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Published March 30, 2013, 11:35 PM

Minding Our Elders: Mayo Clinic book offers advice on integrated medicine

DEAR READERS: While traditional health care saves lives and cures many illnesses, prescription drugs and many surgeries also have risks and limitations. Because of this knowledge, or simply out of the need to take a more active role in their healthcare and that of their elders, many people are using the Internet and other resources to research historic, alternative methods of preventing or controlling illness and pain.

By: Carol Bradley Bursack, INFORUM

DEAR READERS: While traditional health care saves lives and cures many illnesses, prescription drugs and many surgeries also have risks and limitations. Because of this knowledge, or simply out of the need to take a more active role in their healthcare and that of their elders, many people are using the Internet and other resources to research historic, alternative methods of preventing or controlling illness and pain. According to the National Institutes of Health, close to 40 percent of the adults in the U.S. use some form of alternative health care. Alternative health care includes herbs, massage, meditation, acupuncture and many other techniques that have been used for centuries by other cultures.

Not long ago, alternative health care was considered useless or even dangerous by many U.S. medical practitioners. Now, however, our doctors are much more inclined to suggest fish oil capsules to lower triglycerides, massage therapy for stressed muscles, acupuncture for fibromyalgia, and meditation for stress management. Combining alternative treatments with conventional medicine has resulted in an integrated approach that uses the best of historic traditions and modern science.

Solid proof of this change in attitude by respected health practitioners came to me when the book titled “The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine: Integrating the Best of Natural Therapies with Conventional Medicine,” arrived in my mail box. It’s a winner.

This attractive, efficient, down to earth book is laid out in parts and then broken down into sub-categories.

Part 1, Today’s New Medicine, explains the difference between alternative and integrative medicine, gives statistics on the popularity of many alternative treatments, and helps people understand the necessity of making informed choices when it comes to health care.

Part 2, Guide to Alternative Therapies, examines herbs and other dietary supplements, mind-body medicine such as hypnosis and meditation, energy therapies such as acupuncture and Reiki, hands-on therapies such as reflexology and massage and other approaches such as homeopathy and traditional Chinese medicine.

The red/yellow/green light icon by each treatment or therapy gives the reader a quick clue to the medical view of the topic on the page, while a definition gives a detailed explanation, aided by sections labeled “Our Take” and “What Research Says.”

Part 3, Your Action Plan, gives advice on treating common conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, and obesity. Part 3 also includes Be Smart, Be Safe with excellent advice on finding a practitioner for your alternative treatment, and protecting yourself from someone who may not be qualified to treat you. There is also a list of additional resources, including websites. The book explains how some herbal treatments may interfere with lifesaving drugs, so always clear your alternative choices with your doctor.

The information in “The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine” could be crammed into an intimidating volume that would only interest a diehard convert to alternative thinking. Instead, the book is a visually pleasing, user friendly guide that draws in the reader, educating and entertaining at once. Published by Time, Inc., it’s available on the Mayo Clinic website at Mayoclinc.com, in bookstores and at Amazon.com. Prices vary.

Carol Bradley Bursack is the author of a support book on caregiving and runs a website supporting caregivers at www.mindingourelders.com. She can be reached at carol@mindingourelders.com.

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