Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Open Letter to Alternative Medicine Magazine

I've subscribed to Alternative Medicine magazine for many years. You'd think it would be my favorite subscription, it's right up my alley with my focus on holistic healthcare.

But that's just it. I'm feeling more and more that this magazine is not promoting a holistic approach to health. Don't get me wrong. They haven't changed. It is just that my perception of the magazine is changing, the more I learn about health.

Here are some headlines from this month's issue:
  • 3 Herbs to Lower Blood Sugar

  • 8 Ways to Lower Your Stress

  • A Yoga Fix for Carpal Tunnel

  • 12 Ways to Balance Your Cholesterol

  • 9 Herbs to Tame Your Growing Prostate Problem

  • Botox Alternatives That Really Work

  • 10 Dietary Choices that Defeat Diabetes

  • ADHD: Alternatives to Ritalin

Sounds like a bad day at Cosmo magazine! Instead of "8 Ways to Satisfy Your Man in Bed" its "8 Ways to Lower Your Stress." This is great marketing, but I think it's bad health advice.

It seems like we're just substituting an herbal remedy for a pharmaceutical drug. Okay, that's probably better, but are we really being holistic? Are we going after the original cause, or just looking for an herbal "quick fix?"

And the stress reducers, for instance, are just a grab bag of various ways to solve the problem. It is NOT a holistic, coherent plan. It includes guided imagery, single-pointed concentration, restorative pose (from yoga), biodfeedback and passive muscle relaxation.

The whole thing about holistic healthcare (for me) is to put together a program of diet, exercise, thoughts, attitude, meditation, supplements and energy that makes sense for a particular problem. It's not a situation of trying a bunch of grab bag ideas and seeing if one works.

Damn it! Holistic health is not about quick fixes! It's not about "one off" solutions. That's the Western medicine model!! Holistic health is actually very hard. It often means changing my diet, exercising, changing my lifestyle habits. Those are the lasting solutions, right?

What's worked for me for my various issues is a multi-pronged approach, usually mind, body and spirit components. That is what works for me. The typical herbal or dietary quick fixes never do much in my experience. My naturopath puts together a whole program for me, or I figure one out for myself.

This takes me back to a comment that Jon Barron, the nutrition expert, made on my podcast a few weeks back. If you didn't hear those episodes (Parts 1 and 2) please have a listen. He gave some great examples of how we need to treat our conditions from a "whole person" perspective. Listen especially to his football team analogy.

Another problem I've noticed with this magazine is that they tend to go chasing after all the latest studies, even when it contradicts what last month's study proclaimed. They seem to uncritically parrot the results of the study. "Coffee causes heart problems" one month becomes "Coffee seen as beneficial for your heart" the next month. Are you really informing me about anything just by reporting on these back-and-forth study results? Are you helping me make better choices, or are you just adding to the noise??

Again, I'll point you back to Jon Barron's lucid comments about controlled trials and why the results are so often unusable (Parts 1 and 2).

Sorry Alternative Medicine magazine, I do love you but I want you to do better. Will you try?


qinpi said...

I totally agree with you and I also hate the chasing after the latest studies.
But I can understand the other side.
I have an online community devoted to alternative medicine and sometimes when I meet natural doctors they claim that you cannot treat the symptom.
But mos people like the easy way. they want to fell better in 3 steps. that's America.
my site is - check it out and tell me if this is holistic from your point of view.
Also i will appreciate if you will write any review.

Holistic Economy said...

Thanks for the feedback, Pablo.

I looked at the Website. Very interesting. I wanted to let you know there are several spelling mistakes on the "Write a Review" form.

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