Book Notes

October 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm 4 comments

Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine

As Americans seek greater control over their health, the alternative medicine field has experienced rapid growth. Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine offers reliable and easy-to-understand information to help sort through “natural” and “holistic” approaches as people focus on improving their physical, mental and spiritual health through conventional and complementary healthcare practices.

The intent of the book is to help promote self-care and to describe nontraditional therapies that assist with achieving and maintaining health and wellness. The book describes the best evidence-based products and practices that work with conventional medicine and which ones to avoid.  You are also reminded to include your doctor’s advice in your healthcare decisions as you take an active role in making choices toward making wellness the focus of your care.

“Alternative medicine” is actually an antiquated term. Integrative medicine includes alternative treatments, as supported by research, with conventional medicine. Most integrative products and practices are based on prevention, natural healing, active learning and “holistic” care. Natural healing is your body’s ability to heal itself and integrative medicine treatments encourage this natural healing process. “Holistic” care focuses on treating the whole person, including physical, social, spiritual, and emotional needs.

Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine details popular therapies, including nonvitamin, nonmineral natural products such as fish oil, ginseng, and garlic supplements. Other top-ranked therapies include deep breathing, meditation, massage therapy, as well as chiropractic and osteopathic care. The most common conditions prompting alternative treatment use include back, neck and joint pain, arthritis or other musculoskeletal conditions. People also use alternative medicine treatments for anxiety, to manage their cholesterol, control headaches and migraines, improve insomnia, and prevent colds.

Also listed are the top ten therapies and the conditions they are most commonly treat, such as acupuncture for chronic pain, fibromyalgia, nausea, and some forms of dental and postoperative care. Guided imagery may help with headache and some forms of pain. Other therapies, such as hypnosis, massage, meditation, music therapy, spinal manipulation, spirituality, Tai chi, and yoga are described as well as the conditions they treat.

To promote self-care, the book reminds the reader that good health begins with good choices. These choices lay the foundation for wellness with the building blocks of eating for health by choosing disease fighting food, the seven benefits of exercise, giving up tobacco, finding meaning in your life, and learning to relax and stress less.

Since more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight, one way to decrease the risk of cancer, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and sleep disorders is to achieve a healthy weight through slow, steady weight loss. The section on eating for health describes ways to include more vegetables and fruits without making your diet boring or bland. Also remember to include enough antioxidants to combat the effects of free radicals, which fight disease and break down toxins, but are often produced in overabundance and create an imbalance called oxidative stress. Foods that are high in antioxidants contain vitamins C, E, and carotene, as well as minerals such as manganese, selenium, copper, and zinc. These foods tend to be rich in color: yellow, red, purple, blue and orange and can add zest to your diet.

A section on herbs and dietary supplements describes how certain supplements used in conjunction with conventional medicine can help achieve and maintain good health, but with the caveat that they be used wisely. For example, peppermint has some benefits for treating certain digestive disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome and maybe even heartburn. However, it also has muscle-relaxing qualities that could worsen heartburn symptoms associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) so it should be taken under a doctor’s supervision.

Mind-Body Medicine teaches commonly used mind-body approaches that will help train your attention and refine and guide your interpretations by using principles rather than prejudices. In this way, your interpretations become more focused and strong and can be used to unfold the deeper, kinder person in each of us and transform us into embodiments of wisdom and love. This practice helps the mind change the brain by soothing the limbic areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, and engage the prefrontal cortex to enhance resilience and happiness. “Approaches that at their core are based on the values of peace, forgiveness, compassion, selflessness, integrity and love will be the ones that will stand the test of time and continue to bring health and healing to this generation and the next,” explained Dr. Amit Sood, Mayo Clinic Associate Professor of Medicine.

Energy Therapies are based on the belief that imbalances in the body’s energy fields result in illness. Thus, re-balancing these fields can restore health and allow healing to occur. The most well-known  and well-studied energy therapy is acupuncture which uses fine filiform needles inserted and manipulated into specific points on the body, along meridians through which the vital life energy flows. Other energy therapies include healing touch, magnetic therapy, and Reiki.

Other approaches are described in this book, such as Ayurveda which is based on the concept that all things in the universe are joined together and that all forms of life consist of combinations of three energy elements: wind, water and fire. Homeopathy, Naturopathy, and traditional Chinese medicine are also described as choices for your action plan to better health.

The last section guides you on how to blend the best of complementary and conventional therapies to treat the whole person, to protect yourself, how to find a qualified practitioner, and how to work with your doctor. Five key strategies for achieving the aim of improving your health include to make a commitment to develop and keep healthy habits, start small to be successful and not overwhelmed, stick with your plan, reassess, and grow by nurturing all aspects of your life – mind, body, and spirit to achieve a lifetime of health and wellness.

Debbie Fuehrer
Rochester Methodist Hospital
Patients’ Library

Entry filed under: Book Notes.

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  • 1. jay  |  December 3, 2011 at 6:13 am

    Its nice to see a book about alternative medicine that tries to work in conjucture with medical science rather than reject it. In studying alternative medicine it is always vital to focus on fact and science, (basically what works). Alternative medicine does itself no favours by humouring such unscientific and bogus practises such as Homeopathy and the like. There is a place for alternative medicines, but only for the ones that work and are scientifically proven, anything else is an exploitation of its customers. But if they do work surely they just become just part of medical fact, rather than alternative medicine?

  • 2. hermosaguitarra  |  January 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I believe that alternative therapies are very helpful to traditional medicine. A clear example is in acupuncture for the treatment of juvenile arthritis.
    Excellent post.

  • 3. drderekday  |  January 13, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    Being a chiropractor, I no longer have to fight against the prejudice toward complementary or alternative medicine the same way I used to but that is a relatively short term change. Once we were considered snake oil salesmen but these days we are more mainstream.

    My patients find great benefits from chiropractic care but some of them tend to believe in many of the wacked out things they read on the Internet and it can be difficult to counsel them.

  • 4. The Emperor's Medicine  |  February 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    It’s nice to be able to recommend this book and that it comes from a reliable source. Thank you.

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