In Search of Alternative Health Care | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

In Search of Alternative Health Care

Jacksonians live in a stronghold of conventional medical practitioners, many of whom will not suggest alternative treatments unless you ask; and some won't, even if you do. If you're looking for complementary and alternative health care in Jackson, you will need serious detective skills, the patience of Job, lots of telephone time and possibly good walking shoes. The choices are not as broad in Mississippi as in other states. Many Mississippians think alternative treatments are weird and "New Age." (Never mind that many are thousands of years old). As a state we haven't exactly opened our arms to alternative practitioners and said, "Y'all, come on down."


Still, alternative health care is enjoying a revolution, of sorts, around the United States. A recent report from the Institute for Alternative Futures notes that "complementary and alternative approaches to health and medicine are among the fastest growing aspects of health care." The National Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says "More and more Americans—as many as 42 percent of the public, according to one recent estimate—are adopting (alternative) approaches to satisfy their personal healthcare needs. Between 1990 and 1997, the number of Americans using (alternative health care) increased by 38 percent from 60 million to 83 million." Even the conventional insurance industry is getting in on it: Aetna, for instance, is working with acupuncturists, chiropractors, massage therapists and nutritional counselors to offer discounts to policyholders.

Before Mississippians can start seeking more alternative health options, we need to understand what's available. "Complementary and alternative medicine" is a broad phrase that refers to practically any treatment not routinely used by conventional medical doctors. Therapies from Ayurveda to chiropractic adjustments to herbal medicine to massage therapy to Zen shiatsu are considered "alternative." In essence, alternative health care is about being proactive rather than reactive, preventing and healing rather than treating symptoms, using natural therapies rather than pharmaceuticals. Complementary treatments are used in conjunction with traditional medicine.

Jackson massage therapist Li Vemulakonda says that, unlike conventional medicine, alternative treatments are "more health-oriented than illness-oriented."

Start by doing your homework: Talk to people you know who've had success. Seek out reputable sources like Dr. Andrew Weil, an "integrative" medical doctor who combines conventional and alternative approaches, for advice on how to avoid quackery. (See resource list.)

Once you have decided on a therapy, you can probably locate a practitioner, but you'll have to dig a little. You can begin your search with the phone book, but you will need to be creative. The seemingly obvious headings like "healing," "naturopathy" or "alternative health" have no listings. There is one acupuncturist, but the office is 90 miles away in McComb. It is encouraging that the "Health & Diet Food Products" category lists 22 health food stores in Jackson. One even advertises a certified herbalist who does personal consultations. The only listing under "Holistic Practitioners" is Sandra Dietrich, a rapid-eye therapist also offering "stress relief, energy/spiritual healing and awakening consciousness." We're getting closer.

Like most natural practitioners, Dietrich considers herself a "healer," which is about more than patching up problems. "I don't think healing is fixing; I think it's awakening to our real spirit," she says.

The Jackson Yellow Pages lists more than 30 chiropractors, one of the most familiar forms of alternative treatment, and 25 massage therapists. Here, hidden among the usual sport and therapeutic massage types, we find ads for increasingly popular alternative therapies like reiki and reflexology; one ad lists energy work, saliva readings, herbs, homeopathics, flower essences and colonic irrigation.

If these therapies aren't your thing, local health food stores are a good place to turn for advice. Dan Marshall at Best of Health (formerly For Health's Sake) in Highland Village is creating a directory of alternative providers for his customers. Tina Scott has been with the store 11 years and is a good source of information on various alternative therapies and practitioners in the area.

Beth Ramsey, supplements and floor manager at Rainbow Cooperative, says she is "always trying to find good people"—meaning alternative practitioners and medical doctors—with "open minds" toward unconventional therapies. Ramsey says some doctors will not even accept something as well documented as echinacea, an herb often used for colds, while others will actually prescribe herbal remedies. She exchanges information with customers on doctors amenable to offering natural remedies. The natural food co-op also has a new touchscreen computer that provides customers information on herbs, vitamins, homeopathics and recipes. And Rainbow's bulletin board, outside the store in the Rainbow Plaza, offers a plethora of business cards for various alternative options.

Word of mouth is one of the best ways to find good alternative care. Find out what works for your friends and family, and give it a try. Just remember two key points when considering any alternative treatment. 1) Never rely solely on alternative treatments without consulting your medical doctor. Conventional medicine is very good at diagnosis of health problems. Know what's at risk, so you can make informed decisions. And 2) always tell your doctor if you use herbal or natural remedies to avoid drug interactions or other possible complications.

Deborah Noel is a Jackson freelance writer and student of complementary medicine.

Previous Comments

ID
141067
Comment

"Seek out reputable sources like Dr. Andrew Weil, an ìintegrativeî medical doctor who combines conventional and alternative approaches, for advice on how to avoid quackery."? He is the last person I would ask for such advice, and is considered a quack himself by more than a few persons in or out of allopathic medicine. Belief does not equate with objective science or medicine, no matter how greedy we recognize the pharmaceutical giants, or shortcomings of the medical arts. Dr. Weil is linked as one of the Nonrecommended Sources of Health Advice at http://www.quackwatch.org due to some very outrageous statements in his books (see the link for a medical doctor's thorough and not completely unkind review of Weil's books and treatments). Weil and Deepak Chopra both make vague statements regarding quantum physics, as if this somehow validates their pseudoscientific approaches. Where are the peer reviewed publications for Weil's claims? I can find none; just anecdotal evidence. Is there a chance The Free Press can also find a medical doctor to write about allopathic medicine?

Author
John Nielsen
Date
2002-10-28T09:45:11-06:00
ID
141068
Comment

John, I appreciate your comments. Personally, in my own research on alternative medicine, I have found Dr. Weil's recommendations overall to be very sane and intelligent and respectful of the medical profession -- a moderate voice in a divisive debate. And his advice has certainly helped my partner and me make our lives much healthier and balanced; since we've incorporated the approaches he recommends in his book, "8 Weeks," into our lives, we seldom even get a cold. I am not, however, a fan of the advice given at Quackwatch.com, which I have written about for other publications. Although it certainly points out some clear quackdom, it also reads as very angry and reactionary and obviously seeks to defend reactive medicine, no matter what. That anger gets in the way of credibility for me. It has also drawn criticism; personally I don't recommend it as a good source of critique of alternative and preventive health care, but readers should use their common sense and make up their own minds, as they should with any article. I believe our readers are intelligent enough to read a variety of sources, whether by Dr. Weil or the doctor over at Quackwatch, and decide whether it makes sense to them. And, yes, we plan to present a variety of viewpoints, medical and otherwise, about how to approach preventive health care, which is the focus of our Wellness section.

Author
Ladd
Date
2002-10-28T11:56:42-06:00
ID
141069
Comment

QuackWatch is an interesting duck. Dr. Barrett seems to fall into the category of diehard Skeptic with a capital "S", which is a school of thought and frame of mind that leaves me, frankly, a bit skeptical. Here's Donna's Village Voice story on QuackWatch: http://www.donnaladd.com/voice3.html He has also, of course, raised his public profile considerably with his clever URL, which isn't wrong, but is worth noting as fact. Having said all that, I think QuackWatch is worth reading and consulting and finding fact where the facts lie (or where they tell the truth). On one hand, I think he is probably doing good work in many cases and forcing alternative medicine to support its arguments is noble. On the other, I think he argues and researches to refute, and I would posit that he isn't likely to actually find any effective natural solutions because he isn't really looking for positives, only negatives. In my reading, I simply take his grains of salt with a grain of salt. QuackWatch Some sites/speeches critical of QuackWatch: -http://www.chirobase.org/11Responses/indiv.html -http://www.thebirdman.org/Index/Health/Health-Quack.html -http://www.cancerdecisions.com/speeches/glccm2001.html

Author
Todd
Date
2002-10-28T14:57:20-06:00
ID
141070
Comment

I ask again: where might I find peer-reviewed articles published on Dr. Weil's research? Donna, Todd, I see by mentioning QuackWatch.com it brought forth the usual lashing out at Dr. Barrett. That's fair enough, but I ask if you've read the piece on Dr. Weil (I hurried to read the links provided by Todd, including the Village Voice piece). I failed to mention that the article I cited from QuackWatch was a reprint from New Republic, written by Dr. Arnold S. Relman, editor-in-chief emeritus of The New England Journal of Medicine and professor emeritus of medicine and social medicine at Harvard Medical School. (I realize both of those positions may qualify Relman as a scoundrel.) Another point to note is practically anyone can make a webpage claiming one thing or another, while having an entirely different agenda (a rightwing site with a clear pro-corporate agenda is titled www.junkscience.com and is mostly junk science itself.) Donna, your VV article makes it clear that Dr. Barrett has never worked as a researcher, so again, I ask: where might a person find peer-reviewed results published by Dr. Weil? Todd, regarding "skeptic with a capital 'S'", I wear your scorn as a badge of honor. I am guilty as charged of requiring objective evidence in support of scientific and medical claims. And finally, just in case I may have forgotten to ask, are there any peer-reviewed articles published in favor of Dr. Weil's research?

Author
John Nielsen
Date
2002-10-28T19:59:17-06:00
ID
141071
Comment

John: I don't feel we've witnessed "the usual lashing" -- that's an unfair characterization. I said I was skeptical of people who call themselves (and join organizations of) Skeptics. I was not scornful, I was skeptical. If you equate skepticism with scorn, that's not exactly good PR for Skeptics. I stand by my previous comment -- Dr. Barrett, a retired psychiatrist, is now a writer and an editor of consumer books and a college text on consumer medicine. He has succeeded in being a skeptic, it is his life's calling, and there's good from it. But I wouldn't encourage the reader to assume his site offers a balanced approach to all topics. The reader must rely on Dr. Barrett for the skepticism and her own careful reading for the balance. Dr. Weil is an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, an author, teacher and a director of the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona. On the UofA site, the program's directors have posted recent articles accepted by the AMA and Academic Medicine. I think that in demanding peer-reviewed studies by Dr. Weil you're creating a false dilemma; Dr. Weil is a teacher, proponent and writer, just as Dr. Barrett (who also doesn't appear to perform his own peer-reviewed studies) is a teacher, critic and writer. In Dr. Weil's work, he integrates the work of other researchers, some of them peer-reviewed, few of them likely on the lunatic fringe of junk science. (You may not have read Dr. Weil closely, but if you visit his website you'll see that he recommends things such as exercise and the consumption of vegetables and vitamins in order to improve health and immunity. Peers abound for such advice.) Dr. Barrett, likewise, sources many of his claims from both medical journals and popular magazines. (You mention the New Republic, for instance, which is decidedly not a medical journal.) He does not appear to do any peer-reviewed research himself. Much of what Dr. Barrett says is not wrong; everything Dr. Weil says is not right. Everything peer-reviewed is not without its flaws; everything not yet refuted by science is not necessarily true; and nearly everything "explained" by science is approximate. I simply encourage the reader to be skeptical of the Skeptic, because his mind is already made up. Listen to what he has to say, but also listen to new ideas with a mind that is open enough to occasionally accept a new idea or perspective -- pending FDA approval, of course. - Todd

Author
Todd
Date
2002-10-28T22:48:07-06:00
ID
141072
Comment

skep?tic also scep?tic Pronunciation Key (skptk) n. One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions. As you can see, it is a wide ranging definition. Simply put, show me. It does not mean a closed mind. I noted Dr. Relman's article in New Republic to show his professional credentials, and saw no acknowledgement that Relman, like Dr. Weil, holds a medical degree, and also taught at Harvard. As I said before, his article is not a complete bashing of Dr. Weil and actually agrees with some of Weil's opinions on modern health care. My phrase was "usual backlash", not "lashing". More than a slight semantic difference there. Not being a scientist myself, my understanding of facts in science is confirmation to such a high degree that it requires provisional consent, to paraphrase Gould. But, science is always subject to change. And that brings up the File Drawer problem of alternative treatment. For instance, I read your link on cancer and researched the Great Lakes College Of Clinical Medicine. What I did find alarmed me: a stern letter from the FDA warning the GLCCM's Internal Review Board of its non- scientific conduct of a malarial study, and both avoidance of FDA regulations and failure to disclose results. Further research found a vague reference to the GLCCM closing in March of last year, and it has reappeared as the International College Of Integrated Medicine. Without making an outright accusation, I am reminded of how diploma mills operate. If controlled studies are being conducted by Weil, I shall be as interested in his conclusions as any other medical studies. I'll try to find the ones you referenced. Regards, John.

Author
John
Date
2002-10-29T02:48:50-06:00
ID
141073
Comment

OK, John, if you're resorting to the dictionary tactic and discussing semantics {grin}, then I'm forced to ask you to read your previous comment, where you said: "I see by mentioning QuackWatch.com it brought forth the usual lashing out at Dr. Barrett." Otherwise, you make good points. My take on people who call themselves Skeptics (with a capital "S") is that they tend to be rather pugnatious in their condemnation of those things that don't fit within a prescriptive comfort zone of thought. Clearly that leaves out a great deal of religion and philosophy, but it also -- again, in my opinion -- can color their writing when the alleged purpose is balanced scientific rigor. I see those shades in Dr. Barrett's writing. It's not that he's utterly wrong. I think he does what he does well. He's more qualified than I am by a longshot. But I worry he's not apt to ever find an alternative scheme that works because he seems mostly interested in building walls of evidence against what he calls "quackery." That sort of terminology, while catchy, suggests a distinct point of view. It's conceivable, in my opinion, for answers to appear outside the shroud of the scientific method and that the methodology and measurement of studies within science are still, ultimately, based on the researcher's assumptions. For instance, I noticed a study that Dr. Barrett cites in which the control for an acupunture experiment was lightly touching the patient in the affected area. What we call "common sense" says that lightly touching an injury should not have the same effect as an invasive medical procedure, and that if the results are similar between light touch and acupuncture then acupuncture is ineffectual (beyond the placebo effect). That seems true and may well be. But there are many cultures and traditions -- including some Christian thought -- where light touch is part of the arsenal of healing. Which means the assumptions of that researcher in that study may indeed have gotten in the way of the results measured. When these sort of studies are referenced by the self-appointed QuackWatcher, skepticism wells up inside me, filling me with black and yellow bile, unbalancing my humors.

Author
Todd
Date
2002-10-29T13:53:41-06:00
ID
141074
Comment

Also, while I don't mean to be defending all alternative medicine, I do think the "attack" was originally centered on Dr. Weil, and one of the points I'm trying to make is that I don't see a distinction between Dr. Weil's credibility and Dr. Barrett's. I don't know if either is a charlatan or liar or worse, but there's evidence against it in both cases. In support of that: October 2, 1998 The NIH Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM) recently awarded grants to three research centers to conduct clinical investigations into complementary and alternative (CAM) approaches for the treatment of addictions, cardiovascular diseases, and pediatric conditions. Following the NIH's scientific peer review process of research applications received following the OAM's October 1997 solicitation, grants have been awarded to Thomas J. Kiresuk, Ph.D., principal investigator for the addictions research center at the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation; Steven F. Bolling, M.D., principal investigator for the cardiovascular disease research center at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor; and Fayez K. Ghishan, M.D. and Andrew Weil, M.D., are co- principal investigators for the University of Arizona, Tucson for research in pediatrics.

Author
Todd
Date
2002-10-29T14:00:46-06:00
ID
141075
Comment

Ouch! You caught me misquoting MYSELF. Bad enough that I mangle the words of others. Next time, I'll scroll up. Actually, the NIH has expanded the funding and role of OAM, and it now goes by a more cumberson acronym, NCCAM, and now has a much larger budget of $90 million annually (source, The Lancet). I've been away for a few days having medical tests and treatment (allopathic), and had time to read the coauthored papers by Weil and Dr. Iris Bell (who seems to be the main author, if I may infer by her name appearing first on both). The diagram on their proposed testing model was enough to make me shake my head. "Transcendent"? Hmm. Ok. Further research on my part shows Dr. Weil is NOT on faculty at the U. of AZ, but is a director at the PIM of UA. That may be a wall of legal protection for the university. Dr. Bell is another matter- both good and bad (mostly good). What brings me to my rejection of Dr. Weil is not just Dr. Barrett's attacks. I concede he is a pit bull against CAM. The rejection stems from Weil's online prescribing of herbs which fall outside any guidelines, and have yet to be proven clinically.

Author
John Nielsen
Date
2002-11-01T09:49:48-06:00
ID
141076
Comment

Continuing- Recently, a rheumatoid arthritis researcher at U. of Utah School of Medicine (Dr. Clegg) was asked to conduct a phase 3 test on the efficacy of Glucosamine Chondroitin on osteoarthritis. I am all for this: conduct clinical trials! While much anectdotal evidence exists for its effectiveness, Dr. Clegg finally had to contract to have his own GC manufactured by the Dept of Veterans Affairs because not one brand in the marketplace met FDA guidelines. So, while Dr. Weil will tell me to use GC for my osteoarthritis (which I do have), an unregulated medicine is on shelves in health food stores, giant retailers (I won't speak their name), supermarkets and probably truck stops- one place I haven't looked. I know it has the standard disclaimer on the bottle: This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness. The same applies to a multitude of herbs being hawked in the USA since Sen. Hatch worked a bill through that removed FDA control of herbal medicines. I would feel a lot better knowing rigorous standards are applied. And, we have long known that botanicals are the source of many pharmaceuticals: for instance, foxglove, from which we dervive two potent heart medications, including digitalis. But I would not self-prescribe foxglove for myself or anyone else. And the disturbing loss of the South American Rainforest may be depriving us of how many other important life saving/sustaining agents? Concluding for now: rigorous, controlled clinical trials on all of the CAM products and methods are in order. I am not dismissing them outright, as Dr. Barrett may be, but I have yet to see solid clinical proof. St. John's Wort has just been shown to interfere with cancer drugs, and ginko biloba can cause excessive bleeding during required surgery (the final option). With exciting results in neuro research just in the past year at UC-Davis, MIT, UC-Berkeley and UC-Santa Barbara, we are on the edge of a new frontier: the human brain, and how it interacts with the whole. Transcendent? I agree with Weil's colleague, Dr. Iris Bell: It's all in your mind.

Author
John Nielsen
Date
2002-11-01T10:14:32-06:00
ID
141077
Comment

Update- I wrote an email to the U. Of Arizona College of Medicine asking why Dr. Weil was not listed among their faculty. I received no reply, but upon looking at the page today, his name does appear as a member of their medical faculty. So, now a webpage corrects me in a matter of days.

Author
John Nielsen
Date
2002-11-01T10:47:40-06:00
ID
141078
Comment

And sorry for misspelling 'cumbersome'. I noticed to late.

Author
John Nielsen
Date
2002-11-01T12:45:07-06:00

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