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Don't Leave Your Doctor Out of The Loop

Aug 17, 2007
It doesn't have to be black and white.

If you're like millions of others and prefer Alternative Medicine over traditional Western medicine, you don't have to give up one for the other. They can, and should, work together.

For example, what if you were faced with these questions: Should you take black cohosh to alleviate hot flashes and night sweats? Should you consider adding a nutritional supplement to your daily routine to help lower your blood pressure? How about if you should take up yoga to maintain your flexibility and balance as your rheumatoid arthritis progresses?

These are not questions that should be answered in a vacuum. Talk to your doctor first.

If you're taking medication prescribed by a doctor, or under treatment for a medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, asthma or any other chronic condition, your doctor should be made aware of any complementary or alternative treatments you may be considering. Nutritional supplements, exercise routines and other alternative treatments may affect the treatments your doctor has prescribed.

For instance, did you know that vitamin B6 can interfere with tetracycline? Or that it may reduce the effectiveness of drugs used to treat cancer or depression? Or that it makes certain birth control pills ineffective? Your doctor or pharmacist will know these things. However, if you don't inform them that you're taking a vitamin supplement with B6, then you place your health at risk without the doctor even knowing.

This danger isn't confined to vitamin B6. Numerous vitamins and other nutritional supplements have similar interactions, which is why it's essential for your doctor to know everything you're taking before he prescribes treatment for you.

Now, you may not have heard of this before, but some interactions can actually increase the effectiveness of medical treatments. At first thought, this sounds like a pretty good deal, doesn't it? Unfortunately, there are numerous situations in which the results can instead be dangerous. For instance, if your doctor has prescribed a blood thinner such as aspirin, coumadin or wafarin, taking ginkgo biloba (which also has blood thinning properties) can potentially cause tiny bleeds in the brain or other systems.

For a second example, there are also a number of herbal and vitamin supplements that can affect how your body uses insulin or sugar. Something you need to be aware of if you're a diabetic. Your doctor also needs to be aware of any supplements you're taking so he can adjust your insulin dosage or your schedule in order to take advantage of the difference.

And then there's exercise. If you're being treated for any medical condition, a change in your activity level can affect your medication needs. In addition, your doctor may have concerns about the form of exercise you choose. For example, if you have arthritis, taking up aerobics could exacerbate the problem, while a low-impact workout could actually help maintain and even improve your joint function and flexibility.

Always check with your doctor before beginning a new fitness or exercise routine.

One, final point that's often overlooked. If you're going to try something, such as aromatherapy to help control your migraines for instance, and you do it properly by working with your physician, he can expand his own understanding about the effectiveness of alternative medicine. If aromatherapy helps your migraines, then your physician may want to try the same treatment on other migraine sufferers. If it's successful on them as well, then perhaps enough interest will develop to conduct a study. In the long run, many people may benefit from your experience.

However, the bottom line is that you and your physician are partners in your treatment. When you withhold important information from him, you're taking chances with your health - and your life. Don't leave your doctor out of the loop.
About the Author
David Silva is the webmaster for Alternative Medicine First, a website dedicated to the dissemination of information about alternative medicine, including various practices such as acupuncture, biofeedback, Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage, yoga and others.
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