Conventional Medicine versus Alternate Health

Recently I wrote about how to find the right health practitioner which came about after attending a lecture on “Adjunct treatments for chronic disease” by Professor Luis Vettita from Sydney University.

In attendance were many GP’s who are now practicing alternative medicine. This was refreshing to see because there has been a lot of resistance from conventional medicine to alternative health.

The alternative health industry has been met with controversy, distrust and sidelined as ‘witch doctoring’. This is confusing to people who find it difficult to decide who to trust and what to believe.

As more doctors acknowledge that conventional medicine is only providing an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, they are exploring other avenues. It is only a matter of time before attitudes will change.

I believe one of the best approaches to take is to combine the skills of medically trained doctors with nutritional, psychology and exercise sciences.

Imagine going to a GP where you could get a full range of testing and analysis from both a medical and nutritional perspective and you’re offered a range of choices from drugs, supplements, nutritional, exercise and lifestyle coaching to best suit you and your health goals.

That would be a Wellness Centre in the true sense of the word.

It’s not common practice in New Zealand for conventional and alternative medicine practitioners to work in this way, but, that doesn’t mean we have to choose one or the other.

When we take back responsibility for our health we can make informed choices about who and how we work with practitioners.

While this paints a lovely picture, one of the complexities is how do we define alternative health? This will need clarifying and regulating in the future as more people establish themselves as health practitioners.

For simplicity, consider alternative health as referring to any practice that recommends and uses herbs, supplements and testing for health conditions. This will include Dieticians, Nutritionists, Naturopaths, Chiropractors and anyone else who recommends these as part of a wellness programme.

We all understand the kind of training that a medical doctor must complete, but there are no guidelines or regulations affecting the alternative health industry. For this reason, it is easy to understand doctors concerns.

On the other hand, as medicine is unable to meet our needs for preventative care, alternative health is more likely to look at the bigger picture and offer a range of solutions while allowing people to take back responsibility for their own wellbeing.

There are obviously pros and cons for both.

One important benefit of medicine is proving what doesn’t work. But this takes a long time and a lot of money.

The benefit of alternate health is the ability to quickly explore new directions and try new things. However, this often leads down false trails. While medicine can be frustratingly slow, alternative health can be frustratingly fickle.

It is important to remember that both these systems are sustained by consumer demand. It doesn’t matter whether you are seeing your doctor or naturopath; if you are looking for a quick fix, by way of a pill you will be disappointed.

Your path to wellness is a journey. Some things will work and others won’t, but make it a priority to ask questions and feel confident and comfortable about what you are hearing. That way you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you and who are the best people to have on your wellness team.


Susan Birch is an expert in functional nutrition with over 20 years experience. She works with clients to who are struggling with losing weight, health challenges, sleep disorders, hormonal imbalances, brain fog and digestive issues who want to feel well, feel full of energy and vitality. Contact Susan today to make a time for an introductory consultation.

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