Some Differences Between Conventional Medicine and Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Conventional Medicine

• Focuses on treating symptoms rather than the underlying cause of illness. This often means suppressing symptoms that are actually signs of your body attempting to heal itself. For example, a fever is not a disease itself, it is the body’s way of trying to destroy unhealthy bacteria or viruses. A cough is the body’s way of expelling excess mucous. Suppressing these types of symptoms with drugs interferes with the body’s own healing mechanisms, and can make things worse.
• Often looks for a single cause for a disease, when there may in fact be many contributing causes, both physical and emotional.
• Treats single body parts or systems in isolation from other parts, ignoring the connection between different systems, including the mind-body connection (the patient is not treated in an holistic manner).
• Uses more invasive treatments, including drugs and surgery.
• Often too little time is spent with the patient, and the approach of some doctors is clinical.
• Conventional doctors generally have little training in nutrition and often ignore sound nutritional approaches to the prevention and treatment of illness.

Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Natural Therapies)

• Treats a person as a whole (holistic approach), looking for all factors (physical, psychological, emotional and environmental) that may be contributing to illness.
• More time is spent with the patient to fully understand the person as a whole.
• Takes into account the mind-body connection (physical symptoms can stem from emotional or mental problems, and vice versa).
• Takes into account environmental influences on health, e.g. toxins in food and personal care products, pollutants in the air and water.
• Strong focus on prevention of illness through healthy diet, lifestyle and nutritional and herbal supplements.
• Treatments support the body’s own ability to heal itself, rather than undermining it.
• Treatments are mostly non-invasive.
• More responsibility is placed on the patient to make changes that promote health and healing.

For advice on how to combine the use of conventional and complementary and alternative medicine for the best results see How to Use Complementary and Alternative Medicine.



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