Alternative therapies as supplements Alternative therapies as supplements

Some medications cannot be suspended even when using alternative therapies. Check with a doctor before making any changes.

Advisor: Geovanny Celis Rangel
General practitioner

Often, patients not only seek solutions for their ailments or conditions in medicine, but they also try to help themselves with alternative therapies such as homeopathy. It is recommended that these be a supplementary therapy and not a substitution for conventional treatments.

In this regard, Geovanny Celis Rangel, general practitioner, who also works with therapy in traditional Chinese medicine, explains that ethical professionals that work with alternative therapies do not present them as the only solution. “What I have always seen in my professional and personal experience is that the patients are not taken away from previous treatments. Usually, those who come in for alternative medicine want something more, or they feel that their treatment is not sufficient or does not meet their needs. So, the alternative treatment is assumed to be supplementary,” he states.

It is true that alternative medicines support many people in aspects that are not usually treated by conventional medicine, such as emotions. Even renowned institutions like the National Library of Medicine in the United States, reference, in some of their modalities, benefits that improve the lives of patients.

Acupuncture, for example, is an effective means for relieving many aches and pains. Chiropractors can correct postural discomfort, help ailments and stimulate the capacity of the body to heal itself. Yoga helps improve mood through breathing techniques. But said therapies do not replace the effects of medications to treat acute or chronic diseases, and their discontinuation can pose a health risk.

“There are medications that cannot be suspended for any reason, especially for chronic diseases. They can only be stopped by following a protocol and ideally the person who prescribed it should intervene. That is, the person who medicated the patient makes the decision to lower the dose or modify it, depending on how the patient has done. For example, stopping anticoagulants is extremely dangerous without follow-up or laboratory control,” warns the specialist.

He also mentions other cases such as medications for hypertension, diabetes, joint rheumatism and hormonal drugs, because the rebound effect of stopping them could generate more problems than benefits.

“When a patient goes to an alternative practice and expresses a problem with the medications he is taking, he should be directed to see the prescribing physician. There are only two reasons why they are asked to stop taking them in alternative therapy: when they have allergy symptoms (in which case they should go immediately to the treating doctor), or when there are doubts about some drugs, such as the recent case of the presence of diclofenac in a supposed natural medicine,” the doctor added.

When seeking alternative treatment, it is also essential that the patients be careful not to put their health in the hands of false advertising or people who are not qualified to treat them. “If someone with verifiable training does not treat them, the risk is higher. It is also an ethical issue. Each treatment provider must comply with standard measures to protect the patient, depending on the method used,” states Celis Rangel.

In this regard, he considers that health authorities are late on making better controls and establishing more reasonable regulations for alternative treatments. In the meantime, he says that the best protection for patients is to validate the information about them.

Medication without control

Although there are constant warnings about the dangers of indiscriminate medication use, the practice of self-medicating persists. The intake of these drugs should always be monitored by health professionals.

This recommendation must be taken into account with the consumption of supplements, because they are only needed when there is some deficiency in the body, as in the case of intestinal diseases. “Their use should be validated with someone who has the training to identify the risks related to vitamins, trace-elements, or with this type of substances that can be deficient in some kinds of diets. For example, in vegans, some things can be suggested to them as a supplement, since they are not eating animal products, but there always has to be someone who gives technical and scientific certainties of why they have to be ingested,” warns doctor Celis Rangel.

Instead of consuming this type of product indiscriminately, the recommendation is to review the diet, since a balanced diet will provide enough elements to keep the body healthy.

Natural supplements are not left out because their excessive use is not beneficial either. Compounds in tablets, capsules, or multivitamin powders can generate hypervitaminosis, cause kidney stones, gallstones, and problems for the absorption of other nutrients,” explains the doctor. In addition, he concludes that, by consuming these elements without a prescription, the patient is not only throwing away his money, but he is putting himself at risk. 

The consumption of medications and supplements, as well as their suspension, should be guided by a health professional.

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