Medicine vs Natural Health: is it one or the other?
Medicine vs Natural Health: is it one or the other?
Hello, hello everyone! It's been a while, hasn't it? More on that (and why) later. I want to jump right in to addressing today's topic: Medicine vs Natural Health: is it one or the other? This subject has been heavy on my heart and forefront in my mind for a while now, especially in light of my recent experiences (again, more on that in a bit). And with so much negativity towards Western medicine coming from the natural health community, I thought it time to share my opinions, feelings, and convictions on the matter. So I'll hit it straight on, do we have to choose between medicine and natural health? Absolutely not. Both have their place and serve their IMPORTANT, yet different, purpose in our own personal health and wellbeing, as well as the health and wellbeing of our community and culture.
You may have seen different charts circulating the web that compare and contrast medicine and natural health. For example, the authors of these charts (or articles) may have stated how traditional medical care is best for acute and emergent conditions, while natural health and alternative medicine is best for chronic conditions. But like anything, there's a limit to this claim. While some individuals with mild to moderate degrees of various chronic conditions may be able to manage their illness with ease by simply taking some herbs, eating only organic foods, and using essential oils, others with more severe degrees of illness (or more serious illnesses altogether), it may not be this easy. And while it's no secret that a cleaner diet, a probiotic, and a daily green juice would probably benefit everyone, it by no means is a replacement for medical care or interventional treatments.
Like I said above, both medicine and natural health are important and beneficial, but in different ways. Neither one is the end-all-be-all: both have their shortcomings, as well as their strengths. Just like we can’t look to medical care and physicians for nutritional advice or dietary recommendations (most doctors receive NO classes or education in nutrition whatsoever), we also can’t look to raw vegetables or juicing to cure Crohn's Disease or manage mitral valve prolapse. And when we try to blur the line that separates drug overuse and drug necessity, we run into trouble...while simultaneously convincing sick people, desperate to do the best thing for their health, that they have to choose: either medicine or natural health. And this is not only wrong, it’s incredibly naive and misinformed.
Drugs save lives--thousands upon thousands of lives each year. Yes, they have their side effects, but for the sickest of the sick, who have tried every other thing possible to help them tolerate life, the side effects are a small price to pay. Drugs are, without a doubt, beneficial...but over prescribing of drugs (as well as looking to drugs to fix or prevent something that could easily be resolves with a dietary change) saves no one, and harms both patient and physician. Additionally, it’s always better to choose natural or nutritional remedies over drugs WHEN YOU CAN—all drugs have costly and sometimes deadly side effects, so unless absolutely necessary, why risk it? Why risk heart attack, torn ligaments, liver failure, and even death by taking statin drugs (see this study, this study, and this study, as well as countless others I reference in my upcoming book) when you can lower your cholesterol just as efficiently by changing your diet?
Keep in mind, though, that some drugs are irreplaceable, like CF drugs, anti-rejection medications, and medications for other chronic degenerative conditions like heart failure. Refusing pharmaceutical drugs in these cases, for the sake of “health and wellness” and out of love and respect for the well-being of your body is counterintuitive—how much self-love and respect are you showing by allowing your body to suffer and get worse (by refusing needed pharmaceuticals) all for the sake of “avoiding chemicals”?
Natural remedies are effective for many conditions, including diabetes, asthma, chronic fatigue, and sometimes even cancer (see these reports and these books). However, we need to be smart and rational about drugs versus no drugs. Does avoiding drugs completely and totally for the sake of our health really make sense anymore when doing so is resulting in a worsening of our health? The answer isn’t either allopathic medicine OR natural medicine. It’s both. Both serve their purpose, both have their place, and both should be utilized to promote the most optimal wellbeing of all individuals, regardless of their physical health conditions. In light of this post, I might as well take a moment to update you all on my own educational career and future plans...as well as the inspiration for this post. Well, I completed by Naturopathic Doctorate degree back in March, so I am officially Dr. Anna Johnson, ND now! However, because of my own recent experience with allopathic medicine (I had two abdominal surgeries in April, which resulted in my having an ileostomy, which has been a tough adjustment and not without complications, but has truly given me my life back) and having witnessed firsthand the benefits and help it offers, I have decided to pursue my Masters of Science in Nursing, with plans of becoming a Nurse Practitioner, and opening my own practice that combines both allopathic and alternative medicines. For YEARS I was against all forms of modern medicine, and was convinced I could heal myself (even after being diagnosed with CF...) with herbs, food, and supplements. And while I learned a great deal and gained much benefit from the various things I tried, I also learned this: natural remedies are not a substitute for drugs...and they don’t always work for everyone, every time, for everything. It’s important for practitioners to be trained and educated in both allopathic and alternative treatments, and be able to effectively administer both to their patients, personalizing a treatment plan for each patient based on their needs, symptomology, and desires. Some individuals will experience total “healing” from the elimination of processed foods, and the addition of some supplements and herbs, while others (like myself) will require drugs, natural remedies, and even invasive procedures to simply be able to manage their illness and provide as much comfort as possible during their lifetime. Neither one is better than the other—just like neither person is better than the other. They are different approaches for different people who have different needs. And my goal is to be able to provide that level of care for all my patients, while reminding everyone (through the testimony of my own life) that being health and wellness-conscious and caring about natural health does not mean you are forbidden to use drugs or medical doctors if they can help you. It just means that you’re using it wisely and in an informed, rational way.
I never dreamed I would resort to drugs and surgery, or be promoting (or WORKING) in allopathic medicine. However, the more I've grown in my faith, the more I've realized that my devotion is not to natural health--it's to Christ, and one of the ways I honor Him is by taking care of my body...which sometimes means having procedures and taking medicine. It took me a long time to grasp this, and it might not make sense to some reading this, but ONLY utilizing natural remedies was not only not helping me get better, it was furthering and quickening my inevitable death by cystic fibrosis. And even though I was avoiding all toxins, chemicals, and "harmful" things, I was not taking care of my body--God's temple--because I was allowing my health to deteriorate. My duty is to my God and my body...nothing else. And I pray yours is, too.
Now, does this mean we should all run out and go schedule a doctor's appointment? Of course not. If a simple diet change has resolved your issues, I am THRILLED for you. Keep doing what you're doing. However, if you've been wrestling with the same problems for longer than you'd care to admit, and they're only worsening regardless of how many detoxes you do, supplements you take, or mind-body healing courses you sit through, it might be time to consider other options. And PLEASE hear me out when I say that by doing so--considering other options--you are NOT failing or "giving in" to the dark side. You're standing up for yourself, your body, and your life. And honoring your Creator by honoring your body.
I hope this post has helped and been enlightening, informative, and encouraging. Multiple people have been asking me for appointments and consults, but as I am still very fresh from surgery, I am not yet seeing clients yet. However, I will be accepting clients again (new and returning) by mid-September. Thank you all for your patience! If you would like to be added to my wait list, please email me. Until next time,
Dr. Anna Johnson, ND