SPECIAL REPORT: An "alternative" approach to healthcare

Complementary and traditional medicine

An alternative approach to healthcare

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. - It’s a controversial and often times confusing topic in America, health care.

Today more people than ever are looking for answers about their health and they’re finding more than just traditional medicine.

There is everything from supplements to yoga and meditation to chiropractic care.

“I think right now more than anything we need to focus on our health and our wellbeing more than any time I’ve ever experienced,” said Doctor Heather Dawson, Naturopathic Doctor with Wellspring Natural Health.

Doctor Heather Dawson says that’s thanks to the busy lives we lead, which is why she says it’s so important to focus on treating the whole body not just the symptoms.

“We’re experts in the supplement field and I think people are looking for alternatives to medications because medications just treat the symptoms, but the supplements treat the whole body.”

Doctor Dawson says as a naturopathic doctor she is also able to work more closely with her patients and almost act as a counselor to get to the root cause of the problem.

“When I develop relationships with patients these are what I hope to be lifelong relationships. People need to feel like they have an ally, that they have an advocate and that’s where I feel like maybe we are different in a good way,” said Doctor Dawson.

Salinas Family Doctor Peter Oppenheim agrees.

“If you look at some of the data that is why naturopaths or complementary alternative providers are so effective. It is because they have more time to spend with patients, they’re able to talk to people. We do know that there is a lot of therapy in being able to talk to someone and tell them what’s bothering you,” said Doctor Oppenheim.

Doctor Oppenheim says as a family doctor, he also focuses on prevention and therapies that don’t involve drugs to treat common diseases, but instead of supplements, he believes people should get their vitamins through the food they eat.

“We live in Salinas, there is no excuse to not be eating the myriad of colorful fresh vegetables that we have at our disposal every day.”

Still, people are willing to spend big bucks for these alternative health practices and products.

A recent study released by the National Center for Health Statistics revealed Americans spend 30 billion dollars a year on complementary health approaches.

Chiropractic doctor Peter Ruiz says he’s seeing more interest in this kind of care.

“There are still people who have not been to a chiropractor, but over the years more and more and more every year are choosing to include that as part of their health management.”

People wanting to know not just how to get rid of chronic pain but what changes they can make to stay healthy in the future.

“They are getting better doing something naturally, so they have more long term benefits, changing their ways and having the spine checked and we help them with the spinal part, posture and habits that they do,” said DC Ruiz.

What does this all mean for traditional western medicine?

Doctor Oppenheim says the holistic approach can’t be used to treat every medical condition.

“The concern I have is when people say I’m going to see my naturopath for my burst appendix that’s not going to turn out so well.”

So whether you choose to find a licensed medical doctor in naturopathic care or just continue seeing your general physician, it’s all about taking control of your own health.

“If anything I would just like people to know they have options. People don’t have to accept feeling unwell, feeling fatigued, not sleeping well is the status quo,” said Doctor Dawson.

“I think there are things people can do that will keep you healthy, that will help you stay healthy and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease, diabetes that will keep you healthy longer and its pretty simple. It is basically eat real food, get plenty of sleep, manage your stress and don’t smoke and exercise regularly,” explained Doctor Oppenheim.

If you do choose to see a naturopathic doctor, make sure the doctor is a licensed doctor and not just a “naturopath.” It is important to do your research.

Naturopathic medicine can also help with mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.

“There are some diseases where a more holistic approach is just as good if not better than what I have to offer in terms of medication or what western medicine has to offer in terms of medications. Anxiety, depression, are all very amendable to non-pharmacologic therapy. My personal term I use for holistic approaches is non pharmacologic approach because trying to avoid medications is a very helpful thing for many people to try and do whether you’re seeing a naturopath or therapist it is equally affective,” said Doctor Oppenheim.

The other concern with alternative medicine is insurance.

Naturopathic care isn’t fully covered in all states including California, but Doctor Dawson said she is hopeful that will be changing. She also advises patients to resubmit their claims even if their insurance company denies it the first time around.

Click here for more information on Wellspring Natural Health in Monterey.

Click here for more information on the Monterey Bay Chiropractic Center.

Click here for more information on the Salinas Valley Medical Clinic.

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