Western Doctors & Alternative Medicine (2011)

cartoon doctorThis article is based on a two question survey concerning the relationship between Western doctors and patients who use alternative medicine/ supplements.

The purpose of the poll/survey was to determine the attitude of patients who use alternative medicines/ supplements towards their “conventional” medical doctors. For the most part, we wanted to know if patients were they willing to share their use of alternatives with their doctor, and even accept advice from their doctors on the use of these alternatives.

The first question was “Do you tell your doctor what alternative medicines you use?” and there were five options:

  1. Yes, my doctor is very open-minded.
  2. Yes; even though I know my doctor might not like it, I think they should know.
  3. No, my doctor considers anything that he/she didn’t prescribe quackery.
  4. No, I don’t want to argue with yet another doctor about my health choices.
  5. If my doctor doesn’t ask I don’t tell.

The second question was “Would you trust your doctor to advise you in regards to your use of alternative medicine, even if they have never prescribed or advised the use of any alternative treatment?” and there were only two options (Yes; explain why or No; explain why) with a section for written explanations, regardless of answer.

Since this was an anonymous survey/poll, we know only what the respondents entered as their answers. Here are the results for question one: Do you tell your doctor what alternative medicines you use?

  • 62.5% answered “Yes; even though I know my doctor might not like it, I think they should know”
  • 12.5% answered “Yes, my doctor is very open-minded”
  • 12.5% answered “No, I don’t want to argue with yet another doctor about my health choices “
  • 12.5% answered “If my doctor doesn’t ask I don’t tell”

I was very surprised by the results. Most of the people I have known, through the years, fear having a confrontation with their doctors over ANY issue, but especially as it regards their use of supplements.

I am one of the few people in my circle of friends and acquaintances that do not share that fear, and tell my doctors everything I use to improve my health. It’s good to know 75% of the respondents share my belief that it is important that their doctor knows what possible drug and treatment interactions may be at work.

Here are the results for question two:
Would you trust your doctor to advise you in regards to your use of alternative medicine, even if they have never prescribed or advised the use of any alternative treatment?

  • 87.5% answered No. Explain why
    • 50% wrote that their doctors had no “expertise” in alternative medicine, and /or their doctors are bound by “N.I.C.E. as to what they were permitted to recommend”.
    • 12.5% did not believe their physicians would be willing to recommend an alternative to pharmaceuticals.
    • 12.5% believed that they already knew far more about alternative medicine than their doctors. One stated, “As a functional nutritionist, I tend to be more informed about alternative treatments. I listen to what my doctor has to say and then translate their recommendations into my own terms.”
    • 12.5% believe medical schools only teach the application of pharmaceutical medicines. One respondent added, “OR, (dangerously) do not learn about interactions of western and ‘eastern’ meds.”
    • 12.5% Did not explain why they would not seek their doctors advice on the subject.
  • 12.5% answered Yes. Explain why
    • 100% felt that their doctors “should” or “would” know a good deal about alternative medicine and drug interactions. One of the respondents believed that the internet provided reliable sources to the medical community, and that the medical community took advantage of said resources.

Conclusion:

What I have deduced from this modest study is that most users of alternative medicine trust their doctors not to (directly) berate their health choices. And while most respondents believed that their doctors were NOT qualified to offer advice on alternatives to Western medicine and pharmaceutical drugs, they faulted the education and training of their doctors and not the doctors themselves. I consider this a positive thing, as many people do not have access to naturopathic physicians.

The most risky aspect of using alternative medicine is mixing it with pharmaceutical drugs without understanding the possible outcome. Not telling one’s doctor which supplements and herbs one is taking with their prescription medication could be dangerous; especially as it regards medical conditions such as diabetes and most heart conditions.

If you are currently keeping your own doctor in the dark, we hope this study changes your mind, or at least pushes you to seek out a more open-minded physician; they are out there.

Once again, I would like to thank everyone who donated 60 seconds of their life to answer our questions and help us gain more insight into the topic. Thank you! Your input was invaluable.

Below is the same poll for 2012, divided into 2 parts. Thank you, in advanced for your assistance!

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7 thoughts on “Western Doctors & Alternative Medicine (2011)”

  1. Thanks for writing this. Brief query, if you don’t object. Where did you obtain your page design? I’m establishing a blogging site and much like yours.

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