The New Alternative Medicine: Natural Cures for Women
Alternative Therapies for Women
Recently, major medical schools have added programs to teach what were once fringe treatments. FITNESS reports on why doctors are changing their minds about alternative medicine, and how you can benefit:
Elizabeth Granai's first pregnancy nearly killed her. Diagnosed with severe preeclampsia and HELLP (hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, low platelet counts) syndrome, a serious pregnancy disorder that put her into liver and kidney failure, she delivered her daughter six weeks early by emergency c-section. Three years later, in 2005, after several miscarriages, Granai, at age 35, was expecting again, only this time her health was even more fraught. She'd been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that causes blood-clotting problems in pregnancy. "It was a very high-risk pregnancy, and I didn't feel comfortable taking the blood thinners the doctor prescribed," she says. While doing research on the Internet, she read that acupuncture could help with blood flow to the baby, and decided to give it a try. To her surprise, after just one session, Granai's upper abdominal pain (typical of HELLP syndrome) and severe morning sickness were gone. "I didn't know it was possible to feel healthy while pregnant," Granai says. Impressed, she went back for 23 more sessions, and in conjunction with her ob-gyn, consulted a doctor who specialized in integrative medicine.
It's not revolutionary that Granai used acupuncture -- more than one-third of Americans take herbs, get massages, or use acupuncture or some other form of complementary or alternative medicine, according to a National Institutes of Health survey. What is notable is who the doctor she consulted was: Tracy W. Gaudet, MD, who heads Duke Integrative Medicine, a multimillion-dollar program with a beautiful new building on the campus of Duke University School of Medicine -- one of the most prestigious medical institutions in the country.
Under the care of her ob-gyn, using integrative health strategies mapped out by Dr. Gaudet, Granai gave birth to a healthy baby boy in December 2005, without taking blood thinners or experiencing any complications. "Elizabeth's case powerfully illustrates the value of an integrative approach," says Dr. Gaudet. "Often, the patients who benefit most are those whose cases are the most confusing to conventional medicine."
Granai's experience is also proof of the turnabout that's happening in relation to alternative and complementary treatments: Mainstream physicians and major medical institutions are increasingly using these nonconventional therapies in their everyday practices. In a recent Mayo Clinic survey, for example, 57 percent of doctors believed that doing so would make patients more satisfied with their care, and 44 percent said they?d refer patients to a credentialed alternative therapist. What's more, these programs have taken root at Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Stanford, and Harvard universities, as well as the Mayo Clinic -- to name just a few. "To me, the fact that Johns Hopkins is offering acupuncture as a clinical service is revolutionary," says Adrian Dobs, MD, director of the Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "We're a conservative institution, but we've realized that therapies we used to think were worthless may in fact help our patients."
You can also tell doctors' thinking has changed by listening to them talk. "Today we think in terms of 'integrative medicine,' in which both approaches are embraced as standard medical treatment," says Brent A. Bauer, MD, director of the Mayo Clinic's Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program. "'Alternative' sounds pejorative, while 'complementary' means the two approaches are used next to each other."
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