If you’ve decided to forgo modern medicine and look for treatment in the alternate health sector there are a few things you need to be aware of to ensure your experience is a positive one. Unlike the image portrayed above, this isn’t a straightforward journey away from prescription medications and visits to your oncologist or doctor into a world of magical treatments and fluffy bunnies. Far from it.
This guide will help you navigate the often treacherous path. We’ll examine the negative things you need to aware of first and then provide you with useful tools to assess potential treatments that cross your path.
It’s human nature to want to wish for things, for a better life, better health, or sometimes, if you suffer from something like chronic pain, just simple pain relief, however temporary. It’s also in our natures to very quickly develop unrealistic expectations. These are the mechanisms that will be used against you to sell you snake oil, feeding your wishes and expectations and this is the number one thing you need to be aware of and guard against in your quest for better health.
Don’t expect the following and you won’t be disappointed.
- A miracle cure — sorry, but these don’t exist in either sphere of health, modern or traditional. If they did, they’d be front-page news, licensed by big pharma and you’d be right back in your doctor’s consulting room, queueing for a prescription.
- Also no “secret” cures. If something was in fact beneficial for your condition, don’t you think the person selling it would be advertising it everywhere? Of course, they’re business people. If someone says “secret” run rapidly in the opposite direction. It’s either illegal, dangerous, or both.
- Immediate relief. Pack an overnight bag. You’re going to be a while on this trip and make yourself consciously aware of the fact that not everyone finds relief for their chronic conditions. Some do and you may be one of the lucky ones, just manage those expectations so you aren’t devastated if things don’t pan out.
- Cheap alternatives to prescribed medications. The alternate health sector, despite trying its best to convince you it’s a direct descendant of Gandhi, is in fact comprised of astute and shrewd business people. If they happen upon products that prove effective, they aren’t going to give them away. Prepare to shell out a not inconsiderable amount of your hard-earned money and another really good reason to make sure you’re picking a potential treatment and not overpriced bottled water.
Now, let move onto a list of commonly committed errors made by people who are desperately seeking relief. Be aware of these and try and avoid them if at all possible.
Expensive doesn’t mean it works or works better. We naturally associate price with quality and marketers are all too well aware of this. Coty’s $500 face cream costs as much to make as Target’s $10 tub. Alternative health is overrun by claims of amazing new extracts that are obtained by milking a Tibetan Lllama under a rising moon at an elevation of exactly 22000 feet while humming the theme tune to My Fair Lady. Don’t fall for it.
Another favorite ploy is to show you the incredibly expensive laboratory they use to manufacture these high price products. Again, sales gobbledegook, designed to fleece you. Look for active ingredients in the product that you’re interested in and google them. Odds are you’ll be able to buy the exact same thing for a tenth of the price and sometimes less. Fancy packaging does not magically make something more effective.
A friend of a friend
Seriously? If someone suggested their friend was using a new additive in their car’s engine, would you rush out and buy it without first giving it the once over? Cars differ hugely, in terms of engine, fuel, and a host of other conditions, not unlike your body. Simply because they all boast four wheels doesn’t mean they’re the same and this logic applies tenfold over to you. Your body is unique, your condition is unique and the way you will react to any form of treatment is unique.
By all means, consider the product, but make sure you’re comparing apples with apples. Find out exactly who the recommendation comes from and the condition they’re suffering from. What other medication or products do they use? For how long were they on the product? All of this matters as we’ll show you further on.
Easily given by most and more easily abused by many. Approach alternative health with a massive dose of cynicism and you’ll be fine. If you’re wondering what possible motivation anyone could have for wanting to mislead you, here is the simplest way of putting it. $$$. Alternative Health is one of the most lucrative markets in the world and the profits annually from the industry are eye-watering.
Accreditation and certification
Both of which are zero guarantees of honesty, in many instances don’t really exist and more often than not have absolutely nothing to do with being able to accurately treat your condition. Healthcare is incredibly complex and pharmacology and its interactions with our systems are even more complex. Anyone who yells loudly about their qualifications is trying to baffle you with bullshit. Ethical, properly qualified people don’t lead with their qualifications, they use their knowledge and allow their experience and expertise to speak for them.
The more prominent and glowing the testimonial, the more likely it is to be a complete and utter fabrication. People describing how their life has gone from the depths of despair to a Sunday picnic in the local park are not being truthful. They’ve been paid to lure in suckers and you’re next if you don’t have your wits about you. Always, always be critical, and do your own research, don’t rely on the word of the manufacturer.
That’s more than enough of the negative side of alternative health. Let’s focus now on helping you navigate this world safely in your personal quest for your holy grail of health.
If you want to actually find something that really helps you, or perhaps a combination of products, then careful planning is essential. If you’re lazy and couldn’t be bothered, then you’re probably better off closing this article now, but I am assuming that if you’re at this point then you’ve been down a pretty rocky road already and that you’ve exhausted the treatments modern medicine has to offer.
With a little planning and careful execution, you can begin a process of trial and error because that is essentially what you’ll be doing. Trying one product and then the next, unless you’re lucky enough to happen on something first go. It does happen, but it’s a rarity. You cant decide if something is actually helping unless you monitor it, and I do mean monitor. To do that properly I’d suggest a spreadsheet of sorts. This is your starting point.
Create a spreadsheet that allows you to track the products you are testing to properly understand how they are affecting your body. You can not do this in your head, it has to be either in an electronic format or on paper. Go with what suits you best. Rather than long-winded explanations, Medika has set up a sheet that you can download here as a PDF to print if you want to go the old-fashioned route, or you can download the XLS spreadsheet here and use it in Google docs to get you started.
I recommend using Google docs as it will allow you access from anywhere to add symptoms that may suddenly present. You’re doing this for two reasons. You will need to stay on something for at least a month to really form a clear picture of whether it is helping or not. Don’t bin something after two days as you may be costing yourself a potential treatment. Some ingredients take time to build up in your system and benefits may only become apparent after two or three weeks.
The most important info you want to capture here is any improvement in your condition and any side effects. Obviously, if something you’re taking chronically upsets your stomach or worsens your symptoms, stop taking it. You also need to observe the following rules if you’re going to do this properly.
- Stick to any recommended sort of dosage. Some products will allow you to increase the dosage amount with minimal risk. If you don’t see any noticeable effects after two weeks, and you’re testing something that allows for this, consider upping the dosage slightly. Don’t go overboard and always be aware of any side effects.
- Try and keep to a dosing schedule, so always the same time of the day, preferably n the mornings. This will allow you to monitor any effects more closely. As with most medicines, if your timing is off by an hour or two, it’s not going to make a spectacular difference.
- ALWAYS note down any effect the medication has on you that is not in keeping with your normal day-to-day experience.
- This should be obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway. Never test out more than one product at a time. If something works, you’ve no idea which product is responsible. You can also react badly to one and not know which product is to blame. This could cost you a working treatment.
Once your “clinical trial” is over, sit and go through your data. You’re going to face three choices.
- No improvement at all in your condition. This one is simple. Bin the product and move on.
- A mild improvement. This doesn’t simply relate to your symptoms you suffer from, but consider your health in general. If the product has had a positive effect on your overall health, set it aside for now. It may come in useful later and I’ll explain further on how.
- A major improvement. Well done, your careful and considered methodical testing has paid off. Enjoy the rewards.
Selecting a product to trial
This is the difficult bit. I’d recommend starting a list as things are going to complicated really quickly. Again, Medika has set up a spreadsheet you can modify to suit your own needs, the XLS file is here and PDF is here. Make a coffee, get comfy in front of the computer and pull up Google. I’d recommend starting with Google first for two simple reasons. Quacks and con artists.
Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and other social media platforms are the main tools used by fraudulent and dishonest alternate health marketers to sell their poisons and snake oil. Don’t think you’re safe in closed support groups either as they often create these to sell out of public view. To be really safe, your first foray into identifying a treatment is best undertaken on your own. I would recommend any of the following search terms or something in the same vane to get you going. Let’s assume you’re looking for a treatment to help with chronic pain.
Note the following. This article assumes you are completely educated, to the best of your abilities, about your condition and symptoms. if you arent, start there. For the rest, you’re ready to get searching.
- Latest research on chronic pain
- Ingredients known to affect pain receptors. You can expand this search to investigate products known to counteract opioid addiction.
- New trials for chronic pain treatment (check active ingredients in these products and take your search further from there)
- natural inhibitors of pain
It’s also crucial that you do your research to really understand what your dealing with in terms of your condition. Educate yourself, for instance, on the known mechanisms of pain, the processes, and how modern medicine addresses these. Educate yourself on your condition, it’s crucial as you’re on your own here and any knowledge you acquire is useful, as long as that info is from reliable sources. We recommend sticking to large medical websites and recognized publishers of medical research. Here’s why.
Any product you find that helps you is going to act on the same centers of pain as commercial products. The mechanical actions of your symptoms remain the same, irrespective of whether you’re using big pharma products or something your neighbor grows in his hothouse. It’s so important that you grasp this as it will help you avoid scammers and quacks.
For instance, if you suffer crippling migraines, rubbing cow dung on your toes isn’t going to resolve the problem. It’s a silly example but you follow the logic? Understand the mechanisms involved in your condition and you’ll have a much easier time weeding out potential cons.
What’s out of bounds?
If it’s bad for you, don’t use it. Again common sense and google will set you dead to rights. If there are articles debunking a certain treatment, pay attention to these. People don’t waste their time trying to junk legitimate or potentially helpful treatments, they warn the public about real danger. Medika does this and we do it responsibly, as do most of our colleagues. An excellent example of this is our article on Kratom, a substance that shows promise for those suffering from chronic pain.
We were initially skeptical of the product’s claims but engaged with many users and found there is a definite benefit to users for various conditions, much like the once frowned on marijuana, now the darling of alternate health. We have concerns about various forms of Kratom that are synthesized and concentrated. We advised users who wanted to try it, to stick to natural versions, brewed in a tea, and to keep dosages low.
Kratom is banned in some countries and is still considered a dangerous drug in some states in the US. Is it safe for you to try? Almost certainly, if you use it responsibly, keep to low doses and ensure you’re purchasing a legitimate product. In other words, be responsible and carefully monitor your trial. As long as something doesn’t pose a direct risk to your health (for instance, and again I can’t believe I’m saying this, the stupidity of ingesting bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or anything your sane mind suggests you shouldn’t be ingesting) then you’re probably safe.
No clear winners
Remember the earlier bit about managing expectations? Some people do find treatments that alleviate or in rare instances, completely resolve their symptoms. The really lucky ones might happen on a cure that works for them. Remember that cruel mistress called nature. What works for your friend’s friend, probably isn’t going to work for you. What you’re more likely to find is this.
A number of different products, each of which contributes in some way to reducing your symptoms or make them more manageable. Consider this a win. Let’s say you’ve identified four natural products. You’re now in a position, armed with your “clinical trial” data to start testing these again. Check carefully to ensure there are no known interactions between the products and select the two most effective products.
now you can start to drink both each day. You’ll know from your previous trials how long it took for the effects of these products to manifest. If it was a week, wait an additional week to see whether the two products offer a more significant improvement if used together. Then add in the third and repeat, finally adding the fourth. By the end of the sixth week, assess your data and then continue your assessment for an additional four weeks,
You will very possibly find that when combined, the four products offer a significant improvement unless they have known interactions. Decide if the combined effect is sufficient to allow you to resume a normal life. If not, consider continuing your search.
Peace of mind
If you suffer from severe allergies do invest in an Epipen or if your allergies are mild, keep a few antihistamines close by, just in case. Make sure people know what you’re testing out, just in case you do have a serious reaction. Even normal prescribed medicines come with risk, but the difference here is that these are normally very well-documented reactions with established treatment protocols. Always play it safe and make sure the fact you’re using a new product is public knowledge.
Beware of substances that are potentially addictive. If you’ve been down the opioid hole then I’m preaching to the converted and you’ll be all too well aware of how exchanging chronic pain for addiction isn’t a treatment that’s worthy of consideration. If you think you can control your use of an addictive substance, think again. It’s a no-win situation.
Finally, remember that supplements, vitamins, minerals, and herbs aren’t required to pass any stringent testing, and it’s easy to make claims relating to what a product can and can’t do. There is no clinical data available, either way, to prove or disprove claims. There is however an expansive body of work on almost every compound and ingredient known to man and you can access this with a little research and digging.
If you’ve decided to opt for physical treatments in conjunction with natural products, treat these in the exact same fashion you apply to your products. Keep meticulous notes on how you feel after treatment and assess these honestly over days and weeks> There is no such thing as being uncertain if something works, particularly where treatments are concerned. Don’t trust your memory, make copious notes and refer back to them.
Don’t discount the physical treatment aspect of alternative health. It makes up a large component and finding reliable, trustworthy, and skilled practitioners can make all the difference in the world, Chiropractors are a perfect example. A poorly qualified one can have a seriously negative impact on your health. Be selective and keep in mind that US standards for this field fall way short of those in countries like Spain or South Africa. Check everything! It’s your health and it’s your money. You don’t want to waste either.
Do your homework. It’s the most important part of alternative healthcare and it will keep you safe.