Nine rules for alternative therapy patients
When it comes to alternative treatments, the first rule is do yourself no harm.
1. Tell your doctor about any therapy you're using
Even if you think he'll disapprove. Some herbal remedies lessen the effectiveness of prescription drugs. Others can cause excessive bleeding after injuries or during surgery.
2. Beware of gurus pushing their remedies...
Including physicians selling products out of their offices.
3. ...especially on the Internet
The Web is a bazaar teeming with quacks. Most reputable medical sites don't sell remedies.
4. Avoid megadoses of anything
Follow the federal government's recommended dietary allowances (RDA). Remember that supplements are not regulated as carefully as pharmaceuticals and that many health claims are unproved.
5. Be wary of treatments that leave you feeling worse
Monitor your reactions to all new medications, alternative or otherwise. Contact your local poisoncontrol center or your doctor if you have concerns.
6. Choose a practitioner with care
Don't put your faith in advertising or marketing materials. Contact a nearby hospital or medical school and ask if they maintain a list of recommended alternative practitioners.
7. Check with your insurer
Treatments can be expensive. Acupuncture, for instance, typically costs $50 to $100 for the initial visit, a bit less for follow-up sessions.
8. Do your own research - but on reputable sites
One good source of information is CAM on PubMed. Developed by NCCAM and the National Library of Medicine, the site gives brief summaries of the results of scientific studies on a wide variety of therapies.
9. Take a pass on "secret formulas" or "new discoveries."