Complementary, Alternative, and Integrative Medicine Gaining Ground

Posted on April 12, 2017

Complementary, alternative (cam) and integrative medicine gaining ground

Article by Dr. Ofelia Dirige 

Millions of Americans use CAM for health concerns and general wellness and spend tens of billions of dollars each year on such care. Come to a workshop to hear safe gujdelines on its use!

People have used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) practices for thousands of years in pursuit of health and wellness. These CAM therapies and medical systems are widely used in the United States and interest in them have increased these days. The 2007 National Health Interview Survey found that 37% of adults and 12% of children had used CAM in some form during the 12 months prior to the survey. The survey also revealed that Americans spent $33.3 billion out-of-pocket on CAM practices and products.

The growing popularity of CAM has had enormous impact on every aspect of health care in the U.S., Europe and the developed world. The rise of CAM has had particular influence mostly on people with cancer but are now being used for heart disease and others. Women,ages 40-60 and adults with higher levels of education and income tended to use CAM more frequently.  There also have been considerable increase in the number of people using common forms of CAM such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture and massage therapy.


Before we go further let us define the meaning of several terms:

  1. Standard medical care- is medicine that is practiced by health professionals who hold an M.D. (medical degree) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy). It is also practiced by professionals such as registered nurses, physician assistants, social workers, dietitians/nutritionists, psychologists and others. It is also called conventional care, biomedicine or allopathic, Western, mainstream, orthodox or regular medicine. 
  2. Alternative Medicine- is unproven treatments that patients use instead of conventional or standard medical therapy in an attempt to prevent, lessen, or cure disease. These practices claim to have the healing effects of medicine but are disproven, unproven or impossible to prove and are possibly harmful. They are often based on religion, tradition, superstition, belief in supernatural energies, pseudoscience, errors in reasoning, propaganda and fraud. They are harmful because they are used instead of conventional medicine and delays treatment proven to be useful.Example: is a cancer patient who forgoes chemotherapy and instead chooses to treat the disease with a specific dietary change.
  3. Complementary Medicine- are those that patients use along with or together with conventional treatment. These are supportive methods used to complement or add to conventional treatments. They are used to help relieve symptoms and improve the quality of life by lessening the side effects of conventional treatments or provide psychological and physical benefits to the patients.Example: a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy may also undergo acupuncture to help manage the side effects of chemotherapy like nausea and vomiting.
  4. Integrative Medicine- refers to the combined use of evidenced-based proven therapies and complementary therapies in a coordinated way. It is a total approach to medical care that combines standard medicine with the CAM practices that have been shown to be safe and effective. They treat the patient’s body, mind, and spirit (Holistic approach).


The increase in interest on CAM therapies is due to the growing knowledge of the link between diet and disease as well as the cost and availability of health care. Despite medical advances in the medical treatment of disease, many people seek patient-directed, non-prescription approaches in the prevention and treatment of disease. More people are taking ownership of their health and have turned to non-prescription measures for preventing and treating common diseases. People use CAM for a variety of reasons:

  1. Conventional or standard medicine has not solved their medical problem.
  2. They believe that products derived from nature are healthier and safer than prescription drugs, even though they may not be. It offers a non-drug approach to treating health conditions since some drugs have side effects and may cause bothersome symptoms.
  3. They like the holistic approach taken by CAM therapists. It involves paying attention to all of a client needs to help them regain and maintain their health. These include not just physical but also emotional, social and spiritual needs.
  4. It has a psychological or placebo effect, a well-established observation in medicine.
  5. Failure of mainstream medicine. Providers of CAM tend to build better therapeutic relationship than mainstream health care professionals.
  6. Social Factors such as:
    1. Vigorous marketing with extravagant claims of producers with inadequate media scrutiny and attacks on critics. People are told lies that mislead patients who are encouraged to spend money but instead shorten their lives. At the same time they are gullible.
    2. Low level of scientific literacy among the public especially low income minority groups and increase in antiscientific attitudes and new age mysticism.
    3. Increase in conspiracy theories toward conventional medicine and pharmaceutical companies, mistrust of traditional authority figures such as physician and dislike of the current delivery method of scientific biomedicine.
    4. Lack of access to contemporary medicine due to lack of health insurance that leads them to seek low-cost alternative medicine.


  1. Biologically based practices or natural products- The focus is on herbs, nutrition and vitamins/minerals, and herbal medicine. The most common form used according to the 2012 survey are dietary supplements (18%) that are in the form of tablets, teas or powders. Examples are echinacea; cranberry juice, ginger, special diets (3%), and others.
  1. Mind, Body and Spirit methods- Focuses on the connections between body, mind and spirit and their power of healing. Ex. Faith Healing; Holistic Medicine; Meditation (8%), Spirituality and Prayer; Hypnosis; and Biofeedback (allows people to control what they normally would not be able to control such as heart rate, skin temperature etc.).
  1. Manipulative and body-based practices or Manual Healing and Physical Touch Methods- Relying on the physical manipulation of the body and is intended to improve specific symptoms and health. Ex. Chiropractic or spinal manipulation (8.4%), massage (7%); Tai chi & yoga (10%), acupuncture, and osteopathy (positioning of bones and muscles so blood can flow as they should.).
  1. Energy-Medicine- Uses energy fields to promote healing. Biofield therapies affect energy fields that are said to encircle the human body (“energy fields flows through people’s bodies”). Reiki (therapeutic touch) and qi gong; and magnet therapy that involve the manipulation of electromagnetic fields.
  1. Whole Body Systems- Refers to complete systems of medical theory and practice, many go back thousands of years and have roots in non-Western cultures. Ex. Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, a therapy originating in India. Those from the west are homeopathy (based on the idea that drugs that produce symptoms of the disease can cure that disease) and naturopathy.

CONCLUSION: The next article will be a more detailed information on Massage Therapy, Chiropractic Manipulation, Thermal Imaging and Natural Products such as Genesis Pure. To hear more of these, Kalusugan is sponsoring a workshop on these Complementary and Alternative Medicines this weekend of April 15. You are invited to come! See flier attached.