talk to were the stuff of teenage dreams.

Now I am in that future – the microwaves, mobiles and laptops are all here.

But the thing which continues to amaze me is the frightening amount of choice available.

The range of options which present themselves to me when I try to do even the simplest thing can sometimes be overwhelming.

Anyone who has tried to switch energy suppliers in the last few months knows only too well what confusion lies in a seemingly easy decision.

My poor old noodle gets easily messed up by the number of processes, statements and disclaimers you have to deal with as part of any modern transaction.

What worries me even more than this though is the fact that modern life seems to be restricting our health choices almost daily.

News this week suggests that this trend is set to continue, and could even become worse.

Big Brother axes healthcare

I read an article last week that said the opportunity for students to access complementary health courses is more restricted than it has ever been.

The Telegraph article states;

“The number of bachelor and masters degrees in subjects such as reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture and homoeopathy has halved since 2007, from more than 40 to 21. Many of the surviving courses are under review.”

Whether you believe in these types of therapies or not, surely this is a worrying trend.

In our evidence-obsessed modern healthcare service the challenge is for alternative practitioners to continually have to demonstrate and prove their worth.

And it’s not just enough to have people saying that they have been cured, the burden of proof is such that it has to be shown how the intervention worked.

A little while back I was talking to an osteopath friend of mine who told me about the guy who founded this therapeutic approach.

Apparently he was the son of a Baptist minister in the USA, but also practiced as a healer.

It was his contention that the body had ways of healing itself as long as it was given the time and space to do so – a theorem that modern day osteopaths still hold on to passionately.

Now neither I nor he would suggest that the power of positive thought was capable of overcoming every ailment, but in the case of many conditions the taking of pharmaceutical remedies isn’t always the best solution.

This doesn’t stop the narrow minded egotists in healthcare research from pouring scorn on anything that they can’t measure in a test tube.

The so-called scientists that get it so wrong…

One of the leading lights in this criticism is called Dr David Colquhoun who represents a pressure group called ‘Sense About Science’.

One of their stated aims is that they want everyone, whatever their experience, to stand up for evidence in public life.

Which is laudable when it is used to debunk the incredible miracle cure statements made by those looking to make a fast buck.

But when it is directed against things like therapeutic massage that has been used for many thousands of years with a proven track record of benefit I begin to worry.

I am no apologist for shaman, and want no part of the weird and wonderful. In fact I received a significant postbag because I couldn’t dismiss the claims of the MHRA totally when it came to applying control to some natural remedies.

However, I do hate blanket statements being made by them or anyone else. And in the case of the good doctor Colquhoun he really did get my hackles up by stating that he thought these therapies were being delivered through ‘shocking teaching methods’.

Who is he to make such a claim?

Are we to believe that every medical school campus in the UK doesn’t have a bias on surgery and pharmaceutical solutions to every healthcare problem. Surely this is as biased and unsupported by evidence as anything else?

When so called informed men of science begin to criticise that which they can’t explain it is all wrong.

This really does seem like a case of the establishment leaning on the little guy – a bit like Goliath responding to David’s slingshot with a nuclear bomb!

It is becoming all to common for the BMA to accuse anyone who calls themselves an alternative or complementary practitioner of failing to provide ‘proper’ medicine and advice.

This is despite the fact that complementary medicine is used favourably by a significant proportion of the population (recent surveys have estimated that around 1 in 5 Britons use it at some point or other).

These treatments offer a wide range of options to those in need of help.

I agree with this approach. As do many GPs, who offer alternative therapies in combination with drug treatments. And who also suggest that alternative therapies can be good for maintaining a healthy body and mind, helping you prevent disease.

The range of complementary, natural and alternative medicines are so wide and complex, it's ridiculous to tarnish them all with the same brush.

And besides...

You can't stamp out ideas.

These ideas have been around for millennia. A lot longer than western science has been around. Whether we like it or not, millions of people use alternative therapies. They rely on them and benefit from them.

So why shouldn't we have access to all the information that's available? Why shouldn't we look into these ideas, find out about them and think about why so many people use them?

Whatever the scientists think, alternative health practises and practitioners exist. You can't pretend they're not there, or declaim everything they ever say as wrong.

It would be terrible if, in the process of denouncing an entire field of therapy, we ignored an avenue of investigation that really could save lives and transform our understanding of medicine.

Yours, as always






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